A man once known for barnstorming the country trying to sell dealerships for a machine he claimed would make free electricity from air is now offering churches grants up to $50 million to help bring “Christian values” to America.
In an introductory video on a Web site promoting “The Kingdom Grant,” Dennis Lee claims to represent a consortium of Christian businessmen planning to put $50 billion a year back into communities in order to “re-instill Christian values in the United States.”
He urges pastors to apply for awards of $5 million for every 100 members in their congregation. That means a church with 500 members would receive $25 million a year.
The Kingdom Grant site, featured in a Web ad in the current issue of the Missouri Baptist Convention newspaper The Pathway, also promotes a pastor’s conference planned for May 5-6 in Springfield, Mo.
Details of the plan are sketchy, but various reports indicate that Lee, who owns several businesses with the same Newfoundland, N.J., address listed for The Kingdom Grant, toured churches in 2004 sharing information about his Better World Technologies.
In a letter to churches, Lee claimed to be “on the brink of bringing out a new technology, which operates on a limitless supply of clean energy that may provide all the world’s energy needs, without any need to use fossil fuels.”
Since “energy and economy are virtually synonymous,” the letter continued, the device could generate huge wealth, which could in turn be poured into ministry.
Lee’s testimony, along with demonstrations of devices, reportedly lasts about two hours. While Lee said he normally charges $15 admission to one of his seminars, all he asked from churches was a voluntary passing of the offering plate to “cover some of our costs.”
In 2001 Lee toured the United States with seminars offering free energy for life for a one-time investment of $275. Lee, who reportedly had several brushes with the law over the last 30 years–including two years in a California prison in the mid-1990s–ran into more problems on the tour.
The attorney general in Tennessee got a temporary restraining order to bar him from doing business in the state. Washington state issued a cease-and-desist order accusing him of marketing unregistered securities and defrauding potential investors. He was arrested in Kentucky on charges of violating state consumer-protection laws. Vermont, Maine, Oregon, New Mexico and Alaska also reportedly filed legal action to prevent promotion of Lee’s free-energy claim.
Detractors describe Lee as a con man with a penchant for preying on evangelical Christians. According to one news story, he reportedly once cost religious broadcaster Pat Robertson $150,000, when Robertson pulled out of a retail-discount-card deal in 1978, accusing Lee of false advertising, operating a pyramid scheme and unauthorized sale of securities.
Lee, however, describes himself as a victim of a “conspiracy of technology” by powerful utility and government interests that would face financial ruin if his machines were to win acceptance. In his letter to churches, Lee said a “well-known prophet” 25 years ago forecast that he would “turn the business world around” and “finance the most fabulous revival that has ever hit the face of this planet.”
On a ministry Web site called Kings & Priests, Lee and his wife pledge to donate all profits from their energy technology company “to the Body of Christ.” In order to outwit attempted debunkers, they propose a series of 100 public demonstrations with 1.6 million people agreeing to witness technologies they claim will produce electricity for free.
Each witness is promised that a unit will be installed in his or her home for free. The unit is said to be capable of generating 15 times more electricity than a home uses, meaning extra power can be sold to the utilities grid for others to use and proceeds donated to the church.
“There is a cost involved initially for K & P to bless the church,” says a donation page for Kings & Priests Ministries. “Travel expenses, video tapes and other materials that are given to the church members. K & P operates only off of donations that enable them to visit churches and give the gift that will keep on giving to the church. When you help K & P give this gift to Christians, you are enabling your church to receive possibly 30 to 40 thousand dollars a year for every Christian that gets signed up. If a church had 1,000 members who were all signed up, it would generate 30 to 40 million dollars a year! That is just one church! Imagine one million Christians that would generate 300 to 400 billion dollars every year to fulfill the great commission! God is so good, even better than we can conceive. You give Him your five loaves and two fish, He feeds thousands!”
Lee’s central claim through the years has been that a machine can be designed that produces more energy than it consumes. Scientists quoted in media stories say the idea of a “perpetual motion machine” has been around for centuries but is impossible because it violates a basic law of physics that says energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only changed from one form to another.
Among Lee’s biggest skeptics is Eric Krieg, an electrical engineer who has devoted a Web page to challenging his claims.
Another is James Randi, a well-known an investigator and de-mystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi’s foundation offers a $1 million prize to anyone who can show evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event. The prize has never been claimed.
Lee denies his events are a scam, saying he operates in the open and even staged a show for U.S. government leaders in 1996. He says the horseless carriage, heavier-than-air flight and talking over wires were once also considered too good to be true. He claims his time in prison, from where he wrote his book The Alternative, was for a civil infraction for which he was never convicted.
Lee did not respond to an e-mail from EthicsDaily.com requesting more information about The Kingdom Grant program.
According to The Kingdom Grant Web site, the grant will consist of $50 billion to be divided among approximately 2,000 pastors and/or ministries. As of Feb. 15 there were 500 applicants, meaning that there were 1,500 positions remaining.
Applications for round-one funding are due May 15. On the video, Lee says the money will be available every year “for the rest of our lives.”
The application process includes a two-page essay in which the church leader describes how the money would be put to use.
“I’m sorry this is not very informative, because we don’t want to prejudice your responses,” Lee says in the video. After pastors apply on-line, he promises, “You’ll get far more information about us and what we’re doing and about our jamboree that we’re planning.”
In 2004 a federal court ordered Styles to stop selling tax shelters that the U.S. Department of Justice claimed illegally advised customers to avoid paying taxes by claiming bogus church status for a company known as a “corporation sole.”
Styles agreed to obey the order but denied doing anything against the law.
Styles said in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com that his only role with The Kingdom Grant is Web developer and that he registered the domain name because the owners of the site did not know how to do it.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.