Sen. Grassley had been probing some high-profile TV ministries, including Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and Paula White. His staff released a report that didn't propose any new laws-
The review by the committee did not impose new rules on the religious organizations or suggest they be stripped of their tax-exempt status. But it did bring to light compensation practices that may raise eyebrows in the non-profit community and lead to a discussion of new tax policies for religious organizations.
"The staff review sets the stage for a comprehensive discussion among churches and religious organizations," Grassley said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to helping facilitate this dialogue and fostering an environment for self-reform within the community."
I'm not sure what reforms one would do.
Do some of these folks make too much money? Yes. However, would we want to set up a salary structure for pastors?
Are pastoral allowances often abused? Yes; housing allowances let pastors have a good chunk of money tax-free and that might be capped to keep pastors for paying for starter-castles tax-free.
Can a pastor use gifts from parisioners as a way of getting tax-free income? Yes; since things like birthday gifts or "love offerings" given a visiting speaker often fall under the gift catagory rather than a donation, the recepient wouldn't be taxed.
However, there isn't much in the way of legal steps that can easily be done. Making churches file financial statements with the IRS might be one step, but it also runs the risk of the IRS auditing churches that the president doesn't like; if there are no records, there is not coorsive tool for good or ill.
Salary caps for pastors is unlikely to fly in this Congress, nor is personally recording and 1099ing all church donations, including cash gifts, going to be viable. All that can be realistly done is to make churches and ministries more accountable. One problem with that is that many of the ministries are preacher-centered to the point where there is no outside supervision, no denomination or church board to keep a leader honest.
Bene blogged on this news item yesterday-
With more prosperity teaching coming into Canada with Love World Christian Network Inc. (LoveworldCan) licensed by the CRTC [Canada's analogue to the FCC], it’s difficult to complain about what the US isn’t doing to stem the tide of this poison.
I'm not sure what legally can be done to provide a legal anti-venom. The First Amendment would preclude shutting churches down for bad theology, tempting as that might be; the Charter of Rights would likely give them the same cover in Canada. You really wouldn't want to give the government that power, since the state religion isn't likely to be yours.
As long as they don't break any laws, there is little that the government can do short of doing some sort of Fairness Doctrine game making religious cable channels carry a variety of programming rather than be all-Pentecostal or all-Catholic. Even there, televangelists with a following could move to webcasts of their services and keep the action going there; the Todd Bentley Lakeland fiasco was mostly Web-driven rather than TV-driven.
Big salaries aren't illegal. Bad theology isn't illegal. Heart-tugging pitches for money aren't illegal. Tacky, no doubt. But they're not illegal and aren't likely to be.