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Quote of the Day - What a holler would ensue if people had to pay the minister as much to marry them as they have to pay a lawyer to get them a divorce. - Claire Trevor

No Separation Of Church And State For Ministries Taking Tax Advantages

Some ministries and churches are far from not-for-profit, or so it would seem just watching television or in my case, driving past  the monstrous church complex on the 405 freeway, just across from an equally monstrous (but retail) South Coast Plaza, otherwise known as the Trinity Broadcasting Network in Costa Mesa.  Just to give you an idea when I say "monstrous," the TBN nighttime Christmas display requires its own separate nuclear power plant, and it has to refuel with new uranium once a week.   

Regular readers may remember that my father was a minister.  He started out in the Middleboro Congregational Church, which is part of the combination United Church of Christ denomination (somewhere between Presbyterian and Methodist).  After several other stints in churches in Pennsylvania and Virginia, he retired on Cape Cod to a small, one-room house.  To say that I grew up poor would be an understatement.  My dad would have never been accused of tax evasion because I'm not even sure he ever made enough money to pay taxes.  OK, that's an exaggeration, but not by much.

On the other hand, the US Senate Finance Committee is starting to look into opulent lifestyles enjoyed by many ministers in well-to-do megachurches.  Senator Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on that committee, has been handing out subpoenas for financial records of those ministers who live quite nicely, thank you very much, but whose churches enjoy non-profit tax status. 

It must be nice to make another 50% tax-free.  I'm definitely in the wrong business.  But wait, it gets better.

Would you be surprised to learn that out of six subpoenas, only two ministers have responded with financial records?

Would you be even more surprised to learn that the IRS does not require churches to make their finances public?  That's according to Eric Gorski, the AP's religion writer. 


Maybe it's time to take a look at that law, and perhaps time to dig deeper into megachurches who lavishly fund their ministers with private jets and among other things yachts, limos and McMansions.  But hang on just a minute.  If I remember my Bible correctly, then it was Jesus who rode a donkey and threw the money-changers out of the temple.

But that was 2,000 years ago, and it's unfair to make a present-day comparison.

Oh, that's right, I forgot.  The megachurch ministers make that comparison every Sunday during their sermons.  How foolish of me.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, December 08, 2007

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