If ever there has been a sign of religious leadership gone awry it’s the televangelists. These people con their “flocks” (of human sheep, I suppose) out of millions of dollars in the name of God. They survive (and even thrive) after being caught with prostitutes. And, they do it all tax-free. In the United States, all you have to do is claim to be a church, and you’re exempt from having to report where all this money is going. Hopefully, more of these outrages will soon be exposed. CBS News reports in “Senate Panel Probes 6 Top Televangelists“:
Because they have tax status as churches, the ministries do not have to file IRS 990 forms like other non-profit organizations – leaving much financial information largely behind closed doors.
The letters sent Monday were the culmination of a long investigation fueled in part by complaints from Ole Anthony, a crusader against religious fraud who operates the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, which describes itself as a watchdog monitoring religious media, fraud and abuse. “We’ve been working with them for two years,” Anthony told CBS News. “We have furnished them with enough information to fill a small Volkswagen.”
Anthony said after twenty years of working with media organizations to expose televangelists, he saw little reform. He says that’s why he turned to another tactic, going straight to Grassley. He is confident that Grassley’s inquiry will be different, “What we hope is that this will lead to reform in religious nonprofits.”
Of course, based on religious followers’ acceptance of past outrages, it’s unlikely that any type of finding or indictment will shake their “faith”. Much of this information is not new, and one doesn’t have to look hard to find out how these people live. Still, they’re revered by many as the cornerstone of Christianity. It almost makes me want to pray…