Ex-porn merchant defends his church

REVEREND Michael Bassett insists he was not a 'porn king' in Soho in the Sixties; he prefers 'professional pornographer'. This was before he opened a casino, became involved in counterfeiting money, and later occupied his time as a playboy and gigolo. Then he found God.

He is now running an independent church in London, part of whose message is that wealth and health are godly and good.

This approach appeared to have been taken to an extreme earlier this month when Mr Bassett's Victory Church was named in a High Court case during a dispute about the franchise of six branches of the Body Shop.

The Body Shop was claiming pounds 340,000 from Pauline Rawle, the franchise holder, and demanding the return of its property.

The judge, Sir Peter Pain, ordered Mrs Rawle to hand back control of the shops. He commented: 'She tried to compel her staff to take mystic violence (sic) courses run by the church.

'At one meeting she told staff they had all been sexually abused before they were three years of age, and many of them found this distressing.'

Mr Bassett, 49, says the case cast an unfair slur on his church, which he founded in 1980. He said Mrs Rawle had never been a member of his church and only went to classes organised by it. The church ran a 'domestic' not a 'mystic' violence course.

A well-groomed, sun-tanned Londoner, Mr Bassett - or Dr Bassett (his honorary doctorate is from a Dr McCann's Harvest Bible College in Cornwall) - personifies one of the church's fundamental beliefs: success.

He expresses his views in a quiet, controlled manner, and is surprisingly soft-spoken for a charismatic evangelist.

He believes the image of 'poor Christians' is outdated and that there is nothing in the Bible that condemns wealth. The church runs business and financial workshops. Mr Bassett said: 'People realise today that you have to be able to function economically.'

His business experience began when he sold pornography for five years. He then moved on to gambling, with his own casino, including 'bunny girls' and a private bar. He has been quoted as saying: 'I changed my mistresses as frequently as most men change their socks.'

A failed counterfeiting racket forced him to flee London for Los Angeles. In the United States he became a professional gigolo and gambler. But one night in 1975 he discovered Jesus in a hotel room while watching a TV evangelist.

Shortly afterwards he met his wife, Denise, 37, a Californian, who is now a pastor. The couple live in Hampstead.

Mr Bassett believes his previous lifestyle has made him more suitable, not less, to be a preacher. 'There's not many things I can be shaken about. Whatever they have done, I can usually top them.'

His faith has attracted about 1,000 members, 95 per cent of whom are black. Meetings, which are loud and lively, are held in Hampstead and Wembley.

Another belief at Victory Church is that most illnesses are due to people 'stuffing something and holding something' inside their bodies and minds. With spiritual guidance the church believes it can cure this problem.

Mr Bassett thinks people are 'sick and tired' of traditional churches - 'People want to get a real relationship with God.'

(Photograph omitted)

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little