Televangelist Morris Cerullo Plans Biblical Disneyland in Mission Valley

by on January 29, 2016 · 9 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, San Diego

Morris Cerullo MV Ctr graphicControversial televangelist’s massive project up for review

By Ken Williams / Mission Valley News

A controversial Pentecostal televangelist who recently purchased the San Diego Resort Hotel complex in Mission Valley has proposed a massive mixed-use redevelopment project that would include a religious retreat, underground catacombs, a Jerusalem-style Wailing Wall, an outdoor amphitheater and bazaar, a TV studio, and timeshare units for his followers.

Morris Cerullo 2Morris Cerullo — the 84-year-old televangelist who proclaims to be a faith healer and miracle worker — bases his global ministry at 3545 Aero Court in San Diego’s Serra Mesa neighborhood. The proposed Morris Cerullo Legacy International Center would be built at 875 Hotel Circle South on 18.1 acres located off Interstate 8 in Mission Valley.

“The mission of the Morris Cerullo Legacy Center is to equip the Body of Christ to work the works of God until Jesus comes. Through God’s plan for evangelism, the Morris Cerullo Legacy Center will continue to train an army for God who will then be able to train others,” Cerullo’s website states.

Morris Cerrulo MV Ctr frontThe ambitious project has so far flown under the media’s radar. The Mission Valley Planning Group (MVPG) and its Design Advisory Board (DAB) were given informational presentations at their meetings earlier this year, and the DAB criticized the project’s initial “Ancient Rome” architectural style and its overuse of domes for not fitting into the neighborhood.

“This project has not received much attention,” said John W. Nugent, a member of the planning group. “The last time the MVPG reviewed it, briefly, was March 2015.

“I believe that if the community was aware of the project, there would be a great deal of interest, and some opposition,” he said.

Morris Cerullo MV ctr map

The Legacy Center coming in at the former Mission Valley Resort location.

The project — and its revised design style that has been updated to reflect a more traditional Mediterranean/Tuscan motif — will be formally presented to the Design Advisory Board at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 4 and the planning group at noon Jan. 6. Both sessions will be at the Mission Valley Library, located at 2123 Fenton Parkway.

Morris Cerullo brochure MVThe project’s first big hurdle will be the completion of the Environmental Impact Review (EIR). The public comment period will end on Jan. 15, Nugent said. To review 10 lengthy documents related to the EIR, visit bit.ly/1XQvuJo.

The proposed Legacy Center would include six buildings:

  • The Welcoming Center, a two-story, 17,000-square-foot structure. According to Cerullo’s website: “Through a stunning multi-media presentation, visitors will witness the drama of God imparting into Morris Cerullo’s spirit that His heartbeat is wrapped up in one word —SOULS. The center of the Rotunda will feature an immense, life-sized mural that will lead visitors through the amazing life and ministry of Morris Cerullo.”
  • History Dome Theater and artifact museum, comprising 30,000 square feet.
  • The underground Catacombs, 6,000 square feet of retail space and a learning center.
  • Training Center Pavilion, totaling 105,000 square feet and including a grand foyer, learning center, retail gift shop, restaurant, theater, TV studio and a wellness center.
  • Timeshare Legacy Village, 127 timeshare units in a five-story structure totaling 136,000 square feet that will be located on the far southeast portion of the property.
  • Executive offices, a three-story building providing 23,000 square feet of office space.
  • A 300-seat amphitheater with a raised stage will be built between the main buildings and the timeshares.
  • An underground parking structure with 314 stalls will take up 114,000 square feet and an above-ground parking structure with 280 stalls will be 94,000 square feet.
Morris Cerullo catacombs

Catacombs

A central plaza and outdoor water feature is planned, along with a large outdoor swimming lagoon. It is not known at this time if California’s drought restrictions will impact the water feature, which project officials said was being considered as a way to mitigate noise from the nearby freeway.
According to the planning group, “The proposed mixed-use project requires a Process Five Community Plan Amendment, Atlas Specific Plan Amendment, Rezone, Site Development Permit, Planned Development Permit, Conditional Use Permit and Vesting Tentative Map to construct a mixed-use development with religious, non-denominational, faith-based entertainment Center, Museum, timeshare, administrative, recreational and commercial uses.”

Morris Cerullo wail wall MV

Wailing Wall

So who is Morris Cerullo? He was born to Russian Jewish and Italian parents on Oct. 2, 1931 in Passaic, New Jersey. He was orphaned at age 2 when his parents died in a car crash, and sent to an Orthodox Jewish orphanage. But he became a Christian during his teenage years, eventually embracing the Pentecostal faith and becoming ordained in the early 1950s by the Assemblies of God. He is the founder of the Morris Cerullo World Evangelism as well as the Morris Cerullo Schools of Ministry.

Cerullo made a big splash in 1990 when he bought the assets of televangelist Jim Bakker’s bankrupt ministry, PTL. Among those assets, the bankruptcy court approved Cerullo’s $7 million offer to buy PTL’s cable TV operation, The Inspiration Network, and which has since been spun into a new entity called The Inspiration Networks. Cerullo’s son, David, is president and CEO of that company, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Throughout his pastoral career, Cerullo has been dogged by controversies. His Schools of Ministry have been set up in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to convert the natives to his brand of Christianity. His claims of being a faith healer and miracle worker have come into dispute, particularly in the United Kingdom where a BBC documentary told the story of a woman who believed Cerullo healed her of epilepsy, so she stopped taking her medication and died.

In 1992, Cerullo was expelled from India after disturbances tarnished his large rallies where he vowed to heal people, according to the Times of India. When audience members were not healed of their afflictions, the crowd turned against the televangelist and called him a “cheat.” The San Diego Union-Tribune later reported on Cerullo’s banishment from India.

Cerullo has also come under fire from rabbis for his efforts to convert Jews to his faith.

Then there are accusations that Cerullo underrepresented his income from 1998 through 2000, and he was indicted by a grand jury. But in 2007, the U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, dismissed charges against Cerullo of filing a false tax return on a technicality after the prosecutor gave inadequate and inaccurate explanations to the grand jury.

Cerullo is also outspoken in his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage — urging his followers to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June — as well as LGBT rights.

To learn more about the ministry, visit its website at bit.ly/1XXcrI2.

To read more about Cerullo’s vision for the Legacy Center, which appears somewhat different from public documents submitted to the city, visit bit.ly/1R5W8tp and bit.ly/1IQu5Go.

Editor’s Note: Important meetings coming up: The Design Advisory Board of the MV Planning Committee meets on the project on Feb. 1 at 3:30 pm at the Mission Valley Library. The full Mission Valley Planning Committee reviews the project at their noon meeting on Feb. 3rd, also at the library.

This was published with permission from Ken Williams, editor of Mission Valley News and Uptown News; he can be reached at ken@sdcnn.com or at 619-961-1952.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

gregg January 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Deny the project. We don’t need an evangelical, faith healing preacher and his followers over running San Diego with their horrid development proposal. Their hatred for others not like them is despicable. Evangelicals will ruin this country if they are allowed to push their agenda. They are the worst. Preying on unsuspecting people for their money and devotion to fill their coffers. This is coming from a “devout” atheist that has many religious friends of all faiths. I’m not against any one practicing a religion of there choice; to each there own.

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Philip Evans July 11, 2016 at 8:26 am

For God’s sake, gregg, look at this sentence:
“I’m not against any one practicing a religion of there choice; to each there own.” The glaring misuse the word “their” is inexcusable in your, otherwise, well-connected response. It’s not just you; others should take note.

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Linda Carlin January 29, 2016 at 5:17 pm

This sounds like the religious theme park on The Simpsons!!!

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Mercy Baron OB Mercy January 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Bad Jew, bad Jew!! I’m allowed to say it. I’m Jewish!

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Rufus January 30, 2016 at 5:35 am

How many remember that Cerullo bought the old El Cortez hotel maybe 25 years ago and turned it into a school for bible bangers? Didn’t last long, his opperation sold the hotel and he shuffled off.

Creepy dude for sure. Watch a video of Mo preaching and you’ll see that he’s a master of exploiting the vulnerable.

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Dana Levy January 30, 2016 at 8:41 am

One more religious charlatan in a long line of deceivers looking to further exploit the desperate, lonely, and ignorant masses with hollow false prognostications based on the delusional lunacy foisted on the gullible by the bible. Seems appropriate that MC wants to have another go at San Diego to try and succeed in his quest of bilking the last farthing from his flock.

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OB John January 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Anyone remember his old TV show in San Diego, I believe in the late 1960’s & 70’s? An old style faith healer that raked in big $$$$ from his audience. Even at 10 years old I could see he was a fraud. Plenty of info here as well. https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Morris+Cerullo&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001 His own website videos would be enough to convince any thinking person that the man has nothing to offer to humanity or San Diego in particular. Getting expelled from India is pretty telling considering the amount of religious fraud going on there already. Thanks for writing this story OBR.

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CliffHanger February 1, 2016 at 9:02 am

Maybe there’ll be a flood……

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Citizen Cane Larry OB February 2, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Catacombs in a river valley…what a Nimrod.

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