When Is a Non-Profit not a Non-Profit?

Grunts on the pew have long been exposed to the disgraceful travesty of Evangelical profiteers of the “gospel”; although this seems largely to be an American phenomena. Unfortunately, although I dwell in another political jurisdiction, this stench cannot be contained by physical borders. Wheeler-and-dealer Ayatollah Robertson seems to have wielded a legally ironclad deal to have his “700 Club” punish the world in perpetuity. Between Robertson’s CBN and the Crouch’s TBN, The Walrus and the Carpenter of Prosperity Gospel broadcasting, these public persona have largely become the face of Evangelical Christianity.

Hereby, my local interlocutors, let alone all those on the commentariats, find easy reason to dismiss the Gospel and the Christian faith. And who can blame them? And thus again, “the name of God is blasphemed among the [nations]” (Rom 2:24). This is never a good state of affairs within which Christian seminarians should dwell. Such excess of wealth and opulence among the higher ranks of the Romanist clergy became useful fodder for the Protestant Reformers in the 16th Century, and the Jacobins in the 18th. And if Russell Moore complains about lack of Evangelical discernment and concern regarding Demagogue Donald, this is partially a function of country club seminarians having alienated many of their grunts on the pew.

But it is not only the Prosperity Gospel sycophants of Demagogue Donald who are on the charitable dole. Apparently, Franklin Graham earned $622,252 from Samaritan’s Purse in 2014 after taking a five-year hiatus because of appearances. And I became quite disconcerted, in my brief flirtation with the Harvest Bible Chapel, when I learnt that James MacDonald was earning in excess of $600,000 in annual compensation from the church and its related ministries.  This figure did not include compensation received from other likely sources of income such as: book royalties, conference fees, etc. I have heard it said that such salaries are justified because such personnel might fight better CEO opportunities elsewhere. I suppose that this thinking partially constitutes the North American form of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

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It appears that there is nothing that the Americans, for instance, can do. Limitations on compensation are deemed civic infringement on religion by many. I beg to differ. Those who rely on constitutional guarantees (First Amendment rights) should remember that the same political theory, which guarantees such legal protections is also the same political theory, which bases such guarantees upon the Consent of the Governed. If such rights are abused long and hard enough, those paper guarantees dissipate into dust. Invoke the ghosts of Cicero and Cato the Younger.

In order to waylay such a deleterious prospect from coming into being, and thereby throw the baby out with the bathwater, I beg the Indulgences of the “Christian Nation” to our south as I curl this trial stone.

What makes a non-profit organization a non-profit organization? Among the various other legal stipulations, is it not that such entities do not pay out a profit, even a dividend? But in order to avoid such a payout in such non-profit proprietorships and corporations, can the lawyers and accountants not shift what would otherwise become profit for the proprietors of those non-profits to that of income for those proprietors within that non-profit corporation’s financial statements? Is it not the reality, if not the legal formality and appearance, that such non-profit corporations can indeed be profit corporations?

Would this violate the First Amendment (“no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”)?  But unless the non-profit is aptly named the Church of the Golden Calf,” is the civic state attacking the proclaimed ideologies and ethics of those non-profits?

Therefore, this is what I would propose. Be it a fair aphorism, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” (1 Cor 9:9, 1 Tim 5:18). That is, even the highest ranking officials within any non-profit corporation should earn a livable compensation for their talents and labor. However, I would suggest that that compensation be topped out at 3x the national or state average or median income. This is an arbitrary rule of thumb regulation. But the same goes for the sexual age of consent. But however arbitrary, there is a legitimate social welfare concern in both cases, which most citizens accept as overriding the technical arbitrariness. The crux of concern is not what that limitation should be, but that there be a limitation, so as to discourage all present and future Walruses and Carpenters from feeding off the little oysters and the reputation of the Living Christ.

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