This Fake TV 'Church' Owns All The Money In The World, For Jesus

This Fake TV 'Church' Owns All The Money In The World, For Jesus

We all know the rich are being attacked by TAXES. But for every problem there is a solution. Just put your faith in Jesus, and He will shield your money from the IRS, just like Linus told Charlie Brown was the true meaning of Christmas. Hell, you don’t even need to establish a brick-and-mortar church, per NPR:

Based in a studio complex between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, and broadcasting to a potential audience of 2 billion people around the globe, Daystar calls itself the fastest growing Christian television network in the world.

The Internal Revenue Service considers Daystar something else: a church.

Yeah, buddy! Daystar has $233 MILLION in assets, rakes in $35 million from viewers every year, don’t have a church building, and they are totally UNTOUCHABLE. Fuck this blog shit – we are gonna launch Wonkette Worldwide Church TV, coming to your hungover eyeballs soon.

So what’s the story here? Can a teevee station really be a church? Without a congregation, or a building, or a sermon or any of that church-y stuff? Apparently they can:

Televangelists have a choice when they deal with the IRS. Some, like Pat Robertson and Billy Graham, register as religious organizations. They're exempt from most taxes but still must file disclosure reports showing how they make and spend their money.

Daystar and dozens of others call themselves churches, which enjoy the greatest protection and privacy of all nonprofit organizations in America.

Churches avoid not only taxes, but any requirement to disclose their finances. And, as NPR has learned, for the last five years churches have avoided virtually any scrutiny whatsoever from the federal government's tax authority. [...]

Daystar's broadcast complex and corporate jet — together valued at $9.5 million — would be subject to property taxes in Texas if the ministry were a for-profit business. But it's exempt because of its status as a church.

Yeah, no scrutiny! Taxed Enough Already! Get the government out of everything except uteruses (uteri?) and gay people’s bedrooms!

But these are churches and so they have to do church stuff, right? Do they at least hate on gays and rail against women’s health? Isn’t that, like, a minimum requirement?

In his letter, Daystar's marketing director points out that the IRS has recognized Daystar as a church from the network's inception. And he adds that Daystar regularly conducts marriages, funerals, baptisms and communions just like any other church.

Oh. Well, that sounds normal. NPR, just take their word for it, ok. They are a church, and no need to scrutinize them, because they should be one million percent exempt from anyone asking any questions about anything.

Yet former employees interviewed by NPR said they could not recall a single instance of this happening.

Dammit, NPR! Well, if they don’t do marriages or funerals or communion, maybe they are doing good, right? HAHA, sucker – trick question! You can’t know if they are doing good because they don’t have to disclose anything, so back the fuck off and just put money in the offering plate, ok? You just gotta trust -- no 'verify' when it comes to doing the Lord’s Work. Except if there was a lawsuit that disclosed audited financial reports:

But NPR found hundreds of pages of court records filed as part of a 2011 employee lawsuit in Texas that has since been dismissed. In them were six years of audited financial statements from Daystar, including balance sheets, income and expense records and detailed accounting of donations.

Well, this should be totally boring, right? Probably spending all those millions on worthy causes like helping African AIDS orphans, so this should be warm and fuzzy. Let’s start with the fuzzy, by which we mean fuzzy math:

Lamb [“pastor” of the Daystar “church”] trumpeted those donations in a 2009 sermon in Australia: "In the last five years, Daystar has written checks of donations to others, to ministries, to churches, to missions, to hurricane relief, to tsunami relief, to hospitals, etc., to the tune of $30 million cash!"

NPR analyzed six years of Daystar balance sheets. They show the network gave away $9.7 million dollars in direct grants to outside recipients. Not $30 million. That works out to charitable giving of about 5 percent of donor revenue.

Oh. 95 percent is spent on non-charitable stuff. That's a pretty poor record. Care to respond, Daystar?

In its letter, Daystar explains the discrepancy by saying the majority of viewer contributions actually pays for the costs of foreign satellite transmissions, which the network considers its "international mission work."

Broadcasting your television station... err.. church... around the globe so you can sell more airtime is considered 'mission work'? Those natural disaster victims are probably super-happy that folks with televisions can hear you asking for donations that will not help rebuild their homes! So maybe verification would be a good thing. But surely there are some worthy causes. Show us the African AIDS orphans already!!

According to court records, Daystar gave:

  • $433,000 of tax-deductible viewer donations to Oral Roberts University, mostly during years when the three Lamb children were enrolled there.
  • $53,683 to Lake Country Christian School, the high school his children attended.
  • $296,091 to Gateway Church, the Lambs' family church.
  • $32,200 to Family Restoration Network, Christian marriage counselors who Marcus and Joni claim saved their marriage.
  • $24,026 to Lamb's alma mater, Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.
  • $21,879 to Lynn Haven Nursing Home in Gray, Georgia, where Marcus's father lived before he died.

Well done, Daystar viewers. You enabled a rich man to send his rich kids to bass-akwards schools, and you helped foot the bill. Bravo! And that’s just what they spent donations on. They have other revenue because they are a teevee station and sell airtime to other tv preachers who are trying to fleece save the souls of stay-at-home parents and the Olds. Maybe that went to our African AIDS orphans?

Daystar spent non-donation ministry income on expenses that included $572,154 in sponsorship and expenses for a Christian NASCAR driver named Blake Koch; a $2.3 million loan to Rev. Frank Harber, Lamb's former special assistant and golfing buddy, to start a church which defaulted on the loan; and the network spent $97,320 at retail bookstores to buy up copies of Joni Lamb's [“pastor’s” “wife”] autobiography, Surrender All, helping drive it onto a bestseller's list.

But wait. Surely there has to be some sort of oversight here. Because come on… half a million sponsoring a NASCAR driver? That’s what fake churches can do? Where’s the IRS? Shouldn’t there be some sort of investigation into these “churches”?

But the truth is, Marcus Lamb doesn't have to worry about the IRS asking if Daystar qualifies for church status or auditing its books.

Because of a quirk in rules by the IRS, the agency has effectively stopped auditing churches for the past five years.

Wait, why?!?! Clearly NPR has uncovered some nefarious shit going down, and it seems like a giant tax-evasion scheme. What’s the deal?

The Church Audit Procedures Act states that a high-ranking Treasury Department official must sign off if the IRS demands a church's records. But since a court ruling in 2009, the IRS has not changed the law to specify who that high-ranking official should be. And here's the catch: until that happens, there's no one in the government to authorize a church audit.

Fuck it, man. Just authorize someone. Create a damn position and call it the High Ranking Church Auditing Oversight Person, because this has got to stop. Why won’t the government act?

"Why the IRS doesn't like to audit churches?" [tax attorney] Streckfus says. "The churches don't like it. They can scream and yell quite loudly and get Congress members' attention. And so the IRS not only doesn't like the churches to be mad at them, but doesn't like Congress to be mad at them."

Oh. It’s a complete lack of balls. Zero cojones. Congresspersons bow to the alter of The Church for fear of pissing off voters, and the IRS fears Congress abusing its authority if they step out of line. Everyone runs scared of the church, so they basically get a blank check to do whatever they want, avoid all the taxes they want, and not disclose any information at all to any government agency, even if they are the size of a large corporation and acting like a corporation and aren’t actually a church.

Church services now occur at this blog daily, with the ritualistic dick jokes, and the breaking of the communion pizza and the drinking of the communion whiskey (vodka on Thursdays, and don’t miss martini Mondays!) all in honor of the Goddess Editrix, praise be her name. Your Love Gifts will be used to bless the Holy Palate of Wonkette Bloggers with sanctified, purified, and blessed craft beer, unless donations are low and we have to deal with shitty Natty Light like we are college freshmen in which case the Goddess will be thoroughly displeased with our readers… errr.. we mean congregation. Yeah, congregation. Go forth, evangelize and spread the good word -- just make sure you write it off come tax time.


Following DDM on Twitter (@Wonksplainer) is also tax-deductible.


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