British comedian John Oliver recently created a mock church to satirize how easy it is to create a tax-exempt entity, and reports that the institution he created has received actual donations.
Oliver, who is well-known in the U.S. as the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, aired an episode of the show in which he takes a look at televangelists who capitalize on their ministries’ tax-exempt status and the naivete of many of their viewers to become rich.
Oliver played video clips of Gloria and Kenneth Copeland, Mike Murdock, Robert Tilton, and a number of others, showing that the televangelists encourage their viewers to sow a “seed”--a monetary donation--in order to reap a “harvest” of spiritual blessings, healing, or financial security.
Oliver even called the televangelist’s bluff by pretending to be an interested viewer and contributor to Robert Tilton’s church, and received various tokens back, along with requests for more money.
To prove just how easy it is to start a religious organization that is considered tax-exempt by the IRS, Oliver received help from a tax lawyer to start his own mock church called “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.”
Oliver issued a request for “seeds,” and says he has been receiving a variety of donations from viewers, including actual seeds, beef jerky, foreign currency, and actual U.S. money, according to The Daily Beast.
“The more money you send in, the more blessings will be returned to you. And that is still something I’m, amazingly, legally allowed to say,” Oliver quipped.
By starting “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption”, Oliver also wanted to alert viewers to the fact that the IRS has only audited three churches in the past couple years, and thus it is easy for prosperity gospel televangelists to maintain their deception while becoming wealthier.
Photo courtesy: blog.wikimedia.org
Publication date: August 25, 2015