Action Alert: Weigh in on Financial Fraud in Churches
FFRF sent a memo
to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, weighing in on 17 issues regarding the financial status of churches in our country. We need your help to drive our message home.
On Nov. 5, 2007, Grassley and the Senate Committee on Finance took the laudable step of investigating the tax-exempt status of six mega-churches. Unfortunately, most churches stonewalled and did not cooperate.
In 2011, Grassley asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to facilitate responses from the church community concerning a series of legislative proposals prepared by his staff. ECFA is an accreditation agency formed to promote fiscal integrity and sound financial practices among member organizations. ECFA formed the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO) to answer the 17 legislative proposals. These 17 issues all involve the favored financial status churches and other religious organizations have under U.S. law.
It is not difficult to guess which way the churches will come out on each issue. As such, FFRF feels it is important for Grassley to hear other, secular, viewpoints. While Grassley thinks “legislation should be a last resort,” there is a possibility that these issues and the input he receives could encourage substantive changes in the law that could limit the taxpayer subsidy of religion.
With that goal in mind, we are asking FFRF members to weigh in on these 17 issues. FFRF sent responses to 17 issues directly to Grassley and we ask members do the same. FFRF’s memo to Grassley was crafted over a number of weeks and is 23 pages long. We do not expect all of our members to weigh in on each issue. If you go to our website, you can see each issue and a brief description. There is a link to FFRF’s answer on this webpage, too.
Grassley has asked for submissions by March 31. It's better to have a late submission than no submission, but please make your submission as soon as possible.
(To view all 17 issues with FFRF's responses, click here.)
1. Thank Senator Grassley for opening up this discussion and soliciting input.
2. The housing exemption granting preferential treatment to “ministers of the gospel” violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. (Issue #2)
3. Churches should be required to file a Form 990 like other 501(c)(3)s. (Issue #4)
4. There is no need for an advisory committee, made up of clergy, to advise the IRS on tax policy regarding churches. (Issue #1 and Issue #5)
5. “Love offerings” — cash gifts to church leaders — should be presumed to be taxable income. (Issue #7)
6. Both the church and church managers should be penalized for unlawful excess benefit transactions. (Issue #12, issue #13, Issue #14. Issue #15)
7. Compensation study guidelines should be developed for churches to prevent church leaders from favorably comparing their salaries to those of superstars like Britney Spears and Oprah. (Issue #16)
8. IRS Code prohibiting churches from endorsing political candidates and retaining their tax-exempt status should be left intact. Tax exemption is a privilege that comes with certain strings attached, churches must abide by those limitations like everyone else. (Issue #17)
Senator Chuck Grassley
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224-6020
Email contact form: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/Copy-of-contact.cfm
Thank you for your help!
For maximum effectiveness, write as an individual and not as someone responding to this action alert. FFRF is pleased to receive “blind” copies by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.