Top Pro & Con Arguments
Too many churches have taken advantage of the tax exemption by being politically active, being “sham” religions, or using the tax exemption to line the pockets of extravagantly wealthy faith leaders.
Despite the 1954 law banning political campaigning by tax-exempt groups, many churches are clearly political. Every fall, the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, organizes “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” encouraging pastors to endorse candidates from the pulpit and none have suffered consequences. Minnesota pastor Brad Brandon of Berean Bible Baptist Church endorsed several Republican candidates and dared the “liberal media” to file complaints with the IRS. Brandon later announced: “I’m going to explain to you what happened… Nothing happened.”
The tax code makes no distinction between authentic religions and fraudulent startup “faiths.” In Mar. 2004, the IRS warned of an increase in schemes that “exploit legitimate laws to establish sham one-person, nonprofit religious corporations” charging $1,000 or more per person to attend “seminars.”
American taxpayers are supporting the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy pastors, whose lavish “megachurches” accumulate millions of tax-free dollars every year. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, MA (R-IA) launched an investigation into these groups in Nov. 2007 after receiving complaints of church revenue being used to buy pastors private jets, Rolls Royce cars, multimillion-dollar homes, trips to Hawaii and Fiji, and in one case, a $23,000, marble-topped chest of drawers installed in the 150,000 square foot headquarters of Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Missouri. The average annual salary for senior pastors with congregations of 2,000 or more is $147,000, with some earning up to $400,000. In addition to the federal exemption on housing expenses enjoyed by these ministers, they often pay zero dollars in state property tax. Church leaders Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International had three tax-free parsonages: a million-dollar Georgia mansion, a two-million-dollar Georgia mansion, and a $2.5 million Manhattan apartment. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, leaders of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Fort Worth, TX, live in a church-owned, tax-free $6.2 million lakefront parsonage.Read More