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Joel Osteen church theft sparks online debate of tax exemption for churches

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The recent theft at Joel Osteen’s church has snowballed into a huge online debate about the money that this megachurch rakes in. It has also added more fuel to the fire that the tax exempt status for churches should be abolished.

While the theft of Osteen’s church money is a crime that is still unsolved, the church has offered a reward of $25,000 leading to any clues provided in this mystery today. Law enforcement isn’t any closer to solving this crime that netted the thief $600,000, according to the Christian Post on March 24.

While Osteen’s church being burglarized was a headline story, it was the amount of money that was taken from the church that took on a storyline all of its own. This opened a heated online debate with two distinct sides forming on the subject of this megachurch and the money it rakes in.

The thief or thieves got away with the proceeds of a weekend’s worth of donations from people who actually attended the church. The megachurch boasts a congregation of 45,000 followers who are “heartbroken” that funds were stolen from the church.

The $600,000 take included cash, checks and envelopes that contained written credit card information. This was collected from people who attended the church in person on Saturday March 8 and Sunday March 9. This $600,000 doesn’t include any of the money that was donated online or through the mail to this church for those two days.

When reporting the theft something else occurred. Instead of hearing a good chunk of money was stolen from Osteen’s church people saw $600,000 collected over the course of two days as an astronomical amount of money. All over the nation calculators came out to find the estimated numbers of what a year’s worth of weekends would net this church in money.

The very loose figure came out to be $32 million, just from the collection inside the church alone. This didn’t include the television proceeds, online donations, mailed-in donations, sales of books and earnings from Osteen’s tours. While Osteen is one of the more respected megachurch preachers, people still couldn’t wrap their heads around that amount of money being collected by the church.

This caused a heated debate online with two completely polarized camps on this subject. People took the stand that this megachurch costs big bucks to run and that it offers help to thousands of people each year.

Others took the stand that this is what the megachurches are all about, making money. These folks suggested that the money is for the elite few and not the congregation. This is one of the bigger complaints heard by the folks commenting on a previous article:

Joel Osteen's church theft opens can of worms: Jaws drop as folks do the math

Many people brought up the controversial subject of churches being tax exempt. The argument to take this status away from all churches was strong and made by many who commented on the large sum of money taken in the church theft. In all fairness, Osteen’s church is only one out of many churches from many religions to rake in huge sums of money. It could have been any megachurch reporting a theft that would have started this debate.

Osteen’s net worth is reported at $40 million dollars. He gave up his $200,000 a year salary from the church, as it was a small amount of money in comparison to what his position has allowed him to make. This was just a pittance in comparison of his growing wealth from his books and his sold-out tours, which generated about $55 million.

Osteen is credited for once saying that an individual should not feel guilty for accumulating material wealth, instead he needs to thank and praise God for the acquired, according to Celebrity Networth.

One might say that a more appropriate ending to not feeling guilty about wealth would be to go out and share it with those less fortunate. Are the church and Osteen two separate entities when it comes to finances?

As far as the tax exempt status for the churches in the U.S., maybe it is time for that archaic rule to be pulled. The tax exempt rule came along with separation of church and state. Tax exempt usually goes to non-profit organizations that need to jump through many more hoops than a church does for this status.

Would you describe Osteen's church as non-profit? Would you describe the Catholic Church as non-profit with their prime real estate holdings around the world? According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the "IRS favoritism to churches goes unaddressed and it leads to power abuse," but every time this has been challenged in the past, it is found as "constitutional." They also say that in any given city, one quarter to one half of the property is tax exempt, mostly from churches and schools.

In the above video, Joel Osteen addresses his critics who believe the church is all about money.

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