God wants you to give me money

What do the televangelists we all know and hate do with the money they collect? Do they use it for a worthy cause, or just pocket it?

Are you trying to imply that pockets of televangelists are unworthy?

You might drop by any of the online bookstores and see what a search of author James Randi turns up.
And unless you really want to know the truth, avoid reading “The Faith Healers.”

Hmmm…y’all know what the Bakkers did with their ill-gotten gains. Pat Robertson has a major complex including a university, a broadcast center, and a ministry HQ building, among other stuff, and has been investing large quantities of the money in various for-profit businesses. Most recently, he got turned down by the Bank of Scotland for a joint venture (they were opposed to his project on moral grounds, which has to be the ultimate in irony!). Falwell has a university, an airline IIRC, a broadcast center, and quite a lot of investments in the Lynchburg area.

Most of them have what a minister I once knew referred to as an Edifice Complex.

Research charities on the net, you can find out what they do with the money. They have to produce a statement & you can read it or request it. There are way too many TV ministers for me to tell you what they all do with all of their money…

As usual, some goes to the church but most goes to producing ad campaigns to get more money & yes, the people who rake in all the dough get paid to rake in all the dough. Worth it too cause their personalities bring in a lot of money.

So sayeth Roger Waters.

AFAIK, Bob Larson uses it on hair transplants! :wink:

The simple answer to the OP is that good ones keep enough of it for their own expenses (read: salary) but use the rest for good causes, while the bad ones pocket it. The complicated answer takes some explanation, so here are the facts:

  1. Billy Graham decreed some time ago that he would maintain an annual salary for himself of $50,000 per year, adjusted annually for inflation, and he would donate the rest of the money earned by his ministry to noble causes (of course, there are certain technical expenses to maintain, but you get the idea). Now, $50,000/year is pretty good money by most peoples’ standards, but I would say that it is pretty fair compensation for a man of his education (he has a PhD, for Pete’s sake).

  2. Most good broadcast ministries will gleefully hand over their financial statements to anybody who asks. For example, Focus on the Family will gladly disclose how they spent every penny they received in the previous quarter, provided you send them a SASE. It won’t get into specifics; there will be one entry for salaries (x million), as opposed to an entry for Dr. Dobson, an entry for Mike Trout (Dr. Dobson’s co-host and Yes-man), on down to the data entry clerk making $6.25/hr.

  3. Beware of any broadcast ministry that is secretive about their financial practices.

  4. Many broadcast ministries sell reasonably useful merchandise during their broadcasts, such as books, videos, or teaching materials. Beware of any broadcast ministry offering annointed prayer cloths or other nonsense.

Hey, while we’re on the topic of dicey people selling salvation, I have a good story.

The Canadian TV Guide ran a two page ad for a “world famous psychic” (Maria Duval) who offered to send you a free talisman (good luck charm). The ad contained the usual (utterly untraceable) testimonials about how well it worked.

Well, this kind of thing makes me hopping mad, because I am just so sure that it’s ultimately full of crap. So I looked her up on the Internet and found several court cases against her and a warning advisory from the Better Business Bureau.

I wrote to TV Guide and told them about this and (lo and behold!) they said that they had not sufficiently checked her background but that now that I’d informed them of the details, they would no longer accept her ads!

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

(Now the cynics out there might say, “Maybe she hadn’t booked any more ads!” But I think this just might be one instance where a national magazine responded in a responsible way. Perhaps they’d also had numerous complaints from people she’d shafted.)

Color me pleased.

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Sly, what does God need money for?

OK You hit a sore spot with me. I’ve made sales calls on TV ministries and they both had a secret double walled counting room for the cash. Seems like they don’t have to follow the rules like real companies (yes Virginia, they are companies) do. I have a close relative that’s a minister and they have special rules with the IRS. They can have ALL of their pay declared as living expenses and pay no tax on it. The first thing he did after being ordained was tell me that he never had to pay taxes again.

“Hope is not a method”

Without wishing to appear confused, how come a minister gets a special deal with the IRS? I was under the impression that church and state were completely seperate in the USA. Mind you, the only basis for this is an episode of the Simpsons, so I could be wrong

I once lost my corkscrew and had to live on food and water for several days
(W.C. Fields)

Well, the separation of church and state in the United States is something that a lot of people give lip service to but only a minority actually believe in. The majority want their sect’s beliefs to be the basis of government. Luckily they don’t often agree with each other. As far as I’m concerned, the protestant reformation was the salvation of the western world, because it made all the christ idiots at odds with each other, and made it possible for some semblance of secular government out of the mutual fear that the other guy’s Christocracy was going to win over their own.

Still, there are a great many to whom this fear is not more important than the moral outrage they experience everytime they encounter beliefs not in concordance with their own - and the sway of this reactionary populace is responsible for the generally unstated fact that the United States is a Christian Country.

Or something.

Any claims that ministers do not pay taxes is patently false. They do. Lots of taxes if they file self-employed (they then have to pay what would normally be their employer’s share of social security).

Oh, to be sure, there are those who think that they don’t, but the IRS will eventually reschool them on the issue.

Certainly, there are some benefits ministers can enjoy professionally if they control the ministry. They can have many, many business perks which can make life… easy. Company jets, company expense accounts, company cars, etc… But, anything which is used for purely personal benefit must be declared as income – no exceptions.

(Well, there is an exception for Catholic monks, nuns, and religious brothers and sisters who take a vow of poverty… but that’s not the same case as the televangelists or other Christian ministers, pastors, or priests.)

(What is not taxed is property taxes for non-profit land in use for the non-profit organization and sales tax for items bought for the operation of the non-profit organization. Personally owned land, land not in use, items bought for personal use, and salaries are always taxed, even for professional ministers.)


With regard to the OP, if a televangelist (or anyone else, for that matter) solicits contributions for a specific cause, all that money (minus valid expenses for running the campaign) must go to that cause.

Some of the big time televangelists of the 80’s (Robertson and the Bakers, e.g., I think) got into trouble over this.

This is how the scam (as the IRS would view it) would work: Ask for contributions to Worthy Project X. Receive $5 million for Worthy Project X. Build Worthy Project X for $3 million. Pocket $2 million dollars for other projects or personal wealth. That’s an IRS no-no.

That’s why today’s televangelists don’t push contributions to specific causes much anymore. They like to have the freedom to spend the money as they like.


The belief that ministers don’t have to pay any taxes is total hogwash. I should know; I was in the ministry for a brief time, and I’m still in it pretty thick with the IRS because of the way the accountant handled my paycheck. Ministers pay taxes just like everyone else.

They CAN declare a certain portion of their income (up to 25%) as “housing allowance,” but that’s because many ministers live in parsonages, rectories, or other housing provided by the church, while others own or rent their own homes. The “housing allowance” exemption is apparently there to make things fair. However, when you’re earning a pittance (even though you’re a college-educated professional), that “housing allowance” exception translates to saving you a couple dozen bucks over the course of the year. Big whoop.

You can swindle a special situation regarding your Social Security deductions, but it’s related to the fact that most churches don’t have any sort of retirement or pension plan for their ministers. Basically you get a few extra bucks a month to put into your own investment scheme. I can tell you confidently that it involves reams of paperwork, countless headaches, and that it makes little difference in the long haul.

Sorry. You guys have hit a sore spot with me.

Actually, what happened was anti-Christian Coalition types got a boycott against the Bank underway, Robertson responded on the 700 Club by calling Scotland “a dark land overrun by homosexuals” (or something to that effect) and the public outcry pretty much forced the Bank out of the deal.

sorry for the interruption.

Gee…I have a real job and I can’t have 25 percent of my pay declared as untaxed housing allowance. In my book, that’s a “special deal” from the IRS. As for ministers making a pittance, I know some that do very well.

“Hope is not a method”

Robertson also got dumped out of a position on the board of Laura Ashley, the home decorating/clothing company. The gay community told Laura Ashley they were going to boycott, and the board asked Robertson to resign.

“It’s my considered opinion you’re all a bunch of sissies!”–Paul’s Grandfather