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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Render Unto Caesar

In recent news Senator Charles Grassley (R. Iowa) has launched an inquiry to many of the major televangelists across the US. Apparently there has been enough suspicion in his mind that has arisen to the possibility of the misuse of donor funds that he now is attempting to work with the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the issue. Some of those that are being investigated are Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paula White and a few others.

Currently many of these folks and their churches are sheltered by tax laws under their organizations 501 C(3) status as "non-profit" organizations. I'm sure that the term "non-profit" is really anything but in their case. Many of these clowns live in multi-million dollar homes and wear $2000 suits. They have also used ministry money to purchase air planes and other luxury travel expenditures, some to the tune of hotel rooms costing $10K per night.

Apparently the Senate Finance Committee will step in if they are unable to find reasonable evidence from the IRS or these organizations that everything seems to be on the up and up. The only problem with satisfying the IRS is that there is no requirement for these guys to submit any detailed records because of their charitable organization status.

Ultimately from an income standpoint, these folks are cheating the system in the highest ways possible. They are using money that their donors have given them on a tax free basis to live tax free lifestyles of luxury. We need major tax reform.

There is a lot of money tied up in the various religious non-profit organizations that seems pretty unfair to the rest of the tax paying world. Although the issue of taxing these organizations on the basis of income can be a sticky issue, the truth is that an income tax is not the answer. The income tax, as a whole, is really technically an illegal tax. There is absolutely no mention of a tax on income anywhere in the Constitution or anywhere in our law books; so we have to rule out working with something that illusive.

My proposal would be to institute the same tax then that the rest of us have to pay; property tax. There are many churches in America today that have very elaborate buildings. They are really nice to look at form the outside, but the fact is that most of the time they are not being used for charitable purposes. The facilities themselves are not typically open for the use of the public, but rather only on a limited schedule for limited members of its congregation. Not necessarily a bad idea, but the bottom line is that there is a hell of a lot of money wrapped up in those places. I can think of several churches even here in the state of Iowa whose property values, according to their county Tax Assessors, well exceed the million dollar mark. So that means that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not several millions, that are not being claimed by facilities that still hold the same right as the rest of us to call upon the local services of fire and rescue, police, etc...

Ultimately there will be no fair and just way of pinning tax fraud on many of these jokers...that will just be a very difficult task in light of the fine and delicate line of not allowing the state to dictate what the reasonable expenses of these churches should be...but they should at least be able to start taxing the entities themselves fairly like the rest of us and have them start rendering unto Caesar their fair share.

Good work Senator Grassley. I applaud your efforts here. And I'm glad for your credibility on the issue. You can't be accused of doing this under the guise of anti-religious harassment since you consider yourself also a Christian who is just calling for accountability.

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Blogger Ryan said...

Sometime i need to tell you about the 2 day work session I spent last year with Jim Bakker. Totally bizarre.

November 16, 2007 at 11:18 PM  

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