Churches: billion-dollar industry now exempt from IRS scrutiny

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
While I'z got me to deal with some hillbilly racoonz in me backyaard, Miss Kitty's po white friends gotz to deal with some Todd Coontz'z in thars's. But, they keep doubling and tripling down on their superstitions, their blind faith leading them over and over to their own degradations and demoralization.

No wonder these Christian ministers, like Paula White Trash, find Donald Trump so appealing, he's one of their own, a mega-grifter.
In 2011, one of those desperate viewers was Larry Fardette, then based in California. Larry watched a lot of similar televangelists, known as prosperity preachers, who explicitly link wealth and religion. But he found Coontz particularly compelling. He assured quick returns. He seemed like a results man.
And Larry needed some fast results.
The Fardette family was going through a tough time. Larry's daughter was seriously ill and he had health problems of his own. His construction business was struggling, and to make matters worse both his van and his car broke down irreparably within the same week. When a local junkyard offered him $600 for the van, he thumbed the bills thoughtfully and remembered Coontz's rousing speech.
Maybe he should invest the sum as a "seed"?
He instantly recalled the specific number that Coontz had repeated again and again: $273. It was a figure the preacher often used. "God gave me the single greatest miracle of my lifetime in one day, and the numbers two, seven and three were involved," he once said. It is also - perhaps not coincidentally - the number of Coontz's $1.38m condo in South Carolina, paid for by his church, Rockwealth, according to local TV channel WSOC-TV.
Larry has now come to realise there was no foundation to Coontz's promises that donated cash would multiply, but at the time the stirring speeches gave him hope. He did not see any other way out.
He sent off two cheques: one for $273 and another for $333, as requested. Then he waited for his miracle.
Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.
But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.
A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid - many times over - either in the form of wealth or healing.
For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers' personal wealth - though they may not know the extent of it - but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?
...
It was during these sessions that Ole started to note a common thread. When people were on the verge of homelessness in the heart of the Bible belt, a surprising number offered the last of their cash to televangelists who promised them financial salvation.
Ole, who always had a have-a-go approach to problem-solving, felt an urge to step in. First, he tried approaching the ministries on behalf of the penniless donors, thinking he could explain the circumstances and get the money refunded. However, like Larry, he found no-one willing to talk.
So he took it to a Christian broadcasting association - but it didn't want to get involved. Then he approached local district attorneys, who explained that many preachers were protected by the First Amendment (guaranteeing freedom of religion and free speech), so there was nothing they could do. So he turned back to the media, this time major networks and publications, which said investigations would be too time-consuming.
Ole was faced with a multibillion-dollar industry built, as he saw it, on exploiting the poor - and it was completely untouchable.
And this is how a community church became an investigations office. The Trinity Foundation felt compelled to tackle the prosperity preachers because no-one else would. ...

Trump-allied religious leaders have found an open door at the White House—what Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, calls “unprecedented access.” In return, they have rallied behind the administration in its times of need. “Clearly, this Russian story is nonsense,” explains the mega-church pastor Paula White-Cain, who is not generally known as a legal or cybersecurity expert. Pastor David Jeremiah has compared Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to Joseph and Mary: “It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians.” According to Jerry Falwell Jr., evangelicals have “found their dream president,” which says something about the current quality of evangelical dreams.
Suckers.

And if Ivanka is 'Mary', we know who didn't father her first child.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Miss Kitty's po white friends gotz to deal with some Todd Coontz'z in thars's.
This is so sad. The BBC article reports that Todd Coontz was fined $755k and sentenced to 5 years in prison, but got promptly "freed by the judges, pending appeal", and now he's back to fundraising as usual. And he only got in trouble because of fraudulent accounting in his for-profit subsidiary.

According to the US tax code, it's illegal for preachers to solicit funds from their followers, and then use those funds to pay themselves enormously bloated salaries and expense accounts. It's a violation of the private inurement rule. So, Todd Coontz should be able to pay himself a market rate salary, for whatever it is that he does, and not a penny more.

But, as this article by Mark Silk explains: a 2009 Federal court decision rendered it impossible for the IRS to audit any church, for any suspected violation whatsoever. So, churches can effectively do whatever they want, with funds they collect.

This also means that preachers can now directly endorse political candidates, with complete impunity, even though this has theoretically been prohibited since 1954.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Here's a Politifact article, that only partially gets the facts correct.

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/22/donald-trump/donald-trump-correct-lyndon-johnson-passed-legisla/

This confirms that LBJ was instrumental in passing a 1954 law prohibiting 501c3 organizations from campaigning on behalf of political candidates.

In 2016, Trump campaigned against this law, saying:

"An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away," Trump said. "I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans."
Politifact says that Trump is correct, and up until this morning I would have said so too.

But the Mark Silk article explains that although the 1954 rule is still on the books, it has been impossible for the IRS to enforce since 2009. This happened because the CAPA act of 1984 said that IRS church audits could be launched only under the directive of an IRS regional commissioner; the 1998 reorganization of the IRS eliminated all the IRS regional commissioners; and a 2009 court decision found that an IRS attempt to audit a church was invalid because it had not been initiated by an IRS regional commissioner. Since then, the IRS has never again attempted to audit a church for any reason.

So maybe neither Trump nor Politifact is aware that churches can now endorse political candidates without fear of IRS repercussions. But that's the way it is.
 
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Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
So maybe neither Trump nor Politifact is aware that churches can now endorse political candidates without fear of IRS repercussions. But that's the way it is.
Trump's efforts failed, from a de jure POV, as a court rejected their position. But this only strengthened Trump with his evangelical base, who all were certainly aware that they have had the de facto freedom for a while. The IRS has also been defunded for doing audits in general on the wider population.

Trump is quite astute as to anything doing with taxes, and he hilariously (darkly so) claims that he can't reveal any of his prior tax returns, because he is always under audit. Because he's so fake successful.

The following is ironically interesting as well, as to just who are the demons:

Kenneth Copeland, the televangelist under scrutiny for his use of of three private jets and who called flying commercial getting in 'a long tube with demons,' signed his named to a list of conservative evangelical leaders who are calling for a national day of prayer for President Trump.

Guest, Frank Schaeffer, claims that these televangelists are just hucksters, but they are that and more. They are agents provocateur, either wittingly or unwittingly. They are indeed degrading the American Culture, imagine that. I agree with Miss Kitty here. But this is the way the West has been won, from its inception.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Trump's efforts failed...
The very latest news is at this article at the Washington Post, hidden behind their disgusting billionaire-enriching paywall, which I have evaded using undisclosed technical means.

President Trump's shifting claim that 'we got rid' of the Johnson Amendment

Bottom line is that Trump has issued a lame and ineffective executive order, which largely leaves the Johnson Amendment provisions intact. However, the article admits that regardless of the letter of the law, "the prohibition [against political campaign activity] is seldom enforced by the IRS and is widely disregarded by the clergy." The article doesn't discuss the structural reasons why the IRS "seldom" (actually, never) enforces the Johnson Amendment.

They are agents provocateur, either wittingly or unwittingly. They are indeed degrading the American Culture, imagine that. I agree with Miss Kitty here.
I most certainly agree also. But... did Miss Kitty say that?
 

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
hidden behind their disgusting billionaire-enriching paywall, which I have evaded using undisclosed technical means.
I just periodically delete my cookies, using a whitelist to keep the ones I need.

I most certainly agree also. But... did Miss Kitty say that?
Yes, she did, when we had the discussion about Scofield. She thinks her po white cousins are under the sway of Scofield's Jews, another half-truth.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, she did, when we had the discussion about Scofield. She thinks her po white cousins are under the sway of Scofield's Jews, another half-truth.
OK, here's the quote:

If people just want to serve the Jews because they think they're swell, that's not any form of slavery that I can recognize, unless they are brainwashed like the adherents of the Scofield Bible seem to be. I would say that they might be in the category of people that are enslaved but think they are free.
But... first of all, the "prosperity gospel" is multicultural. Blacks and Latinos and Asians are just as likely to send in their money as anybody else. (No, I don't have any statistics to back that up, it's just a hunch, based on watching Oprah Winfrey's Greenleaf series.)

And furthermore, what does Scofield have to do with "prosperity gospel"?

On Greenleaf, several episodes are anchored around an IRS audit of a southern megachurch. Which we now know, can't happen in real life.

 
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Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
And furthermore, what does Scofield have to do with "prosperity gospel"?
Nothing that the Wikipedia editors have ever heard of. It seems to be mostly an American innovation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology#Late_19th_and_early_20th-century_background

According to historian Kate Bowler, the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism, New Thought, and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility".[4] This "American gospel" was best exemplified by Andrew Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth and Russell Conwell's famous sermon "Acres of Diamonds", in which Conwell equated poverty with sin and asserted that anyone could become rich through hard work. This gospel of wealth, however, was an expression of Muscular Christianity and understood success to be the result of personal effort rather than divine intervention.[5]
The New Thought movement, which emerged in the 1880s, was responsible for popularizing belief in the power of the mind to achieve prosperity. While initially focused on achieving mental and physical health, New Thought teachers such as Charles Fillmore made material success a major emphasis of the movement.[6] By the 20th century, New Thought concepts had saturated American popular culture, being common features of both self-help literature and popular psychology.[7]
E. W. Kenyon, a Baptist minister and adherent of the Higher Life movement, is credited with introducing mind-power teachings into early Pentecostalism.[8] In the 1890s, Kenyon attended Emerson College of Oratory where he was exposed to the New Thought movement. Kenyon later became connected with well-known Pentecostal leaders and wrote about supernatural revelation and positive declarations. His writing influenced leaders of the nascent prosperity movement during the post-war American healing revival. Kenyon and later leaders in the prosperity movement have denied that he was influenced by the New Thought movement. Anthropologist Simon Coleman argues that there are "obvious parallels" between Kenyon's teachings and New Thought.[9]
Kenyon taught that Christ's substitutionary atonement secured for believers a right to divine healing. This was attained through positive, faith-filled speech; the spoken word of God allowed believers to appropriate the same spiritual power that God used to create the world and attain the provisions promised in Christ's death and resurrection.[10] Prayer was understood to be a binding, legal act. Rather than asking, Kenyon taught believers to demand healing since they were already legally entitled to receive it.[11]
Kenyon's blend of evangelical religion and mind-power beliefs—what he termed "overcoming faith"—resonated with a small but influential segment of the Pentecostal movement.[12] Pentecostals had always been committed to faith healing, and the movement also possessed a strong belief in the power of speech (in particular speaking in tongues and the use of the names of God, especially the name of Jesus).[13] Kenyon's ideas would be reflected in the teachings of Pentecostal evangelists F. F. Bosworth and John G. Lake (who co-led a congregation with New Thought author Albert C. Grier prior to 1915).[14]
The above doesn't trace the degeneration from Carnegie's gospel of hard work and personal achievement, to Coontz's theology that believers should send in $273 (not to God, but to Coontz) to purchase a miraculous windfall.
 
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Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
But... first of all, the "prosperity gospel" is multicultural. Blacks and Latinos and Asians are just as likely to send in their money as anybody else. (No, I don't have any statistics to back that up, it's just a hunch, based on watching Oprah Winfrey's Greenleaf series.)

And furthermore, what does Scofield have to do with "prosperity gospel"?
I'm pretty sure the people running the Prosperity Gospel also use the Scofield Bible, as Kenyon's Baptist evangelical roots would reveal. But I generally lump the Evangelicals, the Pentecostals, and these Prosperity volk together in these regards, which seems to generally work for being a solid block of Trumpists. Trump has his hooks into them all.

Nothing that the Wikipedia editors have ever heard of. It seems to be mostly an American innovation.
Scofield is an 'American' phenomenon, in its main implementation at least.
 
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