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No-tax ultrawealthy megachurch Rick Warren writes: the Poor pay too little in taxes!

A glimpse at Saddleback Church, an ultra-wealthy establishment situated on prime California real estate with multiple amenities and state-of-the-art technologyWhen conservative preacher Rick Warren raked in $2.4 million last December for his “Saddleback Church” (an archipelago of high-tech churches, gymnasium courts, restaurants and even a music school sitting on nine campuses of prime California real estate), the church didn’t pay a penny of tax on that income. Saddleback Church is tax-exempt despite its wealth.

Most years, about a third of Americans have an income too low to pay income tax (they do pay sales taxes, gas taxes, payroll taxes, state and local taxes, and so on…). But lately, more Americans are losing their jobs and sinking deep into poverty. When Rick Warren found out that half of Americans now are so poor that their income doesn’t meet the low minimum threshold for income tax, he vented his all-caps rage on Twitter. His rage wasn’t directed at the misfortune of poverty. No, preacher Warren directed his ire at those nervy jobless poor people who don’t pay income taxes:

Rick Warren on Taxes, the night of July 25-26 2011: HALF of America pays No taxes.  Zero.  So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay taxes.

100% of American churches pay no taxes. 100%. And Rick Warren’s church is the 8th largest church in America.

Within a few hours, someone pointed out to Warren that with his church’s untaxed millions and all, dumping on poor Americans might not look so good, and he deleted his tweet. But thanks to Karoli‘s screen capture, the expression is recorded. Another legacy by which Rick Warren’s sentiment lives on: retweets of the expression over and over again by his followers.

40 thoughts on “No-tax ultrawealthy megachurch Rick Warren writes: the Poor pay too little in taxes!”

  1. Swampfox says:

    That’s right. Half of us do not pay income taxes… because we do not have enough income to be able to pay taxes. The median income in the US is $50,000. That means that half of the population makes less than $50K. The rest of the population makes more than $50K all the way up to multiple millions. How much more do you want to squeeze out of the lower income families?

    1. pat says:

      And some people are earning less then $15 hr.!!!!!! The same people who probably purchase this junk book instead of a BIBLE.

  2. Ralph says:

    Finally we are getting to the heart of the issue. Conservatives have invented a novel solution to the debt problem: tax the poor!

    But wait, maybe that is not so novel at all. In Russia before 1917, the peasants, known as serfs, had to work the land and send a substantial portion of the income to the owner of the estate on which they lived. The serfs were literally treated as property. Landowners would measure their wealth in the number of serfs they owned.

    Maybe Rick Warren is onto something. Our lower-grade citizens — the bottom half — should be appropriately punished for their nonpayment of taxes in the past by being converted into serfs. Think how much time and trouble that would save the rest of us. No more fretting over work to be done and taxes to be paid. Those clever serfs would simply pay our taxes for us by working every day of their lives until they drop dead.

    Now THAT is Republicanism!

    1. Joe says:

      Ralph, you’re wrong. The real heart of the issue is Rick Warren, like so many of his mega-church preacher counterparts, is a greedy S.O.B. and he just let it slip out. That’s it, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with politics.

      1. Keith says:

        Due to the success of his book sales, in 2005 Warren returned his 25 years of salary to the church and discontinued taking a salary. He says he and his wife became “reverse tithers”, giving away 90% of their income and living off 10%. Not such a greedy man after all. All the gifts given to a church are taxed. The money I give to charity has taxes paid my me before I give. Why should it be double taxed?

        1. pat says:

          Don;t be deceived. The fact that he gives it back to the church is simply investing in his own business. He is the CEO of the church!!! What is more, his giving back to the church is tax deductible! In addition he plans to expand his influence globally through satalites, that means more book sales, tape sales and more money. He is flowing in money while many are struggling on pennies. ITS CALLED GREED AND MANIPULATION. Wake up!

        2. pat says:

          Who told you that lie.?

      2. pat says:

        TELL IT JOE! GREED. Manipulation and stoking the people. They are master manipulations. that work on the emotions gullible people. Its amazing how when they earn this massive amount of money they become God himself and DARE TO PUT THEIR MOUTHS ON PEOPLE . Who does Rick Warren think he is now GOD ? How dare he open his greedy mouth to say that people are not paying enough taxes while he gets a free ride on $25 million dollars. What a Fake. But people are stupid, they will go back to the same church and give their hard earned money while ignoring the needs of their neighbor.

    2. Zelda says:

      Try Jesus in your life. You may be surprised that you will give more to those less fortunate. Keeping and holding down the poor with welfare instead of creating honest work for their self esteem . God bless and reveal truth to you.

    3. TB says:

      The difference between 1917 & 2016 is that there was a work ethic to stay alive in 1917, protect your family….now…every family member needs an i-phone or we are poverty stricken, we are all victims & need to be looked after by Gov. Both/all political parties have a corruptness to them & are competing for our votes by promising freebies that we line up for……check out what has taken out dynasties from the beginning of time. Unfortunately, NOW, we have the technology to dumb us down quicker. Throw in the “fast food”, a large % of of our poor health is due to this quick thinking, Wall Street ownership of Gov…yes, both parties if we “Open our eyes, do a bit of research before we vote”……unfortunately…no one there. Take care of yourself & your family, NO one in Gov “feels your pain”…this is a CROCK that is thrown at us daily through the Media as these people look into our eyes, through our flat screen TV’s & convince us that…”They feel our pain”…I am disgusted with how stupid we have become. Wish we could just start over, forget Race, get some pride back, have a hard working Mother that can balance a check book put forward a budget that would revive this once great country, a Father/Mother that protects their family with their life & protect or country with the same ferocity. All is not lost..just sad to think hard working folks “think” we have an elected “savior” that will “fix everything”…we are so stupid…GO Hillary….GO Donald…WTF!!!

  3. Albert says:

    While it is true that Saddleback “wealthy” in monetary terms, that does not accurately represent it as an institution. What do they do with that wealth? They provide many services to the local community as well as international relief work. Warren himself gives 90% of the profits made by his books towards the work of the church and other charities. I would suspect that on a per capita basis, Saddleback provides more services for less cost than the federal government.

    1. Warren says:

      I wonder how much the church gives back to him as salary and perks?

      1. Shirlee Smith says:

        Rick does not recieve a salary. He donates over 91% of all his earnings back to the needs of others. If you knew of what you speak and didn’t take him out of context you would see why the Lord has blessed him and his ministry. Sit under him one sunday morning and tell me you know of a more Christ-like pastor alive!

        1. Jim Cook says:

          Shirlee, the day I sit under Rick Warren is the day I get a face transplant.

          If being rich (and apart from his church’s wealth, Rick Warren is rich individually) and telling the poor they oughta pay more in taxes is Christ-like, then I’m the friggin’ Buddha.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Actually, the principle behind working together through the government to provide services is that the actual cost to society is driven down. All of the data I’ve found bears this out in reality. On the flip-side, the real costs associated with tax incentives and profit mongering in the private sector makes price parity with the public sector unattainable.

    3. Chris says:

      How much of that motivation to “donate” 90% of his books sales to his church and charities is motivated on two fronts, fund raising PR and tax liabilities… More people give when they see him giving… the more they give the higher the church is able to provide for Warren… see 2 fold…

      With some great accounting and tax knowledge, he could use the 90% donation to offset any tax liability he has this year, while utilizing his churches and charities tax exempt status to then “launder” that money back into his own pocket thru his church salary, and other benefits that the church provides for him such as food, lodging, travel, residence, transportation, etc… So the best part, the church uses last years 90% donation to provide him all of these things, while he uses this years 90% donation to offset the taxes…

      Is it all an absurd idea, probably.
      Do I think he shelters his money and greatly reduces his tax liability every year because of his 90% of book royalties donation? ABSOLUTELY…
      I would venture a guess that if Warren actually released his income tax statement, his tweet about 50% taxes would look not only incredibly non-christian, but really hypocritical…

  4. Albert says:

    I am sure that he reduces his tax burden through the church. Many people do, but on a smaller scale. As for the costs of services and incentives post, I feel that the data cited may not account for the effects that politicians have upon the costs of providing services (i.e, using Social Security as a credit card), which inherently drives the cost of services upward. Perhaps Rev. Warren does use his example to bring more donations to the organization, but is that not a positive thing? He is leading by example, and the organization does provide many with services and aid. As far as I know, decisions about the perks he receives are left to the church board. More fundamentally, while he may personally be very wealthy, he is not like a “fat cat” CEO. Rather, he apparently lives a modest lifestyle. There are not many wealthy individuals who give 90% of their income to anything. Even if he does maintain a large sum of wealth by our standards, I am glad that he is at least doing that much.

  5. JohnB says:

    For anyone stuck on the idea that Rick Warren gives back 90% of his pay to the church. Keep in mind, the church pays for most of his expenses. His home, all the up keep and anything in the home, his traveling, meals, cars, insurance, medical…­all paid for by the church. If you’re employer gave you that kind of deal, would you be hurt giving back 90% of your pay?

    1. mel says:

      He gives 90% of his royalties and he works for free. He drives the same truck he has always driven and lives in the same house.

      1. TB says:

        he could give 99.9% & still be ok….He will be judged as we all will.
        No one is perfect but HE of all people should know better……just sayin
        he’s good, as in convincing the easily influenced…..do some research folks…God Bless

      2. pat says:

        Right. It pays to stay in your jeans and drive an old ragged truck while you sleep on $25 million dollars. if you had that much money you could ride a scooter if you so choose. Wake up! to the sheer manipulation and greed.

  6. Brian says:

    “They provide many services to the local community as well as international relief work.”

    Like what services and relief work? I suspect sermons and church buildings, but if they are real services and relief work, please tell us about them.

    1. Leo B says:

      I agree. What services? My suspicion is a lot of it goes to promoting the ignorance…which, I believe, people like Warren call “faith.”

      Likewise, I do not consider these “services” to be valuable to humanity. They are, however, valuable to the church, as they keep people locked into ideological servitude. And in that servitude, they tithe to the church. Thus, these “services” actually benefit the church the most. And then, eventually, the money ends back up in Warren’s pocket.

      Sort of like how I donate money to Goodwill. My wife works at Goodwill, so I chance to get a bit of a return on that investment. Except Warren’s return is likely a much higher percentage and the services Goodwill provides are probably more valuable to society.

  7. JeffD says:

    Anything other than a flat tax for all with no loopholes is redistribution of wealth and I personally think the gov should stay out of it 100%.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      So the redistribution of wealth should be privatized, then?

  8. JeffD says:

    No, it should be 100% personal.

    1. Anonymous says:

      How can it be personal ? Who are you going to pay it to ? How can the government not be involved with taxes ?

  9. Robert Carnegie says:

    Late contribution: an assessed contribution from your annual income isn’t the only tax that you pay, is it? There’s taxes on a bunch of stuff. Property. Gasoline. Food.

    As for wealth distribution and redistribution, the government prints your banknotes, so they’re in it from the beginning. Well, maybe they privatized the actual printing.

    1. Ray Moser says:

      Stand up straight, mega-buck Rick! Keep those ( tithes) pledgesrolling in from rich folk deductions. Heke you don’t discriminate. You’ll take that !0% from the poor and the rich. What a scam.

  10. mel says:

    Rick Warren gives 90% of his income away and he works for his church for free. A church that just donated over 50,000 community service hours. That isn’t even talking about the help they provide in foreign countries. A church that didn’t even build a permanent building until it had 10,000 people attending. So throw stones but he is right to point out the hypocrisy of people yelling about the rich when they aren’t carrying their fair share. I don’t pay taxes because I don’t make enough but I have a home, a computer, a cell phone. As do most people in this country. It just gets so old hearing people whine about someone else having more instead of counting their blessings. If they got more, they would just buy themselves more stuff. They/you wouldn’t share it.
    I’m sure this won’t make it on.

  11. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    How much a person is taxed has nothing to do with income itself, but rather how many deductions a person qualifies for. Rather than saying half that pay no taxes are too poor to do so because there is no clear cut income level where one starts becoming liable to taxation. There are way too many variable to predict if someone is subject to taxation and if so how much, based solely on gross income. The American tax code is the world’s most complex. It is a door stopper of omnibus volumes that could together for a literal door if one wanted to. There is no clear cut definition of poverty in the tax code, in fact there is no mechanism to define poverty at all in the tax code.

  12. VAGreen says:

    The right loves playing telephone with this:

    Conservative #1: Did you hear that 47% of Americans pay NO federal income tax?
    Conservative #2: Did you hear that 47% of Americans pay NO federal taxes?
    Conservative #3: Did you hear that 47% of Americans pay NO taxes?
    Conservative #4: Did you hear that over 50% of Americans are ON WELFARE? How outrageous!

  13. Ed Waldron says:

    This article is completely off base about what the tax-exempt reasoning for a church and why the court system has continually supported it. It is because of its ability to support society in ways that government cannot effectively intervene and the churches work in a massive number of charities that is removed would hurt our nation. To attack Rick Warren as a rich 1%er is unjust character assassination without fact:
    1. Rick does not receive any pay from his church and pays taxes. His staff will not become rich on their incomes either.
    2. Most of the funds in his Church either go into facilities or to help people. There is very little personal profit.
    3. Rick’s church does more to help people out of problems, people with AIDS, the hungry than the government on a per dollar basis.
    If Saddleback Community Church was taxed as a business corporation a lot of people would be hurt, not just church members.

    1. Matt says:

      I guess 25 million isn’t much profit for a preacher these days? He is the 3rd richest pastor in the world. Only Benny hinn and joel osteen have a higher net worth. If he had kept all his earnings he would be have more money than Benny and joel combined.

  14. Matt says:

    Rick warren may give away 90% of his income to charity but still has a
    $25 million net worth. Not to mention he makes 100% of his money off of the Christian religion. Jesus would be sick that there are people like warren who use his name for personal wealth. Plus what are the charities that he gives to? If it goes back to mega churches then all that “charity” is worth absolutely nothing.

    1. Zeke says:

      Ignoring his income…..The government is very wasteful in helping people. I researched it years ago. Only about 33% of the money for the poor actually gets to the people that need it. Meaning if we give $1 billion in different aid to people the government would have to take $3 billion just to give away that much. Why don’t the liberals scream about the extreme waste in government?

      1. J Clifford says:

        Could you give us a specific source for this statistic, Zeke, other than “I researched it years ago?”

  15. Wayne says:

    I have watched this give and take for years and am appalled, saddened, and ironically humored that we continually lose sight of the simple truths. Mankind is corrupt and deepens its’ corruption daily by continually weaving evermore sophisticated arguments and behaviors to obfuscate matters and indulge our own vanities and misshapen beliefs. Far too many humans have lost their way in the trappings of this so-called “modern” world, and that includes the delusional and arrogant mega-ministers, politicians, and all others who have come eagerly to idolatry. We worship the world, ourselves, our self-centered opinions, influence, money, and power. It’s all there, and this growing thread has been readily revealed throughout time everlasting. A long overdue renewal of a pure and humble faith in The Word is the only way any of us will find at least a shred of peace of mind while on this earth doing the best we can until we are delivered to a better place. It is what Christ expects of us, a pure and simple life in his service. There are far too many preachers in the “Christian” industry instead of the ministry. The only thing worse is the condemnation from cynical “others” who can’t tell the difference.

  16. Barry Ison says:

    I do appreciate the last comment by Wayne. My parents were missionaries, who, at the end of their service of 22 years, went home with about 50 pounds in the bank (that was a while ago). I have seen how God has blessed them over the subsequent many years with great places to live and a life style that was modest but very comfortable. Throughout their lives they continued to serve and honor God. My father lived until he was 97 and until his dying day, he was acknowledged as being a man who had given his life for ‘the Lord’ and his example made a significant impression on all who knew him. I am grateful to have had a father like this and have tried to pattern my life on his example – though often coming short (understanding that, of course, the ultimate lifestyle has been of Jesus’ life). I am about to retire with very little in the bank, but know that my God will provide. One thing I have learned through my journey with God and His Son Jesus, is that what other Christians do and don’t do is none of my business in terms of judging their spirituality or how they live their lives in Jesus’ name. One of the clearest messages I have heard and is sealed in my brain – is ‘judge not that you be not judged’. Who are we to question how God blesses others? At the end of the day Ric Warren is accountable to God and will be judged according to the criteria that God dictates – and we are not the ones to understand that. How many parables and teachings of Jesus have supported this. My responsibility is to look after my spirituality, my guidance and the life that God has planned for me. I am not in a position to ever throw stones at others, particularly those who are serving God.

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