Monday, December 24, 2007

That's not what "separation of church & state" means

Sen. Grassley is asking several of the richer megachurches for information about how they're maintaining their tax-exempt status and how they're spending donor's money. Only 2 of the six he's contacted have sent any information back; one said he's welcome to subpoena them (I can see the press conference where they play the martyr card already). The others have said nothing.

The leaders of two ministries contacted by Mr. Grassley’s office who have answered his queries are Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Tex., and Joyce Meyer, who with her husband, David, runs Joyce Meyer Ministries from Fenton, Mo.

Popular with women for her no-nonsense brand of self-help, Ms. Meyer was asked by Mr. Grassley’s office to explain the “tax-exempt purpose” of purchases including a “commode with marble top” bought for $23,000 for her headquarters.

Hmm. I have a hard time seeing how that level of luxury is needed in a church organization.

Oddly enough, none of these megachurches belong to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and of course they're not audited by an outside auditor.

My favorite argument, though, is that because they're churches, the Senator is violating Church-State separation by even asking the question. Amazing how the Bible-beaters talk about how separation is a liberal humanist myth when they're talking about forcing religion into public life, but they scurry and hide behind it when it's convenient. But why shouldn't snake-oil salesmen also be hypocrites?

It's really quite simple. There are laws that say you don't have to pay taxes on donations, provided you're using them for church purposes. The government is within its rights to verify that you're obeying the law. Otherwise, let the church pay you an outrageous salary, pay income tax on it, and buy your own $23,000 commode.

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