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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sen. Grassley Releases Review of Tax Issues Raised by Media-based Ministries

Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, yesterday released his review of tax issues raised by six media-based ministries. From his press release:

Grassley wrote to six media-based ministries in November 2007, based on requests for review from members of the public who wrote to him because of his previous tax-exempt oversight work.  In addition, these ministries had received media coverage and attention from watchdog groups.  One of the six ministries, Joyce Meyer Ministries, responded fully to Grassley’s inquiry and joined the ECFA in March 2009.  Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church also provided complete answers to all questions.  Both ministries wrote to Grassley to explain they have undertaken significant internal governance reforms.  “I appreciate these efforts,” Grassley said.  “Self-correction can be more effective than government action.  It’s something that’s worked with other entities I’ve looked at, such as the Nature Conservancy and the Smithsonian Institution and some top colleges that were amassing large endowments without increasing student aid.”

Four ministries either did not provide any information or provided incomplete information.  Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries submitted incomplete responses. Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries declined to provide any of the requested information. Findings regarding those organizations are summarized in the staff review.

Grassley has formally asked the ECFA to consider the issues raised by staff and spearhead a discussion about how to address those issues.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

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Many of these pastors have ministries that are known as "Prosperity Gospel," in which you give to God and he'll give back greater rewards to you, typically interpreted as financial wealth. It sure works for them! I've been told that church members have to bring their W-2s to Pastor Dollar's church so that the church can tell them how much they are supposed to tithe...and it's gross, not net.

Boxing champ Evander Holyfield is a member of Pastor Dollar's church, and the pastor created quite a stir when he was given a subpoena to testify in Holyfield's divorce hearing and refused to show up, resulting in an arrest warrant against him. But, that's a long story about transferring money that the staff memo didn't catch.

However, I don't want to take away from the good messages that are delivered by these preachers and how they have helped others. I know some people who attend these services and have grown closer to God. But, I have a serious problem with the large transfers of tithes and offerings to the individual ministers and for luxuries.

But, if any of you wants to take part in the "prosperity gospel," I have given myself the title of "reverend" (I haven't reached the "bishop" stage yet) and will be glad to take your offerings. Might I recommend ten percent of your gross W-2 wages?

Posted by: Reverend Woody | Jan 7, 2011 8:43:24 AM

Speaking personally, I have always thought that tithing applied to your gross income, not your net or after-tax income. I do not think the obligations imposed upon me by the govt should affect the obligations imposed upon me by my faith.

Posted by: great white north | Jan 12, 2011 6:43:42 AM