WHY is Senator Grassley Investigating the Six Ministries Including Kenneth Copeland et al? Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

WHY is Senator Grassley Investigating the Six Ministries Including Kenneth Copeland et al?
 


12 August 2008 at 11:11:15 AM
salon

I've been following, from time to time, the progress of the Senate investigation led by Senator Chuck Grassley into the 5013c status of some ministries. I note with some amusement that there are some who want to turn the investigation into a separation of church and state issue, as in WHY DOESN'T THE GOVERNMENT STAY OUT OF CHURCH BUSINESS? When the churches decide to be in business all on their own and not get out of paying taxes, and WHEN the government ceases to do those faith-based initiatives with MY tax money, then I'll be in agreement with those commenters. (Why don't those same people cry foul when church business or idealogy, such as trying to teach creationism in public, tax-payer funded schools, or putting God into the now TWO pledges that children of all faiths or no faiths must say, pushes into the realm of government? Oh... because they only want separation of church and state when it's about examining the MONEY flow, not when it's about pushing religion into the public government funded arenas.)

Anyway, the last commenter at the blog post I did previously said that Grassley was a *media trickster*. No. He's a politician. And while I have some difference with Grassley, because, after all, he is part of the money-wasting party of Republicans, I completely respect his oversight of the IRS.I am including here a link to an excellent blog from a law professor on the questions raised by Grassley's investigation.

YOu have to read the whole thing, which has a number of questions discussed, but I am including two, particularly because Grassley's motives are being impugned by some group that, as far as I know, might be purposely looking for blogs that comment on Kenneth Copeland JUST TO DRIVE BY and do a *Leave Kenneth Copeland ALONE" hit.

Q: Doesn’t the investigation raise constitutional issues because the six ministries preach the same doctrine?
A: Senator Grassley is a strong supporter of First Amendment protections for religious liberty. He was one of the champions of the Church Audit Procedures Act in 1983, which places a tremendous burden on the IRS to ensure that any audit is warranted. Separately, the U.S. courts have upheld the application of the tax code to churches in numerous instances.
Senator Grassley is a strong supporter of First Amendment protections for religious liberty. He was one of the champions of the Church Audit Procedures Act in 1983, which places a tremendous burden on the IRS to ensure that any audit is warranted. Separately, the U.S. courts have upheld the application of the tax code to churches in numerous instances.

Not all of the six ministries are "Pentecostal" or preach the "prosperity gospel." When Senator Grassley first wrote to the six churches under review today, he was not aware of these terms and, most importantly, was not aware that some of them label themselves this way. The doctrine of the churches was not part of his inquiry in any way. He asked them for information based on concerns about application of the tax laws and is reviewing the responses for consideration of tax policy.

Some have construed certain of the senator’s comments as targeting the doctrine of the prosperity gospel. However, these comments are similar to comments he made in questioning the spending practices of leaders of other tax-exempt organizations:

"I am worried about what appears to be an "anything goes" culture by the Smithsonian Secretary and his staff that allow his champagne lifestyle to be subsidized by the taxpayer… I am shocked at what the Smithsonian is spending its money on when it comes to food, flowers, alcohol and other items … I cannot explain to my constituents why they need to pay more taxes so that, to take one example, the Secretary and his direct reports can enjoy in September 2002 a dinner for $1,368, eating off china and linen rented for the occasion for $775.20 while enjoying a $300 flower arrangement and alcohol of $186.04 (Letter to Chief Justice John Roberts regarding spending at the Smithsonian Institution, February 21, 2007, as reported in The Washington Post, February 25, 2007 "Smithsonian Head’s Expenses Lavish, Audit Says)

"The report shows expenses that would make for a good episode of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ – a lifestyle paid for by AU students and their parents." (Letter to Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of American University, May 17, 2006, as reported in The Washington Post, May 18, 2006 "Senator Questions School’s Governance")

"Charities shouldn’t be funding their executives’ gold-plated lifestyles." ("Senator Rebukes Getty", The Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2005.)

Q: What are some of the issues the investigation has uncovered so far?
A: Related Entities: Preliminary research conducted by staff indicates that there are almost 100 entities related to the six churches as well as the ministers. It is unclear whether these entities are for-profit or nonprofit, whether they conduct activities directly with the churches, and if so, whether they are conducted on terms favorable to the church. For example, the tax laws do not allow for-profit entities to enrich themselves by overcharging non-profits that are controlled by the same people. It is also unclear as to whether any of these entities might also be claiming church status.

Inurement & Private Benefit: Aside from transactions with related entities, there are concerns about whether the churches are complying with the requirements of section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code when determining compensation of the ministers as well entering into transactions with the related entities. Concerns are heightened by the fact that the churches share financial and legal advisors and by the fact that, in at least one case, a lawyer that raised section 4958 concerns may have been fired for raising these concerns.

Parsonage/Housing Allowances: There is concern that churches may be awarding minister status to employees for the sole purpose of making them eligible for tax-free housing benefits. Some ministers may also be claiming parsonage allowances for multiple personal residences across the country, as well as overseas.

Whistleblower Intimidation: Some of the churches have required employees to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting employees from speaking about a church’s activities. Some former employees have received phone calls reminding them of their confidentiality agreements and threatening lawsuits if the agreements are breached.

Overseas Activities: Some of the churches conduct activities overseas, including the collection of significant cash contributions which may not be tracked or recorded for tax purposes.

I've said before.  People in this country are free to go get fleeced by whom they want. The freedom of religion (and its reverse, freedom FROM religion) allow people to go handle snakes, drink poison, give money to people who see 900 foot Jesus, and, in the case of Copeland, give money to, as he calls himself, a *Rich Jew* in hopes of getting more moolah for themselves. (Copeland is sort of like a living breathing slot machine, eh? Put your coins in and hope you get more out via the prosperity chute). But the government has oversight OF the IRS and if there are entities who are misuing the tax system in order to get out of paying taxes while living it up, they are well within the sights of Congressional oversight to be checked over. And again, if the church wants to pay taxes, and quit taking taxpayer money from faith initiatives, I'll bet the government would leave it to the IRS to do its duty.


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Comments!  
1 - tyler   12 Aug 2008 @ 2:39:45 PM 

Regardless, Grassley made some serious errors in judgement in his handling of this investigation. Perhaps had he handled things differently, he would have gotten a result more quickly and easier. As it stands, Copeland is going to fight to the end - and the decision WILL affect all of us - not just churches.



2 - salon   12 Aug 2008 @ 4:29:34 PM 

And since when has Congress been quick or perfect about anything? Maybe the upshot of this ought to be that churches don't get a tax exemption. Then there wouldn't be the need to have Congressional oversight, OVER the IRS as well, that would examine whether such as Copeland is abusing the system.

What I don't get is why the same energy is not put towards, say, impeaching Bush, who was caught lying and forging documents to get a war in Iraq, who is torturing people illegally and continues to spy on people without a warrant. If those who are concerned about government interference would turn their attention to that, perhaps we could get back to our constitution.


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3 - cole   12 Aug 2008 @ 7:10:12 PM 

Personally I don't see where the jump from the Grassley investigation to impeaching the president comes from. If Clinton wasn't impeached, I don't see Bush getting the boot in the last few months. I have watched this situation go on for too long now. If Grassley IS going to keep on, then why not go ahead with his subpeonas or whatever it is he continues to claim the next step is. If not, give it up and get back to some real work as you suggest.



4 - salon   12 Aug 2008 @ 7:33:10 PM 

Actually, Clinton WAS impeached. He wasn't removed from office because the Senate didn't vote to convict. Even if Bush has only (thankfully) some few months left  in the White House, the idea that one would hold him accountable no matter what is what is important. My point is that there appears to be some Copeland supporters that will expend a lot of effort to try to get Grassley to drop the Senate investigation. Were that those same people had the same level of outrage over other important accountability issues. And, I do consider what Grassley is doing *real work*.


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5 - vet   18 Aug 2008 @ 9:43:34 AM 

Indeed this has been an interesting investigation to watch unfold from the sidelines. I am not a follower of Copeland, but I see where his argument comes from. Cole, i am kind of like you - and wonder why Grassley hasn't moved ahead if there is evidence he knows of worthy of the subpeonas. In the mean time, it appears that Copeland is not going to give up his fight. I am anxious to see how this how plays out.



6 - salon   18 Aug 2008 @ 11:50:05 AM 

You may not be a close follower of politics and know that every single dang thing Congress does takes forever. There are already a few of those evangelists who have straightened up and I suspect Grassley is, while continuing his investigation, giving them a chance to quit bilking the system. I sure wouldn't be anxious about it. Copeland and his ilk are a dime a dozen.


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7 - jack   19 Sep 2008 @ 1:43:24 PM 

I am not a supporter of any of the organizations in question, but I have followed this "investigation" rather loosely since the beginning. True, I agree that things do take a LONG time when dealing with the government. But if Grassley wanted to use the sub peonas he has been threatening, then why hasn't he? What is the hold up and not only that, the recent smear tactics he has resorted to in the last several weeks against Copeland?



8 - tgif   31 Oct 2008 @ 1:46:49 PM 

As I look over the comments and doing some research on the situation, it's time for this to come to an end. Grassley is one man that needs to be reigned in and realize that no one single congressman should have the kind of power he thinks he has. Copeland sees the bigger picture and realizes how this decision could affect as all indeed!



9 - salon   1 Nov 2008 @ 9:39:11 AM 

I have no idea what the hold up is, but if relgious people such as Copeland don't want to have accounability to the government under the 5013c provisions, then they can continue to preach AND pay taxes. Who's stopping them from doing that? Looks to me like they make enough money without their tax breaks. But if they want to get a tax break, then they're accountable, not just to Grassley but to ME and YOU, as taxpayers.


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