"God's Profits" at Stake, Televangelist Copeland Vows To Fight Senate Tax Probe
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 09:14:38 AM EST
As the Youtube video on the right-- about a new US Senate led investigation led by Republican Senator Charles Grassley that seeks the financial records of 501(c)(3) 'educational' corporations that may have illegally enabled the lavish personal financial empires of Texas preacher Kenneth Copeland and other "Word Faith" televangelists --suggests, Sara Posner's new book God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade For Values Voters is a triumph of timing and positioning, likely to prove a foundational treatment of the little-examined Word Faith movement, and Posner's book is certainly newsworthy now that Kenneth Copeland has vowed to fight Senator Grassley to the bitter end. Beyond the colorful excess of
charismatic televangelists there are, as I discuss in my extended post, larger issues inherent ; since 501(c)(3) corporations are granted public charter and nonprofit status for their purported educational missions, what's education in the first place ? Can Word Faith preachers properly educate the public (and, solicit donations on the basis) on their claims to being "Little Gods" ? If promoting claims of personal divinity is a valid 501(c)(3) enterprise, what's to stop Holocaust denialists, Geocentrists and Flat-Earth proponents from geting into the act as well ?
Should influential religious figures be able to use the organizational structures of tax-free 501(c)(3) nonprofits to build up, as have Word Faith preachers Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and others, huge personal empires and fortunes worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more ? Originally, as legal structures granted by the state, the charters of public corporations were both of limited duration and usually expressly for the public good and, as such, contingent on good behavior. Should politically tendentious charismatic figures, assuming a mantle of quasi divinity, claiming God's imprimatur and a track record of miraculous healings that extends even to the generation of missing natal brains and the raising of the dead, be allowed to solicit via cable television broadcast reaching tens of millions of homes nationally or worldwide, and likening donations to "investments" surely to be repaid many times over with God's assistance, waves of tax-free donations (in effect US government subsidized) allowing such religious figures to build, as if robber-barons of the late 19th Century, personal financial empires that include large for-profit subsidiaries, 20-million dollar personal jets and private airports even ?

Beyond the jarring dissonance-- between the use of religion, it seems, as a vehicle to hyper-wealth and the scripturally-attributed admonishment of Jesus Christ holding the feat of a rich man, in entering heaven, to be akin to that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle --we also need to ask, just as ranking Republican Finance Committee Senator Charles Grassley is now doing, does such behavior amount to a violation of 501c(3) code ?

Are the ministries of Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn valid educational enterprises or are they more like get rich quick Ponzi schemes that promise the world and deliver, to all but those televangelists themselves, exactly nothing ? Beyond that, do public claims of miraculous healings, not scientifically validated, accompanied by incessant fund raising appeals and going out over the airwaves via the  U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity satellite network of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, amount to a valid "educational" effort ?

Shouldn't 501(c)(3) educational enterprises promote information and claims that can be somehow fact-checked or empirically verified, or can publicly-subsidized nonprofit organizations validly promote any and all claims and theories, up to and including hollow-Earth theories holding that descendants of Nazi refugees from the Third Reich frolic, cavort and even interbreed with Teutonic ("Nordic") space aliens and scheme with Reptilian aliens to rule, through sinister webs of hidden, possibly Jewish, financial influence, from their hidden, magical, utopian hyperboreal realm accessed through a hole somewhere atop the South Pole, the world and humankind ? Would that constitute a valid 501(3)(3) nonprofit educational enterprise ?

And, if so, if truth in fact has nothing really to do with education and the didactic enterprise properly has nothing whatsoever to do with truth, then on what logical grounds can we prevent David Irving and his fellow Holocaust deniers from setting up their own 501c(3) educational nonprofit corporation, soliciting donations, even, to further their revisionism and their ideology, via their own satellite enabled 501c(3) "Fourth Reich Broadcast Network" going out over the publicly granted airwaves and into the homes of Americans and people around the globe ?

Why can't every American, and every US family, file for 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational status and learn to, as Copeland and pioneers of wealth rearrangement have done, sweet talk tax-free financial manna down from heaven or out of the purses and wallets of other Americans at least ? And, is Kenneth Copeland simply a current day Charles Ponzi with the foresight to cloak his personal get rich quick scheme in the trappings of religion and a nonprofit educational corporation ?

Or, why can't I personally take advantage of this marvelously handy publicly granted funding mechanism to educate the American public and all the world as to the fact, which may have escaped humanity's notice but has become dizzily, unavoidably clear to me this morning after I've exhumed and eaten a three-week old slice of pepperoni pizza rummaged from the back my refrigerator last night, that I am the divine, all powerful and all-knowing, quintoon incarnation of Harpo Marx, Genghis Khan, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and the Incredible Hulk ? Won't that serve the public interest and the commonweal ?  You may laugh now but I promise-- as soon as I can remember where I put those nonprofit filing papers and after I dig the ladder from the garage and strap my government surplus broadcast antenna to the roof --you'll soon be trembling before my 5-fold divine glory and rushing to pop a check in the mail so one of the five aspects of my Godhood (please indicate desired divine aspect blessing along with your donation)  can bestow its many-splendored blessings on you too, dear reader. You'll see.

of info on Word of Faith is a conservative "radio theologian" Hank Hanegraff (sic), who has been playing clips from WoF services for donkey's years.

The issue is not "what is education", but "what is religion".  Apparently "religion" must either be old and recognized, or have good lawyers, or have a big building and full time staff already. Should Jesus come again in the age of current IRS policy, He probably wouldn't qualify, just being a guy with a bus token and hitchhiker's thumb.

by NancyP on Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 01:40:26 PM EST

That's a messy affair, I'd reckon. I suspect "education" is easier to get a handle on - if information can be publicly verified as true, or at least not disqualified as patently false, I'd say it can serve an educational function.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 02:03:15 PM EST

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