Televangelist Kenneth Copeland, the richest pastor in America, avoids paying an annual property tax bill of $150,000 by claiming that his massive lakeside mansion is a clergy residence, which qualifies it for a complete tax break.
Copeland, 85, enjoys the spoils of his six-bed, six-bath house – with a sweeping spiral staircase, crystal chandeliers and a tennis court – without contributing a single dime to the area’s schools and first responders.
The $7 million estate, located right outside of Forth Worth, Texas, is even driving distance from an airport bearing his name, from which he commands a fleet of private jets, including a Gulfstream V he bought from filmmaker Tyler Perry, according to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle.
Copeland has previously said that God told him to build the home for his wife Gloria.
‘You may think that house is too big,’ he said at the 2015 Southwest Believers’ Convention in Fort Worth. ‘You may think it’s too grand. I don’t care what you think. I heard from heaven. Glory to God, hallelujah!’
Copeland is known for his eccentric sermons, which include speaking in tongues and claiming that COVID-19 will go away while blowing ‘the wind of God’ at the virus.
He has built a massive net worth of $760 million, according to a 2018 list of the country’s richest pastors by Beliefnet.
His three-story, 18,000 st ft home is surrounded by a 24-acre lakefront tract.
Copeland is able to avoid paying annual property taxes on it thanks to a century-old Texas law that exempts clergy homes, or parsonages, from taxes, the Houston Chronicle reports.
That means that other tax payers must pick up the debt not paid by millionaire Copeland in order to fund the costs of schools and first responders.
‘The law was never intended to give breaks to millionaires and multimillionaires,’ Trinity Foundation President Pete Evans, president of the Trinity Foundation told the Houston Chronicle.
The nonprofit is dedicated to accountability and transparency for religious organizations.
‘You make a mockery of the law itself.’
The home, built in 1999, ‘has a sweeping spiral staircase and a bridge that spans across the living room and connects the two sides of the house,’ according to a 2011 report by the US Senate Finance Committee
‘It also has crystal chandeliers and, according to Gloria Copeland, doors that came from a castle,’ along with a ‘huge drop-down ceiling projector and screen’ in the bedroom.
It boasts a tennis court, two large garages and a covered boat dock with three slips perches on the shores of Eagle Lake.
The home is technically owned by Eagle Mountain International Church, which Copeland founded in 1967.
‘It definitely looks out of place and unusual compared to other parsonages we have,’ said Jeff Law, Tarrant County’s chief appraiser. ‘But from what I can gather through the law, and my understanding, it qualifies as a parsonage just like the little house next to the church would.’
Law told the Chronicle that it will soon ask the ministry to reapply for the home’s parsonage exemption, which it first got 21 years ago.
Copeland’s church has denied any wrongdoing on its part and criticized the ‘unfounded claims’ reported in the media.
‘Eagle Mountain International Church (Kenneth Copeland Ministries) always abides by biblical guidelines. Our church also adheres to the various federal, state, county and local codes, statutes and ordinances applicable to the church ministry,’ spokesman Lawrence Swicegood told the Chronicle.
‘Our Church, with a worldwide impact, is helping proclaim and teach Christians around the world how to apply the principles of faith found in God’s word.’
Copeland appears to have used various maneuvers to extend the size of his property below what is allowed under the Texas parsonage law.
The law limits properties to one acre of land, but Copeland’s home is surrounded by a 24-acre lakefront tract valued at a measly $125,000 – which means the church only has to pay $3,000 a year in property taxes on it, according to the Chronicle.
Property experts say the waterfront property is likely worth much more in the open market.
‘Texas law states that the parsonage exemptions are limited to an acre,’ Evans said. ‘Copeland’s mansion is like a textbook example on how lawyers can get around the spirit of the law, using the letter of the law.’
Copeland has defended his extreme wealth in the past, telling an Inside Edition reporter in 2019 that he had to take private jets because flying commercial made him too angry.
The pastor was gritting his his teeth as he explained how watching marshals drag a passenger off a plane – seemingly referring to an April 2017 United incident – made him so mad.
‘Do you think that’s a good environment for a preacher to be?’ he asked.
Copeland says it riled him up so much: ‘I wanted to go punch that guy myself. I can’t be doing that when I’m getting ready to preach!’
‘I could no longer do what I was called to do when I get on the airlines and besides that I need my clothes when I get there.’
In 2018, he bought a Gulfstream V jet from Tyler Perry for an undisclosed amount, though some websites estimate that such a jet goes for about $10 million.
He asked his congregants to contribute another $17 million toward ‘the construction of a new hangar, upgrading the existing runway, and purchasing special GV maintenance equipment.’
Copeland has also battled with the Tarrant Appraisal District to keep his house valued at a lower rate than it would sell on the open market.
The Tarrant Appraisal District set the home value at $10.8 million in 2020, but the church complained and it was lowered back down to $7 million this year, according to the Chornicle.
‘It makes sense that they would want their tax appraised value to be low so their congregants don’t think they’re living too extravagantly,’ Evans said.
In total, his church has at least 1,400 acres of land, buildings and personal property valued at almost $60 million, according to a Chronicle tally of online appraisal district records show.
Aside from his purported tax-dodging, the pastor has been known to downplay the severity of COVID-19.
Last year, he told worshippers that warm winds and heat and ‘blowing the virus away’ will bring a timely end to the pandemic.
‘Wind! Almighty! Strong! South wind! Heat! Burn this thing! In the name of Jesus,’ Copeland yells into the camera.
‘Satan bow your knees. Fall on your face!’ Copland continues.
There is a moment of silence before he resumes, ‘COVID-19…’ the pastor then blows a raspberry calling it ‘the wind of God.’
‘I blow the wind of God on you! You are destroyed forever and you will never be back! Thank you! Let it happen! Cause it to happen!’ Copeland demands.
The televangelist recently claimed that the pandemic would be ‘over much sooner you think’ because ‘Christian people all over this country praying have overwhelmed it.’
Last month, the pastor ‘executed judgment’ on the virus and declared it to be ‘finished’ while demanding ‘a vaccination to come immediately.’