By Barry Bowen and Pete Evans, Trinity Foundation
Donors, where is the money going?
When a televangelist’s ministry or pastor’s church owns a private jet, you can almost be certain the leader lives in a mansion. That is one of the lessons Trinity Foundation has learned from investigating religious fraud and excess for more than 30 years.
In April 2021 the Houston Chronicle’s Jay Root asked Trinity Foundation for assistance on an article series about church parsonages in Texas. Trinity Foundation compiled a list of megachurches and large media ministries in the state and then searched for parsonages and homes of pastors and ministry leaders.
Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle examined the state tax code and filed open records requests with county appraisal districts seeking lists of parsonages.
Root’s thorough investigation uncovered startling evidence of pastors living extravagantly: “A months-long Houston Chronicle investigation of ministers’ tax-free residences found no shortage of extravagant homes in high-dollar locales. At least two dozen were worth over $1 million even using the artificially low values that exempt properties typically carry.”
If you are keeping track, that is at least 24 parsonages in Texas worth more than $1 million.
Trinity Foundation also investigated pastor and ministry housing in other states, discovering multi-million dollar homes of several televangelists and pastors who have received little media scrutiny. It’s time to present some of our findings.
Texas Church Parsonages and Pastor Owned Homes
Texas Televangelist Joel Osteen lives in the most expensive home we identified. Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, owns a home in Houston appraised for almost $12 million. Real estate website Trulia estimates the 15,700 ft. mansion to be worth more than $14 million.
In 2019, Trinity Foundation learned that Osteen purchased a home in California. After an extensive investigation, we located the home in 2021 with the help of an informant.
In 2017, Osteen acquired the home in Newport Coast, CA which Trulia estimates is worth almost $7.4 million. The home, located near the Pacific Ocean, is registered to a limited liability company registered in Delaware.
Neither of Osteen’s homes would be classified as parsonages because they are not owned by his church and are not tax-exempt. Osteen could afford them because he receives book royalties.
In 2009, World Magazine reported, “Osteen’s first book, 2005’s Your Best Life Now, has sold an estimated 10 million copies-enough to get a $13 million advance from his publisher for his second book, Become a Better You.”
Texas Televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s parsonage has probably received the most critical news coverage of all church parsonages in America. In 2020, the 18,279 ft. tax-exempt mansion was appraised at $10,825,462. A year later the appraisal dropped to $7 million.
The December Houston Chronicle series reported that Texas law restricts the parsonage tax exemption to one acre properties.
Copeland’s lakefront “one acre” parsonage sits in the midst of almost 25 acres of land while receiving a religious exemption, according to the Tarrant County Appraisal District. Adjacent to and listed at the same address as the Copeland mansion property is a 35-acre plot of land zoned for agricultural use. This property, located next to Eagle Mountain Lake, is also owned by Copeland’s church.
The 35-acre plot of agricultural land is appraised at $3,743 even though the fair market value was reportedly $1,283,364 in 2018.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the tax exemption on Copeland’s home deprives the county government of $150,000 in tax revenue, resulting in a tax burden being passed on to other taxpayers.
Nearby Colleyville, Texas is a magnet for televangelists. Its residents include Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) executives Matthew and Laurie Crouch, Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church, and Daystar Television Network co-founder Joni Lamb. Morris owns a home worth $1.7 million and Lamb’s home is worth more than $2.5 million, according to real estate website Redfin.
Texas pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Ed Young Sr. lives in a home appraised at $4.8 million. RE/MAX estimates the home to be worth almost $7 million. His son, Ed Young Jr., pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX owns a $2.8 million home in Texas. In 2021, Young Jr. sold his 2nd home, a Florida beach house for $5.5 million, according the Monroe County appraisal website.
Instead of living in parsonages, Young Sr. and Jr. live in homes they personally own. In 2005, Fellowship Church’s board of directors approved a tax-exempt $240,000 housing allowance for Young Jr. The church also provided housing allowances for 28 additional church employees.
The residence for The Potter’s House Pastor T. D. Jakes has a fair market value of $4.4 million. The home is registered to a trust which owns three homes on 23 acres of land. The three properties combined are worth almost $5.4 million.
The Tarrant County Appraisal District reported Jakes home to have a fair market value of $5,475,000 in 2011. In a hot real estate market, Jakes home has lost over $1 million in market value in one decade. It’s doubtful that appraisals of Jakes home and other televangelist residences reflect how much they are really worth.
New Light Church in Houston owns seven homes all grouped together. Together the seven residences cover 40,500 square feet of living area which are appraised for $4.9 million. The property also includes a large swimming pool and tennis court.
(Photo: DuckDuckGo satellite view of New Light Church’s seven tax-exempt homes.)
The megachurch was founded by I.V. Hilliard and is now pastored by his daughter, Dr. Irishea Hilliard.
Not Just a Texas Problem, Other States Operate in Similar Manner
Televangelists, pastors and churches in other states are also acquiring expensive residences.
While speaking at Kenneth Copeland’s 2015 Southwest Believer’s Conference, televangelist comedian Jesse Duplantis reminded the audience of God’s future judgment: “Do I have a beautiful house? … God’s gonna burn it down. He’s gonna burn it down. To build that house is $500 a square foot. It’s 40,000 square foot … Don’t get so mad at me. You figure it out.”
If that statement were correct, the 25-room parsonage would be worth $20 million!
Instead the parsonage, owned by Jesse Duplantis Ministries, is almost 35,000 square feet. As the mansion was being constructed, the St. Charles Herald Guide reported, “The home consists of 22,039 square feet of living space in addition to 12,947 square feet of accessory areas such as outdoor patios and garages.” And then there is longtime Louisiana Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart…
Decades ago, Louisiana televangelist Jimmy (“I have sinned”) and Francine Swaggart sued the Internal Revenue Service in the United States Tax Court to defend their housing allowance. In 1984, the judge ruled, “… we concluded that Congress intended to exclude from the minister’s income only that portion of his compensation paid by the church which was actually used by the minister for the purposes of renting or otherwise providing a home for himself.”
The judge also noted, “In this record, it is undisputed that none of the $500 per month rental allowance paid to petitioner by [Jimmy Swaggart Evangelistic Association] was used in any manner for the purpose of renting or providing a home.”
In 2020, Swaggart’s church Family Worship Center purchased the homes of Jimmy Swaggart and his son Donnie Swaggart. These homes are now parsonages. Jimmy’s wife also owns a home. For investigators, this raises questions. Does Jimmy live in the parsonage and his wife in a separate home or is her property an investment?
In 2016, faith healer David Turner bought Tyler Perry’s home for $17.5 million. Four years later Turner sold the mansion to TV show host Steve Harvey. In 2021, Turner purchased a Florida beach house with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico for $7.5 million. Meanwhile, current property estimates for Turner’s home range from $7.3 million to $9 million on real estate websites.
And then there is the prosperity preacher with an appropriate last name—Creflo Dollar.
In Fayette County, Creflo and Taffi Dollar’s mansion’s property market value is considered by the county appraiser to be worth $4,316,640 but assessed at $1,726,656. Trulia and Zillow both estimate the house to be worth $3,408,500.
In Fulton County, Creflo and Taffi Dollar own a condominium on an upper floor of a high-rise in downtown Atlanta valued at $433,900 by the Fulton County appraiser and at $597,400 by Realtor.com.
The Dollars also have property in New Jersey, which they purchased for $2.1 million, that may be an investment. They don’t appear to live there.
In 2001, Benny Hinn built his dream home in Dana Point, California. Years later Hinn’s attorney informed the U.S. Senate that Hinn’s “Church” chose to repurpose the parsonage so that it would be a “retreat for Pastor’s contemplation and study, Church-purposed entertaining, and for short-term overnight stays proceeding or following travel.”
It is Trinity Foundation’s position that Benny Hinn’s organization World Healing Center Church is NOT a church, but rather a media ministry which should by law be financially transparent and file a Form 990 with the IRS, disclosing Hinn’s compensation and ministry expenses to donors. In 2005, Trinity Foundation informed the IRS that Hinn’s organization had donors, not members.
In 2013, Hinn’s California home was transferred to a company that Hinn and an associate control. The ownership is hidden by a DBA/trade name. In 2020, a business filing indicated the home was Hinn’s address. Property estimates for Hinn’s California home range from $8.3 million to $9.2 million.
Benny and Suzanne Hinn also own a home in Florida which the county appraisal website reports the market value at $672,000. Trulia estimates the home’s worth at almost $1 million. Homes.com estimates the home to be worth $1.4 million.
Lesser known televangelist Ron Carpenter’s parsonage has been appraised at $7.2 million, Trulia estimates it to be worth $9.4 million. Interestingly, the house is not tax-exempt even though it is owned by Carpenter’s ministry. The ministry’s 2021-2022 property tax bill was $82,412.
Carpenter pastors Redemption Church with campuses in San Jose, California and Greenville, South Carolina.
In 2013, North Carolina TV station WCNC reported that Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick was building a $1.7 million home, bringing unwanted scrutiny to one of America’s fastest growing churches. Eight years later the property was assessed at $3,915,700. Furtick’s home is owned by a trust created by his church’s Chief Financial Officer “Chunks” James Corbett.
WCNC-TV explained, “There is one man living in the Charlotte area who runs Elevation: Chunks Corbett. If you want to understand Elevation you have to understand his role.” Corbett joins a long list of church executives giving pastors cover for extravagant financial decisions.
Church CFOs, accountants and attorneys often play a role in creating pastor compensation packages which include housing allowances.
Greg Surratt, pastor of Seacoast Church and president of the Association of Related Churches (a/k/a ARC), along with his wife own a lakefront home in South Carolina. Real estate websites estimate the home’s worth between $1.8 million and $2.5 million.
Multiple Residences, Different States
In some cases, churches and ministries are acquiring multiple homes in different states to aid in expansion efforts.
During its 48 years of operation, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) acquired homes near its studios to house TV show guests and employs of the network. The network owns ten homes in Costa Mesa, California. TBN also owns a cluster of homes—five of which are valued by real-estate estimator Zillow at over a million dollars—in Colleyville, Texas where it operated a ranch (more information below).
Network executives Matthew and Laurie Crouch travel to TBN studios in California, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas to host network programs. Under Matthew’s leadership the network has begun downsizing by selling properties such as its Holy Land Experience theme park in Florida and TV production facility in Costa Mesa.
Several megachurch and televangelist pastors lead churches in different cities, flying back and forth to preach to their congregations.
Keith Moore, pastor of Faith Life Church in Sarasota, Florida and Branson, Missouri, has a parsonage in Florida worth $4.5 million and a beach house worth almost $2.5 million, according to Redfin. Moore’s church in Branson also owns two parsonages of which one is worth more than $1 million (more about his private jets below).
In 2016, Variety reported actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s $2.5 million home “was purchased by a Seattle-based church affiliated with hipster pastor Judah Smith, who famously ministers to Justin Bieber.”
Under Smith’s leadership, The City Church in Seattle changed its name to Churchome and started a new church in Beverly Hills. Churchome has a modest parsonage in Seattle that might be available for Smith’s use when he preaches in Seattle or may house another church pastor.
Televangelist Ranches and Agricultural Land
Four years ago, TBN purchased 259 acres of land in Ridgway, Colorado for $10,935,000. The Ouray County Plaindealer reported that TBN’s Little Papoose Ranch “includes a main house and two guest houses totaling more than 18,000 square feet.”
TBN attorney John Casoria told the newspaper the Crouches were motivated by privacy. “He and his wife, Laurie, don’t intend to live at the ranch, Casoria said, and will remain Texas residents. He said the Crouch family may visit occasionally, and they travel an average of more than 25 weeks per year to locations around the world, but they like their privacy and the ranch location provides that.”
When TBN co-founder’s Paul and Jan Crouch were alive, TBN raised horses at Shiloh Ranch in Colleyville, Texas. TBN currently owns several plots of land in Colleyville with agricultural exemptions including a 16.5 acre plot of land, appraised in 2020 for $2,625,000.
Kenneth Copeland and other televangelists also use agricultural exempted properties to create a buffer near their homes.
Tax Exempt Jets
It might surprise many Christians to know that a number of televangelist jets are tax-exempt. The exceptions tend to be jets registered to companies rather than the church or ministry. Televangelist Creflo Dollar’s jets are owned by World Heir Inc. and aircraft used by I.V. Hilliard belong to Heritage Aircraft Services LLC.
In 2008, Tarrant County denied the tax exempt status of Eagle Mountain International Fellowship’s Cessna Bravo 550 jet. Pastor Kenneth Copeland, challenged the appraisal district in court and won. Copeland’s church currently owns four tax-exempt aircraft of which two are jets: a Cessna 750 and Gulfstream G-V. The Tarrant County Appraisal District has appraised these two aircraft at $8 million and $10.3 million.
TBN probably owns the largest televangelist jet, a Bombardier Global Express. The California Orange County Tax Collector appraised the jet at $17,899,900 in 2021 and TBN received a welfare exemption on the jet as seen in the photo below.
(Data: Orange County California Tax Collector)
(Photo: TBN Bombardier Global Express jet)
Word of God Fellowship, the parent organization of Daystar Television Network, owns a tax-exempt Gulfstream GV which was appraised for $4,083,000 in 2021. Daystar received critical media attention for purchasing the jet two weeks after it obtained a $3.9 million Paycheck Protection Program loan. They paid the government loan back.
(Photo: Daystar’s Gulfstream GV jet)
Inside Edition reported that Marcus Lamb, the late co-founder of Daystar, claimed “they got it for less than half the market value.” In 2020, Global Air reported, “The average asking price for a Gulfstream V is $9,046,000.” However, when Trinity Foundation investigators compared the number of aircraft hours (6,394, as of July 31, 2019) of Daystar’s GV to another GV jet for sale only one serial number different (9,646 hours in 2020) then being offered for about $8 million, we believed the value of the Daystar GV to be at least or well over the average asking price of $9 million.
The Rapides Parish Assessor’s office told Trinity Foundation that in Louisiana, jets owned by non-profits are automatically tax-exempt as long as they are registered in the name of the non-profit, rather than in another company’s name such as a shell corporation.
Therefore, jets owned by Christian Worship Center of Alexandria, Judah 1 and Jesse Duplantis Ministries are tax-exempt.
(Photo: Jesse Duplantis and wife Cathy exiting Falcon 900 jet)
Regarding the Canadair Challenger CL-600-2B16 jet owned by the Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Tulsa County appraiser’s office told Trinity Foundation investigators that aircraft are not assessed property taxes in Oklahoma. This would include the Philadelphia Church of God’s Gulfstream G450 in Oklahoma City, which is apparently not assessed property taxes as well.
Keith Moore’s Faith Life International—his mansions mentioned earlier—owns two jets: a Dassault Falcon 900 and Raytheon 390 which are possibly tax-exempt as they did not appear in searches of tax three county appraisal websites.
Donors have a responsibility to check out the churches and ministries they financially support. Churches can more effectively serve their neighbors and a hurting world if money isn’t wasted on pastors living in expensive mansions or traveling frequently in ministry-owned jets.
Notes and Disclaimer
This article will be updated with additional pastor and televangelist homes valued at over $1 million as they are identified.
Please do not use this information to harass the religious leaders with expensive homes. Doxing (the sharing of personal information such as housing addresses) is prohibited on Twitter.
Disclaimer: We mostly use appraised values from 2021 as few 2022 appraisals are available yet.
Often the housing prices have been rounded off.
Recent inflation has increased market values of many pastor homes and parsonages dramatically. Values reported are not necessarily what were paid for the homes. This article shows the accumulation of wealth and/or extravagant living of specific pastors.