Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is probing to see if any of these ministries have misappropriated charitable contributions to subsidize opulent lifestyles. He has called into question whether it is proper for a religious organization to purchase mansions and exotic automobiles for its leaders and whether these leaders should earn the salary of a CEO who runs a Fortune 500 Corporation.
Sure, I ask the same questions, and frankly I believe that it would be a challenge for most ministers to justify using charitable contributions to finance a standard of living that resembles Bill Gates, Oprah or Michael Jordan. However, in rare instances I believe an organization could justify extravagant expenditures. For instance, Dateline did an expose on the ministry of Benny Hinn in 2005. During the investigation, we learned that his organization paid as much as $10,000 per night for him to stay at an exclusive, luxury vacation villa.
Hinn is one of the most famous people in
Is $10,000 too much? Generally speaking, I would say yes, but perhaps a handful of the most prominent ministers could justify it. The Pope certainly could and perhaps Hinn; however, he never responded to Dateline’s queries about the travel expenses.
According to Singletary, David and Joyce Meyers of
I’m not defending the perception that Hinn and other ministers are living too large. In fact I embrace the idea of religious organizations being accountable to their contributors; however, Senator Grassley’s investigation appears to violate the principle of church and state separation. If there is a legal wall that separates churches from the state, then “The State” can’t have it both ways: interpret the Constitution to sanction a separation and then investigate church activity, like how much compensation a church leader receives from the ministry. I have a personal disdain for church leaders living in a stratosphere that is a stone’s throw from Heaven, while many of their members can barely pay their utilities, but in those instances, I simply choose not to financially support that lifestyle, and I would urge those members to run from those ministries like it were the bell of an approaching leper.
I believe my tax dollars would be well served and the citizenry better informed if Senator Grassley would use his office to pry the minutes and findings of the Energy Commission from the office of the vice president; something that would go a long way to promote an open and transparent government like he is attempting to do with the church. Amen