It’s been a long day, but I want to link to a couple of things around the conclusion of Grassley investigation of 6 televangelists.
The Trinity Foundation has responded. This has to be discouraging for them.
Sarah Posner has a couple of clear posts up at Religious Dispatches, she is a realist.
With more prosperity teaching coming into Canada with Love World Christian Network Inc. (LoveworldCan) licensed by the CRTC, it’s difficult to complain about what the US isn’t doing to stem the tide of this poison. We can’t clean our own house.
Benny Hinn crowed about Grassley’s conclusions. These televangelists will keep laughing all the way to the bank while vulnerable people dutifully give what they cannot afford, getting trapped in a cycle of guilt and need and I don’t know why anyone would believe a self-regulating body such as the ECFA will work to curb the excesses. It’s like watching a religious organized crime ring walk away from the bodies.
Oral Roberts, one of the grand-daddies of prime time religion told a congressional hearing that the ECFA had no teeth.
P: 27-28, Senate Finance Committee report:
It is telling that the witnesses at the 1987 Hearing representing religious organizations required to file information returns were uniformly supportive of the Form 990 filing requirement. Oral Roberts did not see self-policing by a voluntary accreditation agency like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) as an adequate substitute to filing reports with the IRS.90 (Note that Oral Roberts University became an ECFA member in 2009). Asked whether his ministry was a member of ECFA, the Rev. Roberts responded:
We were invited to be a member of that … but we believed there was no teeth in it; and I think that has been proved by the PTL thing. Ours was so much stronger; our auditing procedures and our filing of the [Form] 990 every year…. We have a corps of auditors…. Anybody in the United States can get a copy of our [Form] 990 report at any time, by writing the IRS; it is available to the media, to everybody in America…. Why wouldn‘t all file a [Form] 990 – why? I have no objection at all. In fact, if it will help, if there is a loss of confidence, let us do something about it.
The ECFA has been asked to provide feedback:
…whether churches should file the same highly-detailed annual information return that other nonprofits must file (Form 990); whether legislation is needed to curb abuses of the clergy housing allowance exclusion; whether the current prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits should be repealed or modified; and whether legislation is needed to clarify tax rules covering “love offerings” received by some clergy.
The ECFA has made it clear they will not be in a hurry. The other post worth looking at is the first of what is going to be a couple of posts on televangelism, finances and US law from Christian Headlines blog: An Overview of Religious Financial Fraud.