Famed televangelist Kenneth Copeland, the richest pastor in the United States, avoided paying more than $150,000 in annual taxes on his $7 million Texas mansion that he said God told him to build for his wife Gloria, according to The Chronicle.
Copeland, who founded Eagle Mountain International Church and is worth $750 million and owns multiple properties and several private jets, built a six-bedroom, $7 million mansion near Fort Worth. But he was able to avoid paying taxes on his lavish mansion because under Texas law, pastors’ homes, known as parsonages, can get a 100% exemption from property taxes, the Chronicle said.
While the law was likely never intended to cover super-rich religious figures like him, local authorities said Copeland is within his rights to claim the house as a parsonage.
“It definitely looks out of place and unusual compared to other parsonages we have,” Jeff Law, Tarrant County’s chief appraiser, told the Chronicle, according to Business Insider.
“The law was never intended to give breaks to millionaires and multimillionaires,” Pete Evans, president of the Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit focused on transparency in religious organizations, told the Chronicle, adding that Copeland “it makes a mockery of the law itself.”
In a 2015 sermon, Copeland said God told him to build the 18,000-square-foot house for his wife, Gloria, the Chronicle reported. “It is part of your prosperity,” he said God told him.
As noted by Business Insider, “to qualify for the exemption, parsonages can be only 1 acre — which this one technically is.
Copeland’s property exists on its own plot that fulfills the 1-acre limit, but Copeland purchased 24 acres more of lakefront tract surrounding the property, the Chronicle reported.