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In the spirit of this week's question on how different religious groups relate to the massive financial troubles on Wall Street, I spent time this morning digging through resources on how evangelicals view the issue of CEO compensation. With the federal bailout package currently stalled in Congress in part because of a debate over whether or not taxpayers should allow CEOs of firms offloading toxic debt to eject with a "golden parachute," the issue is suddenly timely.

In a crisis filled with inscrutable insider language and concepts, like short-selling or credit default swaps, CEO pay is an issue the average person can understand. Barney Frank, the House Financial Services Committee chairman, told CNBC yesterday that CEOs who refuse to take a pay cut in these circumstances would be "selfish and unpatriotic." Editorial writers at the Philadelphia Inquirer asked yesterday, "Why should taxpayers, who are dutifully paying off credit-card debt and car loans, shell out seven-figure bonuses to Wall Street financiers whose irresponsible decisions precipitated this mess?"

Those are strong images, and whatever happens to the legislation in Congress, it seems that CEO compensation — long a simmering issue — may now come to the forefront of national debate. So where do religious groups weigh in?

The research of Rice University sociologist Michael Lindsay immediately came to mind. With help from the index, I flipped through my well-underlined copy of Lindsay's excellent 2007 book, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite and found that Lindsay describes the issue of executive compensation as "one of the most troubling areas for evangelical business leaders."

In his many interviews with evangelical ...

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Where Do Evangelicals Stand on CEO Compensation?
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October 2008

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