TaxProf Blog

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sermon On The Mountain Of Cash: Using Tax Law To Curtail The Prosperity Gospel And Prevent Opportunists From 'Preying' On Vulnerable Parishioners

Jacob M. Bass, The Sermon on the Mountain of Cash: How to Curtail the Prosperity Scheme and Prevent Opportunists from “Preying” on Vulnerable Parishioners, 37 B.C.J.L. & Soc. Just. 147 (2017):

Many televangelists in the United States preach the “prosperity gospel,” a doctrine which teaches that a religiously faithful person who continually donates money to church ministries can expect God to grant material improvements to their finances, health, and relationships. Americans who participate in prosperity gospel churches often donate thousands of dollars to these churches, despite their difficulty financing such large donations and the lack of the promised material improvement to their lives. Televangelists who preach the prosperity gospel secretly use these donations to finance their extravagant lifestyles, instead of using the funds to support the faithful masses who continue to donate. The U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause makes it difficult to regulate this religiously-based scheme.

This Note argues that to rectify the abuses of prosperity preachers, prosecutors and private individuals should work within the framework of existing criminal and tax law to seek convictions for fraud and tax evasion.

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I'm skeptical. A lot of religions preach that the good will be rewarded. Where do you draw the line?

Posted by: mike livingston | Jul 9, 2017 4:47:15 AM

It may be hard to determine when someone has crossed the line. A more fruitful approach may be to publicize the amounts collected and where it goes for these organizations.

Posted by: gator | Jul 10, 2017 5:33:22 AM