Author’s note: For most recent updates, scroll to the bottom.
In July, it was reported that mega church pastor Dino Rizzo was going on a sabbatical.
According to The Advocate, Dino Rizzo, lead pastor and founder of Healing Place Church announced Sunday that he and his wife are leaving the church.
“We feel it is best that we step down as pastors today,” Dino Rizzo told several thousand church members gathered in the spacious arena sanctuary during the first of two Sunday morning services.
“Two months ago,” Rizzo said, “I let my spirit, soul and body get depleted and did not make good choices as a dad, as a husband, as a leader.”
Dino is also quoted as saying he stepped down voluntarily, which contradicts reports that a newly established church board had asked him to step down. On July 25, 2012, the following was reported by news channel WAFB,
The church issued a statement Tuesday saying that the Healing Place spirituality board determined that Rizzo needed the sabbatical.
The church statement says Rizzo has “humbly and willingly embraced the board’s plan.”
The Advocate quoted long-standing church member Brian McCollister who suggests the public take this resignation as face value.
“There will be tons of rumors circulating, but it’s none of anybody’s business,” McCollister said. “My heart is broken for them and their family. God can see the end from the beginning and this was no surprise to him. The decision they made was between them and God.”
However, rumors have circulating since late July on Louisiana message boards that Rizzo was having an affair with a former intern. What’s worse is, the church board allegedly paid the young woman to move back to her home state to cover the incident up, which was not originally Louisiana, according to sources.
The article plainly says “Two months ago,” Rizzo said, “I let my spirit, soul and body get depleted and did not make good choices as a dad, as a husband, as a leader.” There is little doubt this pastor is running from a heinous scandal if facts were made public. What these men want is power and easy money and they are no different than any con man anywhere preying on the weak and guillable. Their product is invisible and the payoff is promised to come after you die and can’t get your money back. FYI that’s my opinion and you obviously don’t have to agree but this sort of thing happens all over the country all the time.
According to local sources, it seems RedStickNative has hit the proverbial nail on the head.
I read your blog about Dino Rizzos return to ministry. Unfortunately part of his first message back in ministry was completely about you! He speaks of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son and how he becomes jealous. When I ran across your blog my first thought was “wow. The prodigal sons older brother actually has a blog” I’m sorry you feel the way you do and I pray you find and experience Gods grace, mercy, and forgiveness in a real way so that you can return it to people who fall, but are willing to start fresh. It’s by NO MEANS your place to judge the transformation or question Gods redeeming love and restoration on anyone’s life. The hate you spew through your blog …it saddens me to see and I do pray that the same judgement you pass on people doesn’t come back to you. Instead of judging you should rejoice with a fellow Christian who has “returned to the father!” Have a blessed day!
So, I’m a jealous older brother or something? Good one. At least you can read, Brianna. You have a BLESSED day, sister. Praise him!
Last September, I received some emails from various sources saying Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church, had stepped down from his position as senior pastor because he was “spiritually depleted.” Digging into the story further, I found rumors of an affair between Dino and a young staff member in his church, Kaycee Morgan Smith. That explained the odd and abrupt manner which he left the church he founded. Further into my research, I found that Dino Rizzo’s mentor as a young pastor was none other than Jimmy Swaggart. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but Rizzo upgraded from prostitute to mistress.
Now “fallen” pastor Dino Rizzo graces a July 2012 issue of Charisma magazine
As a 23-year-old Dino worked under Baton Rouge icon Jimmy Swaggart as a youth pastor and ran the televangelist’s $300,000-a-month, 30-vehicle bus ministry. He’d been saved in a Word-Faith church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and at Swaggart’s Bible college, Dino began to merge the bold faith he saw modeled around him with the burning passion he’d always had to reach those less fortunate.
On October 11, 1991, Swaggart for a second time was found in the company of a prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, when he was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in Indio, California, for driving on the wrong side of the road. According to Garcia, Swaggart stopped to proposition her on the side of the road. When the patrolman asked Garcia why she was with Swaggart, she replied, “He asked me for sex. I mean, that’s why he stopped me. That’s what I do. I’m a prostitute.” This time, rather than confessing to his congregation, Swaggart told those at Family Worship Center that “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.” Swaggart’s son Donnie then announced to the stunned audience that his father would be temporarily stepping down as head of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries for “a time of healing and counseling.”
Like Jimmy Swaggart, Dino Rizzo temporarily stepped down from ministry, a move Church of the Highlands lead pastor, Chris Hodges, seems very proud of. Chris Hodges thinks people are dumb enough to believe that liars can be considered honorable men. In this recorded sermon, Chris Hodges introduces Dino Rizzo in his first time coming back to preaching: http://www.churchofthehighlands.com/media/message/how-to-come-back-to-the-father
Chris Hodges goes on to talk about how his church hired Dino to be on staff for one year to reintroduce him into ministry. Dino will be a “father” figure in ARC (Association of Related Churches) while they are “planting 100 new churches a year” according to Hodges.
Since writing my initial articles here, here and here on Dino Rizzo’s affair, many church members (current and former) have come forward to express how betrayed they feel by Rizzo and the church board. Rizzo’s actions, they felt, weren’t what ruined his reputation in their eyes: it was his dishonesty. Because he misrepresented his situation to the megachurch, several thousand people felt duped. Many have since sent me emails explaining why they left the church and how heartbreaking it was for them. I know the feeling–I worked for one of Dino Rizzo’s best friends and came to find out he lacked the integrity I once thought he had. What seems to happen in cases like Dino Rizzo and Jimmy Swaggart is the power and money (read: greed) are too delicious for them to give up, so they play the Humble Game for a year and then come back full force. Ask any Hollywood PR person what to do in a scandal and they’ll give you the same advice: “Go away for awhile and then return. The public has a short memory.”
Yet devoted Christians and church members don’t have a short memory because this week, once news started spreading about Dino’s return, I received email after email notifying me of his return. These are good-hearted men and women who helped build Healing Place Church and their ministries by hand and they feel betrayed. Rightly so. This must be why Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth. The most important lesson I learned when leaving ministry was that the powerful and influential ministers of the world are usually the most disingenuous of us all.
So, without further ado, I give you Dino Rizzo, back in action at the Church of the Highlands in an August 7th sermon titled “How to Come Back to the Father.” (Insert eye roll.) How cliche of him.
On a personal note, I do feel sorry for Dino. As I watched him preach this sermon, I could tell he was scared: he was scared that people like me would be watching him, blogging about it. He was scared that no one would believe him anymore, no one would clap for him, no one would pay his gas bill or luxuries. He’s right to be scared. When I wrote my original stories about him, over 10,000 people shared them. Healing Place Church was at the time boasting an 8,000 member congregation. Church of the Highlands states Healing Place Church membership is now at 7,000. I think the word is out that he is a fraud.
Should Dino Rizzo be allowed to return to ministry? Do you think Chris Hodges explanation about the affair was sufficient enough? Do you think Dino can (or did) change? Is it just temporary? Let me know what you think in the comments.
On a related note, any tips or emails I receive on this story will remain 100% confidential and anonymous. You can send stories, tips or any other info to mycultlife AT gmail DOT com.
This is what we know so far about the Dino Rizzo affair with Kaycee Morgan Smith and the subsequent cover-up. More information is coming in even as I write so stay tuned for more updates.The affair between Kaycee Morgan Smith and Dino Rizzo wasn’t short-lived, nor was it an inappropriate friendship. It lasted at least a year and sources say that he furnished her with a luxury apartment during that time in Perkins Rowe.
Perkins Rowe, Baton Rouge, LA (Image credit: Apartments.com)
What about her salary? Kaycee was indeed on the HPC staff and it’s rumored she made quite a large salary; more than some pastors at the same church. Kaycee played the role of Dino’s personal assistant when they traveled the world. He requested her to go on trips. Obviously so they could feed the poor, if you know what I mean.
So how did this all get exposed after Dino had clearly hidden it for a year? Someone found texts between Dino and Kaycee on Dino’s phone. The person confronted Dino about them and Dino in turn, said it was none of his business and threatened him. The person went further, though, and spoke up to the church presbyters who turned a deaf ear. It’s no coincidence that DeLynn Rizzo’s father, Wayne Austin, was one of the three presbyters that were told that day. Wayne Austin was also the marriage counselor Chris Hodges mentioned in his sermon last Wednesday that ‘restored Dino and DeLynn.’ What a joke.
Don’t think DeLynn is a victim in all this. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and Sweetheart knows where her paycheck comes from–$4 million dollars a year is what Dino and DeLynn are rumored to make.
Take a look at the cars their kids drive (BMW SUV), the private schools they attend (Samford University) and the eleven trips to Disney World they’ve taken. Burberry watches for birthdays ($500-700) and a private chef for Dino’s daughter McCall’s graduation party. Or trips to Australia, like McCall talks about on Facebook:
Dino Rizzo’s house went up for sale last year around March.
Four million dollars a year may very well be an incorrect number. I’d imagine this kind of lifestyle would require at least $10 million dollars a year. It’s no wonder they run a very lucrative School of Ministry where college age kids pay several thousand dollars to work for the church. Free labor, plus thousands of dollars? That’s a trip to Australia for five, folks!
On the day Dino resigned, he was supposed to read a prepared statement but he didn’t. DeLynn told him not to. I’ve received several reports confirming this. At this time, other staff members left the church. It’s no coincidence why founding staff members and pastors were leaving but what no one knew is they were forced to sign a confidentiality agreement in front of lawyers in order to receive their severance pay. If this church was a corporation, there’d be legal action against that.
ARC overseers got involved around this time. They tried to reinstate Dino in the spring before their ‘year of restoration’ was up but lawyers got involved. They were forced to release financials (if anyone has a copy or details, please email me) and this is when more members quit or left the church.
So what of poor Kaycee? She was paid off, too. She lives in Florida now and is clearly not hurting for money. Maybe she’s got a nice luxury apartment there where Dino still visits? I reached out to Kaycee via Twitter last year when I broke the story, but received no reply.
If you would like to contribute to this story, email me at mycultlife AT gmail DOT com. All names will be kept confidential. Tips and corrections may be sent, as well.
Dino Rizzo with the woman he had an affair with, Kaycee Morgan Smith. The affair took place in the summer of 2012. (Image left courtesy of The Leadership Blog and image right courtesy of Healing Place Church)
Chris Hodges words were spin on the truth. It wasn’t a brief inappropriate friendship, she was a kept woman for quite some time. But at least Church of the highlands and ARC received spins on the truth, HPC received outright lies and cover up. I just wish Hodges and Rizzo had gotten up there and said “we made so many mistakes over this last year trying to handle this right but failing, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” –From commentor Icabod
Charisma News did a good job of covering up what really happened. Readers were outraged again from the lack of integrity of the news source and the pastors involved, just like they were last September when Christian news sources were covering up the affair.NavyDad77 says:
The narrative should be about the cover up and leaving the women victim out in the cold AND the church that remains in Louisiana is in trouble. All the while this guy gets off with NO questions asked. He was the former youth minister for Jimmy Swaggart so he should know how to repent. The scandal is the cover up of what happened and the subsequent mistreatment of the intern. Not a single bit of contrition or mention of that from any of them. There should be outrage and a much longer cooling off period before they let him in charge of anything.
An “inappropriate friendship”? What is an “inappropriate friendship”? Since when is a pastor disciplined for an “inappropriate friendship”? Is an “inappropriate friendship” when you say “hi” too many times? What is an “inappropriate friendship”? I think I know what it is…..a lie….cover up language.
As a former member of COTH of over 12 years, I am so disappointed w/ Chris and Dino for how they have handled this situation. No honesty whatsoever!! I feel so sorry for the people of HPC who were lied to, betrayed and told they weren’t getting any more explanation for his (Dino’s) resignation. Their (Chris, Dino and Co.) cover up only proves that they care more about Dino’s reputation and the reputation of ARC than they do about the people they serve.
In September, 2012, I broke the story of Dino Rizzo’s alleged affair which was covered up by his “sabbatical” speech. The church elders stuck to that story, too, until shit hit the fan and my blog exploded with over 5,000 shares of the article. Seeing that Dino’s church reports 8,000 members, my best guess is the (alleged) cat is out of the bag.
Thanks to Tiger Droppings, a Baton Rouge community forum, and user HBR, we’ve now learned that Dino Rizzo from HPC puts his house up for sale. See photos below, courtesy of user HBR and Tiger Droppings.
Healing Place Church founder Dino Rizzo has stepped down from his job as pastor claiming need of a sabbatical.
Yesterday, I reported the story here but since the writing of that story, more church leaders have come forward to confirm the already existing allegations. What The Advocate isn’t telling you, is that Dino Rizzo and a former intern Kaycee Morgan Smith allegedly had an affair, according to reports from church leaders who were told this in a meeting Sunday. Leaders were duped into thinking Dino would admit his affair on Sunday to the church; however, Dino never read a statement according to sources. Instead leaders believe Dino provided a smokescreen to cover up the scandal and his leadership followed suit.
“We feel it is best that we step down as pastors today,” Dino Rizzo told several thousand church members gathered in the spacious arena sanctuary during the first of two Sunday morning services.
DeLynn Rizzo stood next to her husband while he addressed the church members.
“We feel God is moving us into a new season,” he said without disclosing what future plans the couple might have.
“Our hearts are forever marked by your faith, your love and your generosity,” Dino Rizzo told the silent crowd.
If reports are correct, then why did Dino lie to his church congregation? What does Dino have to lose by outing himself and coming clean? A lot of money, it seems. Money the IRS may or may not know about, since some of the non-profit corporations in Dino’s name are not in good standing for failure to file an annual report.
Dino Rizzo is listed as Director, Treasurer, and Vice-President (and other titles) to sixteen different organizations.
Screen shot from the Secretary of State’s website September 18th, 2012 (10 am)
The first corporation on the list is listed as “not in good standing for failure to file an annual report” according to the Secretary of State’s website.
One of Dino Rizzo’s ministries
What Healing Place church members don’t know is that Dino Rizzo is still listed as an officer. According to the Secretary of State’s site, there have been no amendments to any of the non-profits listed removing Dino or DeLynn Rizzo. In fact, no changes have been made since 2009. If Dino had really resigned, wouldn’t he have been removed from HPC and the ministries entirely?
It appears that Dino is still legally tied to Healing Place Church and the fifteen other non-profit corporations. What we don’t know is how much money is there? If church members or the public were interested in knowing, they might tackle this by going to the IRS and filing a whistleblower claim. It pays well, according to a New York Times article, one whistleblower earned a $104 million dollar reward. Another option for former interns would be to consult a lawyer about HPC’s promise of ministry training and a possible violation of Quid Pro Quo Contributions. Interns in HPC’s School of Ministry get tangible benefits from their “donations” to the church. This means they aren’t really donations at all.
History repeats itself. There was another infamous minister whose world came crashing down over a sex affair, and in a bit of irony, he was also attached to the Los Angeles Dream Center. His name is Jim Bakker. It took a woman named Jessica Hahn’s allegations of Jim raping her for the ministry to start unraveling. According to Wikipedia,
Following a 16-month Federal grand jury probe, Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. In 1989, after a five-week trial which began on August 28 in Charlotte, the jury found him guilty on all 24 counts, and Judge Robert Potter sentenced him to 45 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.
The New York Times says this: “Judge Potter’s defenders cite a presentence memo in which prosecutors assert that Mr. Bakker actually used fraudulent appeals to raise $158 million.”
A non-profit called PRC Compassion is also something to look into, since federal funds were given to the non-profit corporation for Hurricane Katrina relief. One wonders how much of the federal funds were actually given to those in need and how much was put in the pockets of the officers: Gene Mills, Dino Rizzo and Daniel Jones (all large ministry leaders).
With Bakker, it wasn’t just an affair. Could it be the same with Dino Rizzo? I have a feeling once I post this, HPC will begin to do a quick cover up and destroy any documents that the IRS would need. My advice to HPC or ARC leaders or members who read this is to come clean. Don’t cover up the scandal. You owe your parishioners honesty at the very least. Not to mention, withholding crucial information from federal investigators is fraud as former Banker, Bradley C. Birkenfeld learned:
During the investigation Mr. Birkenfeld was charged with fraud for withholding crucial information from federal investigators, including details of his top client, the property developer Igor Olenicoff. Mr. Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and was released early on Aug. 1.