A special commission  created by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability  has called for clearer IRS guidance and greater involvement among donors to address “outliers” among congregations and other nonprofits that are not being financially accountable.
Its 91-page report was a response to a request for recommendations from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, after he concluded a three-year investigation  into alleged lavish spending by six prominent broadcast ministries in 2011.
Among the dozens of suggestions of the interfaith commission:
In an introduction to the report, commission president Michael Batts said a comparatively small number of organizations are involved in “egregious financial misconduct” and “excessive legislation” is not necessary to address them.
“We cannot allow the behavior of a few outliers in the religious and nonprofit sector to threaten the freedoms of those who are not the problem — those who are doing the good work,’’ said Batts, a former ECFA chairman, in an introduction to the report.
Grassley's three-year probe concluded that evangelists Benny Hinn of Texas and Joyce Meyer of Missouri had made "significant reforms" to their operations. Grassley's final report said Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Georgia pastors Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long, and Florida megachurch pastor Paula White had provided incomplete or no responses.
Grassley, in a statement, said the new report demonstrates the challenge of trying to prevent abuse without harming “above-board organizations.” He encouraged both donors and the IRS to heed the commission’s recommendations, but noted that Congress could extend the review if it addresses comprehensive tax reform.
“The report gives less attention to resolving some of the thornier questions, such as how to build accountability from entities that exploit vagueness in current laws and regulations for individual benefit rather than the greater good,” he said.
The commission plans to release a report in 2013 with recommendations about political expression of churches and other charities.
Adelle M. Banks writes for Religion News Service .