Arlington Heights pastor John Elleson, who is making a bid for Congress, risked the ire of multimillionaire televangelist Joel Osteen by including Osteen in a recent TV ad without Osteen’s permission.
But Osteen isn’t the only fellow pastor Elleson has upset over the years, court records show.
Elleson — who’s running in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky in November’s general election — was ordered by a judge to complete 150 hours of community service and to return $49,000 in benefit payments he’d improperly collected after pleading “no contest” to a first degree theft charge in Hawaii in 2003, court records show.
Prosecutors alleged that Elleson and his wife, Suzanne Elleson, who pleaded “no contest” to second-degree theft, had lied about how they were feeding teenagers who attended a religious drug addiction rehabilitation service Elleson ran, so that they could illegally squeeze extra money out of taxpayers.
According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the state probe of Elleson began after a teenage client alleged the Ellesons required him and other clients to apply for benefits, then turn over their benefits cards to Suzanne Elleson or face being kicked out of the program.
That wasn’t the end of Elleson’s problems tied to the rehab program. After the church that had hired him to run the program fired him for his “contentious and noncooperative spirit” and his “assumption of dictatorial authority over an assembly,” Elleson was sued by the church for continuing to use their “Teen Challenge” trademark without permission.
A judge found that Elleson had “willfully engaged in . . . deceptive trade practices,” ordered him to stop and told him to pay the church’s legal costs.
Elleson has fought with a neighboring church in Illinois, too. According to a 2010 lawsuit, Arlington Heights police were, on more than one occasion, called to intervene in a dispute Elleson’s Lakewood Chapel had with the Bethel Pentecostal Church of God.
Elleson sold Bethel half of his church, but after his plan to build a wall dividing the worship area into two was rejected by the village, he “repeatedly interrupted” Sunday services at Bethel by cutting off the electricity to the public address system, removing microphones from the podium during services, and by playing loud music and projection screen TVs during services, according to the lawsuit.
A Cook County jury sided with Bethel, ordering Elleson’s church to pay Bethel $257,600, plus costs.
He described “the Hawaii thing” as “an unfortunate time in our lives,” and said he would not have been charged under current law.
“Everybody who knows me, knows I am an open book,” he wrote. “I have nothing to hide. I have shared everything you mentioned, opening with the church I pastor, and anyone who listens to my recorded sermons.”
He added, “In every one of the things you mentioned, there are no rifts with any of the people today. In life you will have conflicts, but we have tried to bring peace to every situation when possible.”
Elleson wrote that he was “not aware of” a 1998 criminal damage conviction he holds in Cook County, according to court records, which indicate he plead guilty to the misdemeanor.
“I have a clean record,” he wrote.