Wednesday, April 02, 2014

daystar?


npr | Flip on television at any hour of the day and you'll likely see the elements of modern televangelism: a stylish set, an emotional spiritual message and a phone number on the screen soliciting donations.

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.

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.

Today, television evangelists are larger, more numerous, more complex, richer, with bigger audiences than ever before and yet they are the least transparent of all nonprofits.

The top three religious broadcasters — Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — are worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars combined, according to available records.