How much should religious groups pay top leaders?

 How much should religious groups pay top leaders?


How much should local religious congregations, agencies, and charities pay their leaders?


This topic is brought to mind by three simultaneous articles published in December. In the first, The New York Times “Ethicist” column responded to an anonymous employee of a non-profit agency that works on consumer rights and economic literacy who’s upset that due to a financial crisis its management cut the staff by a fourth.

This was said to be necessary to protect the long-term future. But the employee is “hurt” and considering a protest after learning top officials’ pay and perks consume a fourth of the budget. The president even gets a company car. The employee thinks top incomes are “seemingly” out of line and an “injustice” to other staffers.

In response, New York University philosophy Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah said non-profits, like for-profit companies, may realistically need to pay the going rate to get talented executives. But high pay is always “worrisome” for a charity, plus this agency might have been wiser to trim executive pay in order to limit layoffs.

Churches also face money questions. The Rev. John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., gave his wife for their wedding anniversary a $220,000 Lambourghini Urus SUV (650 horsepower, 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, top speed of 190 m.p.h.). She gave Gray a costly Rolex watch. After Christian Websites sizzled with hostile comments, Gray tearfully responded that he spent his own (obviously handsome) income, not church donations, and noted he gets added money from his Oprah Winfrey Network show and a book deal.

A different problem is old-fashioned embezzlement from church accounts diverted to personal use, $80,000 or more in a case just filed against Jerrell Altic, a minister at Houston’s prominent First Baptist Church from 2011 to 2017. This raises obvious questions about this church’s fiscal management and financial transparency with its members.

Misuse of non-profits’ income can get you in a pack of trouble with the Feds.

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Washington Post follows up on faith-related 'hate group' story (and answers our prayers)

Washington Post follows up on faith-related 'hate group' story (and answers our prayers)

Among the journalistic salutes that, frankly, never get old is being quoted by one of the nation's leading newspapers.

Thank you, then, to The Washington Post for noticing a blog post by your humble correspondent posted here about a week ago. (See quote at the top of this post.)

That notice came in the context of changes over at GuideStar, the nonprofit that maintains a gigantic database of information about ... other nonprofits. For years, many journalists and researchers have relied on the organization when seeking to dig up data on this or that group.

As reported here -- drawing on media reports at websites for Christianity Today and The Daily Signal -- GuideStar began running a banner noting that a given faith-based group, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, had been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In that blog post, I wondered whether the story would cross over into mainstream press, and if so, "I'm hoping – and not against hope, I pray – that journalists will pause and ask some serious factual questions if and when that coverage takes place."

The Post report obliged, I'm happy to say. It also contained some good news for ADF and other groups:

Earlier this month, GuideStar, the world’s largest source for information about charities, added a new feature to its website: warning labels flagging would-be donors to nearly four dozen nonprofits accused of spreading hate.
The outcry was immediate and most vehement from conservative groups, including Christians who said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.

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