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Tennessee revokes church status of ministry, issues $5K fine

Associated Press • Aug 18, 2016 at 1:36 PM

NASHVILLE — The state of Tennessee has revoked the church status of a Williamson County ministry and fined it $5,000.

The Tennessean reported on Thursday that the Secretary of State’s office imposed the civil penalty against Wayne Jolley Ministries Inc. for using “unfair, false, misleading or deceptive acts and practices affecting the conduct of solicitations for contributions.” That’s according to a letter the state sent the ministry on May 4.

Jamie Arnett, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Secretary of State, said a complaint prompted an investigation of the ministry that found a tax issue.

The ministry and its law firm Gearhiser, Peters, Elliot & Cannon did not return The Tennessean’s messages asking for comment, but lawyers disputed the allegations in a May 31 letter and asked for a hearing on the matter.

The letter says Jolley Ministries “is an active ecclesiastical church and a physical place for worship in Tennessee where nonprofit religious services and activities are regularly conducted.”

No hearing has been scheduled.

Wayne Jolley, who died in March, has been accused by former members of taking money under false pretenses. One former member, Debbie Pugh, told The Tennessean she and her husband gave some $140,000 to Jolley’s church but left because of its questionable practices.

The state’s letter threatened Wayne Jolley Ministries with additional civil penalties if it doesn’t register with the state to solicit contributions.

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