Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ECFA to IRS: "Hands off the church! (But can you help us out with this Kenneth Copeland character?)"

The Washington Post reports that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has urged the IRS to become more involved in addressing "outlier" ministries that are not otherwise being held financially accountable.  Among the suggestions: ensure that compensation for leaders of nonprofits is "reasonable."  (Please correct me if I'm misreading the actual recommendations, as I've only read the news coverage of the recommendations.)

The ECFA's actions suggest an interesting question: should fans of tax exemptions for churches nevertheless encourage the IRS to crack down on churches that appear to "abuse" the exemption, or is that headed down a dangerous path?  And if the tax exemption reflects a jurisdictional distinction between church and state, should the state have anything to say about how "reasonable" the church leaders' salaries are?


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"We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Posted by: Jonathan | Dec 6, 2012 9:46:46 AM

I would think so, for the same reason that those favoring an active federal government should be interested in ensuring that government programs are well-run, efficient, and effective.

Posted by: JohnMcG | Dec 6, 2012 10:10:45 AM

Three questions, actually, the third being, do fans of the tax-exempt status have some sort of obligation to openly criticize entities that appear to abuse the exemption, without necessarily urging government regulation? There may be doctrinal difficulties here, as different churches may disagree about what constitutes reasonable salary, whether the prosperity gospel is legitimate, and so on. On the other hand, "hang together or hang separately" notwithstanding, don't religious (and other) institutions, especially where they claim some right to unique treatment as institutions, and citizens themselves, have an obligation to monitor and, where appropriate, criticize these institutions? *Especially* if one thinks that the state's regulatory role here must be limited?

P.S.: Nice to see comments back!

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Dec 6, 2012 10:15:47 AM