South Carolina Moves To Tax Profitable TV Ministry

A wealthy Christian television network in South Carolina has lost its tax-exempt status and may begin paying $800,000 in property taxes this October, in the wake of an investigation by local news media. 

 

The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina and television station WCNC examined the finances of the Inspiration Network, a 24-hour-a-day network that preaches the “prosperity gospel.” The Lancaster, S.C.-based ministry, which reaches more than 54 million U.S. households via cable and satellite, promises that if viewers choose to “obey the Holy Spirit” and donate to the network, they’ll soon “drive a Mercedes,” “be debt free” or even find gold on their land.

 

The Observer reported that the network took in nearly $80 million in 2008. The ministry’s 93-acre headquarters, called City of Light, was paid for with millions of dollars in donations, as well as with a $1.2 million economic-development grant from the state of South Carolina for road, water and sewer construction.

 

David Cerullo, CEO of the network, took home $1.5 million in pay in 2007 and his wife was paid $150,000. He owns two homes worth a total of $4.7 million, and the couple’s children are also on the ministry’s payroll.

 

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Revenue ruled that the ministry will no longer receive a property-tax exemption but did not say why. Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said taxes the state receives from the Inspiration Network will mostly benefit local public schools. 

 

Ministry officials have vowed to appeal the denial of tax exemption.