Tuesday, March 16, 2010
This story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is yet another example of why I'm beginning to like the idea of repealing all tax exemptions for churches, perhaps coupled with a deduction for money actually spent on poor relief or other community services (see yesterday's post here).
It appears that televangelist Kenneth Copeland, head of Eagle Mountain International Church, can continue to fly his ministry’s multimillion-dollar aircraft tax-free. The Tarrant Appraisal District had denied a tax exemption for Copeland's jet when the Church refused to disclose the salaries of Copeland, his wife, the ministry’s board of directors and other employees per a form provided by the state comptroller’s office and used by the district to help establish whether officials of a religious organization are legitimate. The taxes on the jet would have been about $75,000, and the Church sued accusing the district of religious discrimination and of violating the U.S. and Texas constitutions. The District then settled the suit (e.g., the District caved and ran for the hills).
I'm sorry, but my idea of a tax-exempt religious organization doesn't include a fleet of aircraft, including a jet, to fly the pastor around the country. And the refusal by any church to disclose information should be a per-se reason to yank exemption. The fact that churches are not subject to the federal Form 990 reporting requirements is another stick in my craw. If churches want tax exemptions, they should disclose information just like every other exempt organization, and if they don't want to, they can preach on their own nickel, not the taxpayer's.