A Cook County resident fed up with receiving unwanted phone calls from a profitable prophet hopes a class action lawsuit will stop the ringing.
Jeffrey Molitor filed the complaint Jan. 5 in Cook County Circuit. Named defendants include Manasseh Jordan Ministries, a religious corporation in New York, and Yakim Manasseh Jordan.
Molitor said the calls persist “despite thousands of consumer complaints, an FCC citation and multiple news articles decrying their practice.” Molitor’s complaint identified Jordan as “a 25-year-old self-identified ‘prophet’ (who) lives a lavish lifestyle that includes multi-million dollar homes and Rolls Royce cars. These expenditures are largely funded through ‘seed-faith’ money donated to his ‘nonprofit’ corporation, MJM, and/or his father’s corporation, Zoe Ministries.”
Both entities, Molitor said, are “sham corporations and alter-egos so that they can commit willful torts for their own personal gain, all in abuse of the religious corporation structure set forth by the state of New York.”
The complaint noted Molitor’s action is the seventh complaint filed this year under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the 14th since 2012, regarding robocalls involving Manasseh’s voice. The complaint included a table detailing more than 50 calls from May through September, all from one of two phone numbers. Molitor says he answered several of the calls and let others go to voicemail, but all had similar prerecorded prosperity messages and included a number to call. When Molitor called the number in hopes of making the calls stop, “he was met by one of Manasseh’s 10-minute prerecorded prosperity pitches and was given no opportunity to opt out” of the call list.
Molitor cited a Times Herald-Record article from Sept. 14, 2003, about Manasseh Jordan’s father, E. Bernard Jordan: “Over the years, preaching a gospel of prosperity and self-empowerment, Jordan built Zoe Ministries into a multimedia enterprise that collected $2.8 million from its loyal following in 2001 … Jordan makes no apologies for his mansion and fleet of cars … Through nonprofit funds, Jordan once commissioned a team of Russian artists to paint, over the course of ‘two to three years,’ elaborate murals of himself throughout his ’27-room mansion’ including ‘Jordan on a throne, as pharaoh,’ ‘Jordan as Jesus in the familiar iconography of medieval and Renaissance art’ and ‘in a room with scarlet walls and gilded filigree on top … Jordan on a throne, as God.’ ”
The complaint said Manasseh Jordan Ministries was formed because the FCC threatened Zoe Ministries with $16,000 fines for each robocall violation. It further details the specifics of a “money-for-miracles” approach in which Manasseh, on the phone calls, television shows or live appearances, calls upon his followers to give money to him to prove “seed-faith,” which “he promises will purchase ‘favor’ from God.”
Molitor included some of the “legions of online complaints” from people who cannot stop the calls despite never having interacted with Manasseh or any of his affiliated enterprises.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, Molitor asked the court for actual and statutory damages, an injunction forcing Jordan to stop all unsolicited phone calls and legal fees. The complaint asserted any person who received an unsolicited cellphone call featured an artificial voice or recording should be entitled to $500 per TCPA violation.
Molitor’s attorneys are Rafey S. Balabania, Benjamin H. Richman and Eve-Lynn Rapp, of Edelson PC, of Chicago.