Watch CBS News

Joliet church needs to raise $300,000 after being ordered to return donations

Joliet church needs to raise $300,000 after being ordered to return donations
Joliet church needs to raise $300,000 after being ordered to return donations 02:23

CHICAGO (CBS) – A Joliet church has to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the federal government, even though the church said it did nothing wrong.

CBS 2's Shardaa Gray is always investigating and sat down with the pastor to discuss the financial burden that may lead to the church closing.

There's a clear message outside Messiah Lutheran Church in Joliet: Save Messiah.  

"We have four main values. One of those is not losing our church," said Pastor Kurt Hoover. "We want to keep our church family unified. We want to give God glory. We want to continue our ministry in the community."

The church must pay the federal government thousands of dollars despite doing nothing wrong. Not paying the money will likely force them to sell the building.

"That's very, very disturbing, and people are angry about it," said Brian Wielbik, Messiah Lutheran Church's board president. "People also here are in disbelief at how can that happen, but unfortunately it has."

In 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused a business of fraudulent practices. As part of that process, the SEC can go in and take everything that the company has, go after any other areas where they have given money, and take that money back.

In January 2021, the SEC's receiver filed a federal lawsuit against the church, seeking the return of more than $780,000 in donations made by the local business to Messiah over ten years.

Some of those donations dated back to 2010.

"Losing our church would be very scary," Hoover said.

The clock is ticking for Messiah Lutheran Church because it has to pay $300,000 to the SEC by Nov. 15.

On Aug. 25, a court ordered the church to pay $487,000 in three months.

"We were able to pay $187,000 right away," Hoover said. "We had that sitting in reserves. We have to raise $300,000; if we don't raise that by Nov. 15, there's a penalty; another $100,000 is added to the total."

If the church doesn't pay up, it could ultimately lose its building after being in the community for more than 120 years. Now, the staff is asking for the community's help with donations.

The church plans to have an informational meeting on Thursday to inform community members about their battle.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.