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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.

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

  • Swampfox

    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?

  • Ralph

    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!

    • Joe

      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.

      • Keith

        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?

  • Albert

    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.

    • Warren

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

    • Anonymous

      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.

    • Chris

      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…

  • Albert

    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.

  • JohnB

    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?

  • Brian

    “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.

    • Leo B

      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.

  • JeffD

    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%.

  • JeffD

    No, it should be 100% personal.

  • Robert Carnegie

    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.

    • Ray Moser

      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.

  • mel

    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.

  • Stephen Kent Gray

    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.

  • VAGreen

    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!

  • Ed Waldron

    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.

    • Matt

      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.

  • Matt

    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.

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