Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bring plenty of popcorn ...

... when you go to read the story of the family feud and consequent beans-spilling about the financial schemes and opulent lifestyle of the Crouch family, founders and owners of TBN, "the world’s largest Christian television network."

But also remember that tidbits like these, from the article and accompanying slide show, …

Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.


Mrs. Crouch with her two Maltese dogs, constant companions. In 2008 and 2009, she rented adjacent rooms in a hotel, one for herself and another for the dogs and her clothes, according to Ms. Koper and Troy Clements, a former executive at the Holy Land Experience. She kept a costly motor home, originally purchased to serve as an office, for two years as an air-conditioned sanctuary for her pets, two former employees said.


“My job as finance director was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses,” Ms. Koper [a granddaughter of the Crouches] said. This is one way, she said, the company avoids probing questions from the I.R.S. She said that the absence of outsiders on TBN’s governing board — currently consisting of Paul, Janice and Matthew Crouch — had led to a serious lack of accountability for spending.

Ms. Koper and two former TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper, chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This, she said, allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called “parsonages.” Colby May, a lawyer representing TBN, said the network ordained people who felt a true “ministerial call.”

… are a thoroughly unsurprising outcome of allowing "churches" and other "religious activities" to go untaxed.


P.S. The Holy Land Experience theme park charges admission, of course, but if all the preaching of the prosperity gospel makes you feel like the ticket prices just don't soak you enough, you'll be happy to learn that you can help in other ways.

Truth in advertising? Or just a Freudian slip?

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