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Crystal Cathedral Megachurch Files for Bankruptcy

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 19, 2010 1:52 PM

Flashy glass towers, sprawling lawn, elaborate decorations -- the Crystal Cathedral megachurch is quite a tourist attraction. Now it looks like those in charge of Orange County's Crystal Cathedral may be answering to a different type of higher power -- bankruptcy court. MSNBC.com reports that the church owes close to $7.5 million to unsecured creditors and a total of $55 million in debt.

Crystal Cathedral, which was founded by television evangelist Robert Schuller, has over 10,000 members. In addition to it's commanding presence, Robert Schuller put the church on the map during his televised "Hour of Power" broadcasts. The decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy came after several of the church's creditors obtained a writ of attachment. MSNBC.com notes that, "the church's budget woes have forced it to downsize its staff, cancel programming in certain markets, and even send home choir and orchestra members." Prior to filing for bankruptcy, the church was attempting to work out the outstanding bills independent of court intrevention.

More than just a church, Crystal Cathedral turns into a virtual theme park around the holidays. Live animals, ornate costumes, and an extensive orchestra are just some of the sounds and visions parishioners (and television viewers) are treated to during any major religious holiday celebration. Now, many of the suppliers of the goods and services for the elaborate displays may be making an unwanted contribution to the church, and will likely get paid far less than they were initially owed. Included in the list of unpaid vendors are the owners of the camels, horses, and donkeys, the costume dry cleaner, and the public relations firm that does the Church's publicity.

And the lord giveth and the lord taketh away. The real tragedy here is the potential for a static Christmas celebration, devoid of live animals and music at Crystal Cathedral this year. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a form of bankruptcy that allows struggling companies to reorganize their business, and hopefully become profitable again. The overall process can be costly and time consuming.

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