An Appeal To The SEB Community

I recently returned from leave in Texas where I was introduced to an alarming concept, the Megachurch. I was invited to attend the ceremony by a long time friend and although I had no interest given that I am an atheist, I thought it might be a way to kill a Sunday morning with a friend who I hadn’t seen in quite some time and I felt obliged to indulge his fantasy that I might convert from a godless heathen to a Evangelical “Warrior of Jesus”.

Anyway, after the ceremony was through and I said goodbye to my friend, I went to the first Barnes & Noble to see if I could find anything about the Megachurch. Although I was frightened by the experience, and possibly scarred, I was still intrigued. The commercialism of McDonald’s, the casual attire of the GAP crowd, the sheer mass of the audience both worried and confused me. As it turns out, I was able to find a hilarious book by Robert Lanham called, appropriately enough, “The Sinner’s Guide to The Evangelical Right”. I casually read a few pages, had a laugh or two, and thought it would be a good read for the long flight home to Sicily.

Well, after I finished reading and washing the remaining bile from my mouth (I laughed so hard I puked), I began thinking, “why hasn’t anyone said something before?” Finally, it dawned on me, no one cared. Well, to be more precise, it wasn’t that no one cared, it was that no one cared enough. Well, for some time now I’ve been looking for something I could do to make my mark on society. Something I could really work at and try and better both myself and those around me, and I found the answer in a non-profit. For years now, Megachurches have flourished under the shelter of tax-exemption. They’ve raked in millions per year without giving back to their respective communities and have enjoyed the endorsement of both the IRS and the Federal Government in lavishing their leadership with six-figure-salaries and homes worth millions.

For instance, Creflo Dollar of the Christian World Changers Ministries in Georgia flies to New York on a weekly basis in his private jet to seek donations from his congregation. To add insult to injury, the majority of his congregation comes from the poorest of the five burrows and his Ministry’s Outreach programs in the region are practically non-existent. As the head of the church and its five divisions, including Arrow Records, Dollar stands to gain from every penny donated to the church. Were this an isolated incident, it would be criminal, given that in Texas alone there are over 150 such Megachurches, and that Rick Warren’s Ministry in California took in a record 7 million in donations during a single Sunday, all while enjoying tax exemption, this is fraud of the worst variety.

With that in mind, several associates of mine and I have begun work on a non-profit organization, and I hate to pander, but given the nature of the SEB Community, I thought it best to appeal for support here first. Consider this a compliment. As for my request, I would appreciate any advice or expertise in web design, marketing, and research in the fields of tax law (including exemption), and the so-called “Megachurch Society”.

Surmise to say, several associates of mine and I are currently forming a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to expose the Megachurches of the United States for what they truly are; corporations operating under a thin veneer of religious imagery in order to exploit their congregations and the tax exemption laws of the United States. We’ve managed to secure a website which will be forthcoming as soon as our design is finalized and we hope to secure our status as a non-profit should the need arise. However, we lack a support network. We have recruited several volunteers willing to help us in marketing and research as well as staff writers, a photographer, webmaster, and legal aid. Given their voluntary status, however, we still need the support of anyone willing to help. If you would like more information, or should you have any advice or expertise you are willing to lend, please feel free to e-mail myself at .

69 thoughts on “An Appeal To The SEB Community

  1. My question is, if you are so adamant about this issue, why don’t you do something about it? I’ve seen what I believe is a problem with the status quo so I intend to do something about it. I stated before that I would like to investigate Lakewood. At no time did I argue that they were at fault for condition of the HAID. As I have tried to say before, an investigation is not an indictment. I made the mistake of giving the appearance that I believed Lakewood to be at fault. My argument was that Lakewood appeared to be suspicious. As of yet, I have found no wrongdoing by the church because of a lack of sufficient evidence. That being said, is there anything inherently wrong with an open investigation of any organization? An inspection of sorts? Additionally, I think my question stands, is there anything you could do to help? Please be my guest.

  2. Arin.

      …Lakewood itself is not the issue here, but rather, non-profits as a whole…

    hrm, but i thought…

      …several associates of mine and I are currently forming a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to expose the Megachurches…

    These things are not mutually exclusive.

    We are also talking about an organization that does not exist. Is the agenda clear – not exactly, being that it’s still very, very early in it’s own development. I find it funny that you’re slamming him for what is, ultimately, a lack of investigation as a non-existent-non-profit-disorganization (which is also somewhat funny, but acceptable for something still in its planning stages). That’s why there was an appeal to the community here as to input on its design in the first place. I’m sure if Neo was confident he had all the answers, he’d make pause for nothing.

    but you say lakewood church is responsible?  and is committing fraud for asking for donations and applying for tax exemption status?

    …as you want to do with your new organization? 

    It’s good to see you’re concerned (more of a model citizen than many I know of), but you’re just as bad as he is about stuffing words where they don’t belong, here. In no way was any of what you just said spoken explicitly. Go ahead and make conjecture; just don’t use that as a basis for blame. Remember,

    they don’t go off half-cocked making judgments and false accusations against institutions without having supporting evidence.

    – except exchange institution with individual and you have yourself a point, returned.

    I’d be interested to see a useful discussion continue, but I’d recommend, at this point, that both parties back off and rethink their stances considerably. I’ve little doubt that the criticism is helpful, provided it is fair and precise. The current ambient yammering, however, is a distraction.

  3. Patness has a good point. In my haste to argue, without profit I might add, I think I most likely hurt my cause rather than helped it. I will admit that while the focus of our argument was on Megachurches and Lakewood, that was not my original intent. My intent was to explain that given their present circumstances, Megachurches are in a position to profit most from current laws regarding tax-exemption and given their enormous revenue, are more likely to exploit there position. Given my current lack of resources, I cannot conduct a proper investigation of their practices. I can make an educated guess as to their ability to commit fraud, but in no way should I insist that their ability to do so means that they have. If that was the position I put forth, then I apologize because it was not my intent. I would however, like to take this opportunity to solidify my position. Perhaps our newly drafted mission statement will say what I could not.

    “We believe that any non-profit organization enjoys tax-exemption status because their primary purpose is the promotion of a cause which is in the best interest of the public or society. We also believe, however, that there are non-profit corporations operating within the United States which fraudulently apply for tax-exemption in order to defraud the Federal Government of billions annually. Furthermore, we believe that by investigating these organizations to determine if they are in violation of United States Code; and, if necessary, bring our grievances before the Internal Revenue Service for redress. In this, we can effectively lessen the burdens of government by providing additional revenue for public service which would ordinarily be used to enable the commission of fraud against the Federal Government.”

  4. Neo, I wonder – have you, at any point, made pause to see some of the other organizations in existence who share your goals in common? Before your own non-profit should come to be realized, it might be useful to familiarize yourself with other similar organizations. If not to join their ranks, then to network and familiarize yourself with the trials and tribulations that arise during the course of their works. It occurs to me (more absent-minded of me than I’d like) that there might be much to be gained.

  5. Actually Pat, I have. I currently use the services provided by guidstar.com as well as charitywatch. I have to say, they’ve done some excellent research, but I believe our work will be more action-oriented. Including direct appeal to the IRS and accounting investigation services provided by a CPA. Additionally, our current Articles of Incorporation expressly forbid the delegation of funds for salaries to our board of directors(myself included), and any funds used by the organization would be directed for the services of organizations outside of our own such as legal aid, etc. I definitely appreciate the advice.

  6. pat:

    i originally posted because i believed statements that were made concerning lakewood church were incorrect.  a quick perusal of the internet showed that; however, it was always possible that information was wrong, so i asked for supporting evidence.

    if you are going to begin an organization to expose other institutions and you are going to ask for help (monetary and otherwise), then it is best that you do not use “case in point”s that are based on conjecture, speculation, and hearsay.  especially without stating such.  ~wrong footing~

    neo *did* accuse them of fraud.  neo *did* make incorrect statements as to their purchase of the compaq center.  neo *did* use hearsay evidence to support their “nondisclosure” of financial statements.  and i’m sorry, but tying lakewood church’s tax dollars (or lack of them, in this case) to HISD’s poor condition is just laughable based on HISD itself.  i realize that both situations can be corrected, but throwing lakewood’s dollars at HISD will *not* solve the problem, without something being done about HISD itself.  thus the issue isn’t religious institutions and their tax dollars, but HISD’s incompetence.  neo did NOT say that any of it was conjecture until questioned.

    that lakewood church was used as his “case in point” was a very, very poor choice.  there are other religious institutions with ample evidence of wrong doing (and some have been mentioned in this thread).  heck, jim and tammy fay baker would have been a better choice.  ~excellent~ examples of something gone entirely wrong.

    my part of the discussion with him was really finished after my last post.  there’s nothing more to say. if he continues in the current fashion which he has exhibited here, then the only voice he’ll have will be within the atheist community, as most will chalk him off as “just another atheist who hates religion” …and that’s a shame.  fraud should be exposed, where it exists.  i just think you need to make sure it exists, before you name someone.

  7. Arin,
    If you feel this adamant about your position then allow me to offer you a proposition; a staff position on our Board of Directors. I have to admit that, like most native Texans I know, your persistence and willingness to commit to an argument is impressive. Should you accept, this would afford you an opportunity to vote on policy, procedure, initiatives, etc. There is, of course, no salary and the work is entirely voluntary. Our Articles of Incorporation prohibit the award of a salary to any board member and most of us conduct our business during our off-time. If you’re interested, and I hope you are, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or here. As an aside, I have offered similar positions to only three people, while I’ve had almost 200 requests for membership so please don’t consider this a ploy.

  8. neo *did* accuse them of fraud. 

    Yes, but not for “asking for donations and applying for tax exemption status”. The context derived from his original statement is for its alleged spending habits.

    neo *did* make incorrect statements as to their purchase of the compaq center.

    Granted.

    neo *did* use hearsay evidence to support their “nondisclosure” of financial statements.

    Granted with the purchase of the Compaq Centre. However, his testimony regarding the “non-disclosure”, while not reliable evidence, are not hearsay. It is in contention whether the alleged phone calls took place as described, and whether the law does, indeed, give him access to these financial records. However, it would be hearsay if you or I were to pass on account of the phone calls, as we were not direct participants in the matter at hand.

    but tying lakewood church’s tax dollars (or lack of them, in this case) to HISD’s poor condition is just laughable based on HISD itself

    From the sounds of it, you’re right. However, that’s only the domain of the conversation insofar as one might consider throwing Lakewood coin at HISD to be charitable spending. The choice is Lakewood’s, and the judgement is that of the IRS.

    neo did NOT say that any of it was conjecture until questioned.

    Yes, his grounds were specious at best – but that was determinable without his sayso. It is conjecture so long as there remain confounding factors. The truth of that conjecture is something entirely separate, determinable by evidence which we are both clear that he lacked.

    This was my reason for responding – there are important subtleties to the argument that were being shed.

    i just think you need to make sure it exists, before you name someone.

    I agree.

  9. On another note, Neo, what are the grounds for which one decides that an organization should be reported to the IRS for review?

  10. Pat, that would not be my determination. My function would be the collection of evidence. After all, that is what I am trained to do. If, and only if, in the opinion of legal councel and CPA there is enough evidence to question an organizations exemption status would any petition be forwarded to the IRS for redress. The use of an independant third party is to establish a clear set of checks and balances. I have seen far too many cases in my line of work prosecuted poorly because of what we refer to as “fruit of the poisonous tree” or evidence that has been tainted, is biased, or illegally obtained.

  11. And this thread took the turn that I thought.

    Oh, Consi; don’t be such a naysaying pessimist.
    I think they’re performing extra-ordinarily well considering the venture is hardly off the ground.
    I’ll bet there was a time you weren’t as good a balancer as you are now; it takes practice … remember?  wink
    I hope Arin takes up Neo’s offer but I doubt it. I wonder if reverse-psychology still works.  smile
    Worthy men with integrity putting dishonest men and (their) organisations under a microscope with the objective of saving the nation’s money seems a little Quixotic to me but I still think it’s an honourable quest, don’t you?

  12. I was under the impression that “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” had settled the issue a long time ago for Christians.

    Churches have no more right to tax exempt status than amusement parks do.

  13. whereas the thought, “who watches the watchers” comes to mind, you are correct, pat, i have no intention of taking up neo’s offer.  i can only hope that he finds a better spokesperson for the endeavour than himself… along with a LOT of legal counsel.

  14. Take two animals.  One is massive.  The other is small.

    The massive animal comes into the echo niche of the smaller animal, and begins eating and eating and eating.  A pissing match begins.

    Now, strip away the “moral colors” of the two opponents here.  What you have left is sheer FACTS…. size, dexterity, viciousness, intelligence, et al.

    Who wins?  Who gets hurt very badly.  Who is most visible?  And which is mangled in the underbrush?

    THE OBVIOUS.

    Now, organization is fine, but you don’t know who you’re dealing with here.  Never forget that these are highly organized criminals without remorse.  Facts, taxes, FBI agents, writers, professionals, lawyers, all those things you need…THEY HAVE. 

    I definately admire your balls.  Definately.  But I don’t admire you for what you’re about to get into.  I would no more fool with these crazed malignant narciscists than I would walk up and slap Dutch Schultz in his face!  Once you pull away the “moral colors” of these malicious fiends, you got the SAME ANIMAL with different feathers, and all you got is a dead jim tease, eh daddio?

    NOW.  THIS IS HOW YOU HIT THEM….

    SPREAD IDEAS LIKE WILDFIRE.  USE YOUR CREATIVITY AND EXCEPTIONAL MINDS TO SPREAD IDEAS.  IDEAS ARE MOST POWERFULL, AND IN FACT IS WHAT EMPOWERED THESE TARD BURGLERS.  CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS.  Have you not noticed how “plastic” those minds really are?  Their minds are plastic, not because they’re stupid (cross a powerful religious nut and see just how “stupid” he really is!)… rather, their minds are “plastic” because they are homo sapiens, and they are FUCKING BORED.

    REMEMBER THAT.  PEOPLE ARE VERY FUCKING BORED.  THUS, STIMULATION OF NEW IDEAS, CLEVERLY AND COVERTLY SPREAD WILL DO THE TRICK.

    If you use “mass organization”, you will loose.  You will change NO LAWS and what laws you do change, they will find ways to break them anyway.  BUT IF YOU CHANGE THE PUBLICS MINDS….HO HO HO!… MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS.

    oh yeah………..

    captain pleased

  15. p.s., good ideas have to constantly be spread, even after the ideas seemed to have “worked”.  the civil rights aftermath, ect., taught us that.  you cannot have an “70’s/80’s” era where you relax so much that you do NOTHING to spread good ideas.  cause that’s what happened man, we sat on our asses…

    Dear America,

    YOU NEED TO STOP JERKING OFF SO MUCH.

    “u-hm…excuse me…”

    Dear WORLD,

    YOU NEED TO STOP JERKING OFF SO MUCH.

  16. captain pleased:

    YOU NEED TO STOP JERKING OFF SO MUCH.

    Talk about ideas that would never gain traction. 

    If it were possible to break the stranglehold that corporate evangelism has on the hearts and minds of the megachurchgoers who support it, one might have to convince them to engage in activities that are more positive, more efficacious, and more socially responsible than feeding that particular pig.  Convincing them to jerk off more, rather than less, would probably be an excellent start.

    oh yeah … you don’t have to yell.  We hear ya.

  17. ideas that never gain tracktion?

    no ideas “gain tracktion” for very long.  they have to be constantly reintroduced on a constant cycle.  this isn’t the first TIME you know… the first time religious nuts have taken over everything.  and it’s not the first time that freaks like me will go out and scream sex pistols lyrics at assholes… like i’m doing TONIGHT.. at very fucking high volumes.

    they need that shit.

    just keep on saying it and talking and keep the dialogue rolling.

    and when the fundy’s get you down, and when people say, “that’s stupid”, and when people walk around like fucking zombies and act like totally vacuous apes for…like… what seems like forever.. when they beat you down and kick you and shit on you and keep you from jobs and rape the universe and subvert the consititution and try to grab hold of you with an iron fist.. remember this…

    FUCK ‘EM.

  18. FUCK ‘EM.

    I’ve nothing to add or say or is that the same thing?
    I just like saying FUCK. It’s the child in me.  wink

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