A series of investigative reports by a Florida television station has uncovered that televangelist Benny Hinn’s perceived powers extend beyond the supernatural and into the Orange County (Florida) sheriff’s office.

During the past several months, members of a small Volusia County church have been demonstrating in front of Hinn’s World Outreach Center in Orange County and near his plush home in a gated community in Seminole County. These protesters are expressing a number of concerns, including their conviction that Hinn’s prosperity gospel is greed.

However, according to the television news report, “Apparently some paid security workers at Hinn’s church don’t like this display of freedom of speech. Workers who just happen to be Orange County sheriff’s deputies.” As a result of the Orlando-based ABC affiliate’s expose’ that included allegations of civil rights violations, the sheriff’s department has taken immediate action and says it has begun an investigation of its own.

One deputy under investigation for harassment of the protesters is Christopher Hinn, 42, Hinn’s younger brother, who is a parttime Orange County reserve deputy. As a reserve deputy, he is an unpaid volunteer who can act only under a superior’s direction. However, in early June, Christopher Hinn presented himself to the demonstrators as one with more authority than he had. During one confrontation, captured on video, he told the group, “I’m an undercover cop, I want you to take that camera off.” When one of the demonstrators asked, “Are you a county deputy?”, Christopher said, “I’m telling you, I’m a law enforcement officer. Take the camera off.” Then, when asked, “Are you an employee of Benny Hinn?”, he retorted, “No sir, I am a sheriff.”

Responding to the incident, Christopher told WFTV reporter Jane Watrel, “I was not acting as law enforcement officer, nor was I on duty. I was in my own personal time. I asked them kindly not to videotape us while we’re having a discussion since I was with another offic— uh, deputy.” When Watrel asked who authorized his actions, Christopher answered, “I was acting alone.”

However, that TV station said Christopher Hinn overstepped his authority a week later when he used an unmarked sheriff’s car to pull over protesters who had used a video camera at his brother’s church. Accompanying Christopher at the scene was “[Benny] Hinn follower,” Robin Johnson, a full-time Orange County deputy. Christopher told them to erase the videotape and watched as the demonstrators did so.

When challenged, Christopher told Watrel: “First of all, I did not — uh, force them off the road. They voluntarily pulled themselves [over], when they see me approaching.” When asked if these people had broken a law, Christopher responded, “No. The problem as far as I had, uh I had spoke to the same gentleman, a week before, not to photograph us as law enforcement officers.”

Further compounding the case is the fact that the incident took place in Seminole County, where Christopher Hinn has no jurisdiction as an Orange County reserve deputy.

Civil rights attorney Keith Mitnick told the television news program, “Law enforcement can cross county lines when they’re in hot pursuit of a felon or something along that line. But in a circumstance like this it’d be hard to justify crossing county lines in using a badge as a position of authority.”

While Orange County sheriff Kevin Beary apparently knew nothing of the event, the news report indicated that “at least two high-ranking members of his administration did.” An interoffice memo, cited by Watrel, said, “Reserve I Corporal Christopher Hinn, Deputy Robin Johnson, Commander II Roger Clark, Commander I Rusty Smallwood and possibly others” will be the subject of an internal inquiry in the department. Clark and Smallwood were said to be members of the sheriff’s “inner circle.” Watrel further reported that her “sources say Smallwood, Clark and Johnson are not only followers of [Benny] Hinn, but knew about the harassment and intimidation of protesters and didn’t brief Sheriff Beary about the possible civil rights violations.”

As a result of the report, Christopher Hinn has been suspended as a reserve deputy and has been ordered to turn in his gun and badge until the investigation is complete. Also, the sheriff has temporarily prohibited any off-duty deputy work at Benny Hinn’s church. The church was reportedly employing 2-20 off-duty Orange County deputies each week. Smallwood, Clark and Johnson all remain in their current positions.

Benny Hinn’s organization asserts that the intensified security is necessary because of “serious death threats” made against the faith healer. The news report said that “Investigators are considering the demonstrators as suspects.” However, members of the group claimed no knowledge of the death threats, nor any part in such menacing activities. They said their only desire is to exercise their right to protest against spiritual abuses manifested by Hinn and others.



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For more information on the doctrine and practice of this controversial faith healer, see:
The Confusing World of Benny Hinn