And to the point that religious programming couldn't support shortwave broadcasting...
Shortwave outlets can be sparsely staffed compared to a typical commercial broadcast station. There is no need for an advertising sales force, nor air personalities or many board operators, since the programming mostly comes in via satellite, IP, ISDN, or pre-recorded media. Most religious content providers are on annual or longer contracts with the broadcast outlet, so the checks just come in the mail. No need for a collections department, and the clients don't have to be "re-sold" much, since the broadcast is their bread and butter to the tune of $1M/month in donations according to some reports regarding Dr. Gene Scott Ministries(now Pastor Mellissa Scott), tax-free. They tend to pay up with a smile.
So, you are left with a "studio"(could be nothing more than a room with a digital automation system and some CD players), transmitter facility, antenna system, and routine RF field strength readings, etcetera, which are generally maintained by contract engineering firms and a few on-site employees who might be a combination of board operator/engineer/maintenance man to run the transmitters, make sure patterns are switched, and keep the digital automation system loaded and playing the prescribed content. They aren't the most highly paid people in the world. In fact, with the relaxed FCC regulations regarding broadcasting, it's entirely possible to operate 24/7 with little physical interaction with the facility, as long as there is an adequate and operational remote monitoring and control system.
Then there are the ministries who actually are OO's, which is a different ballgame with some similar technical and delivery characteristics.
Electricity.. That is a big chunk. Calculating that for this exercise would be pointless considering the many different transmitter types, efficiencies and other variables.
My description of a shoestring broadcaster is certainly not all-encompassing, but if you were to do some investigating, would likely ring common to a great extent.
Is there possibly some subterfuge and clandestine information streaming in the background of these religious programs? Anything is possible. I'd have to see some actual evidence in the form of a spectrum analyzer capture, or a decoded message. Otherwise, it's just the typical gleeps and glorps common to HF radio.
Look at WWCR http://www.wwcr.com/gallery.html
It's a smaller operation than a typical small market commercial broadcast station, but it's worldwide. Seven "board operators" and Chief and a "Frequency Manager". Let's see.. For a fully staffed 24/7 operation, that means they are staffed about right for what's required to give a 40 hour work week working 6/1 with a spare guy. And they actually run several stations. I'd suspect that none of them make over $35k/yr.
It is a mistake to underestimate the amount of donations made to these shortwave ministries based solely upon what one might consider to be "reasonable" for a commercial station. It's apples and oranges.
Just a simple burst of actual knowledge concerning broadcast radio will tell you that the operating costs of these stations is well within viable business practice, and has nothing to do with with popularity amongst the guy down the street and your mother-in-law. They are not the target audience, nor the target benefactor.
Thanks for playing... badly..