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Should wealthy televangelists be tax exempt?

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Nov 28, 2007 in World
How wealthy are some of the well-known televangelists? With compensations, lavish homes, lavish lifestyles and benefits, the amount is mind boggling. There is now an investigation being launched into some of their finances.
Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, due to complaints from the public, began an investigation of six well known televangelists this month. He is looking into alleged financial wrongdoing. All of them run "nonprofit" organizations.
The six televangelists under investigation are Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White and Eddie Long.
Sen. Grassley has requested information from the six in question by Dec. 6. Among the documents that he has requested are their expenses, their domestic and overseas bank accounts as well as executive compensation and amenities that are given to the executives.
As AP reports:"I'm following up on complaints from the public and news coverage regarding certain practices at six ministries," Grassley said in a statement Tuesday. "The allegations involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls Royces."
Trinity Foundation supplied most of the material that began the investigation. They are based in Dallas Texas and are a nonprofit organization that investigates and reports fraud by religious ministries.
They sent the finance committee a report that documented years of investigation into more than the six televangelists but Trinity is leaving it up to the committee if they will name the others.
According to Pete Evans, an investigator for Trinity, the ministries use their status as a church to shield then from the public. Very little of what donors send in is used for church activity.
These televangelists are a part of the "prosperity gospel" which began in the 1970s. They teach that God blesses people with wealth.
Many mega-churches do not want to be seen as an established religion. To avoid being seen as a "church" their buildings are huge and many have bowling alleys, exercise gyms and even spas.
Many also have food courts, coffee shops and book stores.
Since Christianity is based on the Christian Bible and the teachings of Jesus the promise of wealth does not align with Biblical teachings.
How do televangelists' lifestyles align with the teachings of Jesus? I wonder what they think about a verse found in 2nd Peter 2 and verse 3. "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
According to the Tucson Citizen Creflo Dollar has several Rolls Royces, private jets, a million-dollar home plus a $2.5 million apartment in Manhattan New York.
This site has many of the televangelists listed and among them is Joyce Meyer. She has television and radio programs that are in 25 languages in 200 countries. She has written more than 70 books on Christianity that are very popular especially among women. She also has conference tours which she does not charge for.
One of her websites says: "Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Doors will open two hours prior to each session, so be sure to arrive early so you can grab a seat and have time to check out the resource tables."
In the ministry's headquarters, an assessor's records show the personal property alone is valued at $5.7 million which includes the furniture, artwork, glassware and the latest equipment and machinery in the 158,000-square-foot-building.
Where she lives is a family compound that includes five homes for her and her four children. The ministry has spent at least $4 million on the homes.
Meyer's home is a 10,000-square-foot Cape Cod style home. It includes a guest house and a garage that can be independently heated and cooled and can hold up to eight cars.
The ministry pays all of the utilities, maintenance and landscaping costs at all five homes.
As soon as these types of preachers come under investigation they cry against "the religious persecution" by the government.
What do you think, are these people really being persecuted or do they need to be investigated?
More about Televangelists, Probe finances, Being probed
 
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