Senator Attacks Free-Spending Megachurches

Tax-exempt status at odds with ministers' perks: Grassley
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2007 3:34 PM CST
In a file photo Bishop Eddie Long, of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in Lithonia, Ga. gestures during an interview Jan. 18, 2007. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, top Republican on the Senate Finance...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Sen. Charles Grassley thinks big-spending pastors of so-called “megachurches” might be abusing their tax-exempt status, NPR reports. Ministers in these stadium-sized churches preach a gospel of wealth, and practice what they preach—driving Rolls Royces, flying in private jets, living in mansions. “Maybe that's not illegal,” the Iowa Republican says, “but it may raise questions about whether it's the right expenditure of money.”

Grassley thinks some of those perks are taxable benefits. He also questions the pastor’s exorbitant salaries, and so-called “love offerings”—cash payments directly to ministers. So far he’s sent inquiry letters to six ministries. One target, Bishop Eddie Long, accused Grassley of attacking religious freedom. But Grassley’s not questioning church doctrine. “My business is the enforcement of tax laws,” he says.