Lavish televangelist lifestyles raise eyebrows at Senate Finance Committee
The reportedly extravagant lifestyles of six television evangelists are raising some eyebrows at the Senate Finance Committee, which wants to know if the popular preachers are paying their fair share in taxes.
Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, has written letters to the evangelists, asking that they "disclose their assets, spending practices, compensation plans and business arrangements," according the Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Sataline. "The letters aren't formal subpoenas, and the six aren't required to reply."
Although religious organizations themselves are not required to pay federal taxes, any for-profit ventures a church may engage in are not similarly exempt.
"Mr. Grassley said his investigation was prompted by complaints from watchdog groups and others that the ministers live in multimillion-dollar homes, travel on private jets and engage in profit-making ventures from their ministries," reports the Journal, adding that the senator said he would withhold judgment until he got "the story from the ministries."
Evangelists receiving letters from Grassley were Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Paula White. Spokespersons for Dollar, Hinn and Meyer all denied any wrongdoing in statements to CBS News.
CBS also reports that Sen. Grassley's letters were prompted in part by Ole Anthony, an investigator with the Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog group that probes potential fraud among religious groups.
"We've been working with them for two years," Anthony told CBS. "We have furnished them with enough information to fill a small Volkswagen."
According to the Wall Street Journal, the ministers under scrutiny are all "prosperity theology adherents who preach that wealth is a sign of God's favor."
"Ministers who espouse prosperity theology promote themselves as conduits for God's blessings, saying that believers will reap benefits as long as they give generously to the ministries," continued the Journal."Most evangelical ministers urge believers to donate, but don't link donations to earthly wealth."