Guest / Limited Access /

Like many of us, Senator Chuck Grassley is concerned about the lavish lifestyles of many prosperity-gospel preachers he sees on television. "Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, corporate jets, $23,000 commodes in a multimillion-dollar home," he said on CNN. "You know, just think of a $23,000 marble commode. A lot of money going down the toilet, you could say."

But Grassley isn't like many of us. He's a United States senator. And while the U.S. government has the authority to ensure that churches and their leaders aren't breaking the law, several of the Iowa senator's comments mix an important and legitimate inquiry with a troubling government intrusion into the free exercise of religion.

Grassley, unfortunately, seems ill informed on several fronts. Take that widely published joke about the commode. It's actually an antique cabinet, not a toilet. You can see it yourself at Joyce Meyer's headquarters, part of the $5.7 million décor. You can also see at Meyer's headquarters, or at her website, audited financial statements that answer many of Grassley's questions about the ministry.

And take this comment, published on Grassley's website: "As a Christian myself, and a person who believes in tithing, I feel I have a right to know where my money goes."

But the law allows churches not to disclose their finances, even to their own members. Indeed, it was Grassley himself who introduced the Church Audit Procedures Act in 1983, which significantly limited irs investigations into church finances.

That doesn't mean churches can do whatever they want. Churches can't endorse or oppose candidates for political office. A church's net earnings cannot "inure to any private shareholder or individual," and a church can't "provide a substantial benefit ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedJames MacDonald Asks Forgiveness for Unbiblical Discipline of Harvest Bible Chapel Elders
James MacDonald Asks Forgiveness for Unbiblical Discipline of Harvest Bible Chapel Elders
Megachurch pastor confesses board slandered three elders as 'false messengers' last year.
TrendingDeconversion: Some Thoughts on Bart Campolo’s Departure from Christianity
Deconversion: Some Thoughts on Bart Campolo’s Departure from Christianity
Bart Campolo's departure from Christianity–some reflections about faith and (our) families.
Editor's PickThe Case Against 'Radical' Christianity
The Case Against 'Radical' Christianity
Michael Horton's message to restless believers: Stay put, and build the church.
Comments
Christianity Today
Oversight Overstep
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.