Minnesota Preacher Fights IRS Investigation

A Minnesota prosperity preacher is fighting an Internal Revenue Service investigation into his ministry’s finances, claiming the investigation is “politically motivated.”

The Rev. Mac Hammond is pastor of one of Minnesota’s largest churches, Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, and broadcasts his services on TV every Sunday morning. He preaches that God rewards his followers with spiritual and financial gain.

Hammond’s church declined to comply with the IRS’s demand for detailed financial information in March. The IRS investigation apparently flowed from a 2006 complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which believed the church violated its tax-exempt status by endorsing Michele Bachmann for U.S. Congress. The group also claimed the church paid Hammond twice the amount per month to rent his plane than he paid to purchase it—a deal that would violate nonprofit tax rules.

Hammond asserted in a letter to his congregants that “enemies of the gospel” are behind the IRS inquiry. He said the IRS’s actions are part of “a very clear effort, on a national scale, to discredit, defame and intimidate” prosperity gospel preachers.

The IRS sued in U.S. district court to force the congregation to comply with its inquiry, and a hearing was held on Oct. 2.

At the proceeding, Hammond argued that this case is about the separation of church and state and too much government meddling into the actions of religious organizations.

Amy Rotenberg, an attorney for Living Word, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that the church is fighting the case on behalf of all religious organizations.

“Living Word’s position is that it’s an unlawful government intrusion into the church,” Rotenberg said. “The impact on all faith communities is quite significant.”