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Meyer received millions, records show

TV evangelist Joyce Meyer and her family have received millions in salary and
benefits from her worldwide ministry in recent years, according to newly
released records.

The documents, obtained by the Post-Dispatch under Missouri's Open Records
laws, provide the first public look at how the worldwide broadcasting and
publishing empire has compensated Meyer and her family.

They paint a picture of a minister and her family who have reaped large
financial rewards from the ministry they created and control. Over 20 years,
Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton has grown to a $90 million-a-year empire with
TV and radio programs that reach millions of people in about 70 countries.

Among the details included in the financial statements, board minutes and other
documents Meyer provided to the assessor of Jefferson County in a dispute over
the tax-exempt status of its headquarters property:

The ministry's board of trustees, which is headed by Joyce Meyer, agreed to pay
her a $900,000 annual salary in 2002 and 2003.

The board agreed to give her husband, Dave Meyer, the board's vice president,
an annual salary of $450,000 in each of those same two years.

The board agreed to provide the couple with free personal use of a corporate
jet and luxury cars, a $2 million home where all bills are paid by the ministry
and a separate $50,000-a-year housing allowance.

The ministry paid $1.475 million to buy three houses for the three Meyer

The board authorized Joyce and Dave Meyer to control a $790,000 fund to be used
at their discretion for bonuses to "executive management."

The job duties of seven employees of the ministry include sorting gifts
"personally received" for Joyce and David Meyer, including cash and jewelry.

Meyer, a former bookkeeper who has built one of the world's largest television
ministries, has faced criticism from watchdog groups and the Jefferson County
assessor in recent years.

Federal law bars founders of tax-exempt religious organizations from reaping
huge personal benefits from their ministries. Salaries of religious leaders
must be reasonable, meaning they must fall in line with those of other
religious leaders in the area, according to the law.

Joyce and Dave Meyer declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this
article. Ministry spokesman Mark Sutherland scheduled a news conference at the
Fenton headquarters Friday after the Post-Dispatch posed questions regarding
the Meyer family members' salaries and perks. He said Meyer was holding a
three-day religious event in Hershey, Pa.

Sutherland noted that Meyer has never denied getting a hefty salary.

"We believe that the Bible teaches that if you give, you will be blessed,"
Sutherland said. "She's been saying it from the stage for years."

Sutherland said a Post-Dispatch investigation in late 2003 that raised
questions about the ministry's spending prompted Meyer to take a reduced annual
salary beginning last year. He said she currently receives $250,000 in taxable

The ministry still provides the Meyers with free use of the home, the cars, the
plane and an $80,000 annual retirement contribution, he said.

Meyer also receives a portion of the $3 million a year in royalties earned from
books and tapes sold at bookstores, Sutherland said. He declined to provide a
specific figure. Previously, that money had gone to the ministry, he said.

Sutherland said that Meyer provided more in royalties to the ministry over the
years than she and her husband had received in salaries and benefits. Meyer has
70 books in print, including one on the New York Times bestseller list.

Critics say that Meyer should not personally be receiving royalties because
workers paid by the ministry help to produce the books and tapes.

Setting salaries, perks

Copies of minutes from ministry board meetings in 2001 and 2002 indicate that
Joyce and Dave Meyer participated in board meetings where their salaries and
perks were approved. Minutes also show that three of the children, who are also
board members, sat in on votes when the board approved the purchase of homes
for them.

Sutherland said Friday that neither Joyce Meyer nor her husband nor the
children ever voted as board members at those meetings. He said such votes are
barred by a 1996 federal law.

The minutes prepared by the board's secretary describe the family members as
attending and that the votes were unanimous. They do not reflect that anyone
abstained from a vote.

Sutherland said Friday that he could not explain the apparent discrepancy.

In recent years, the ministry's board has ranged in size from eight to 11
members - Joyce and Dave Meyer, two or three of their children, personal
friends and pastors.

Sutherland said that an "independent compensation board" within that group sets
the Meyers' salaries. No family members are part of the compensation committee,
he said.

The full board meets once a year to act on the committee's salary
recommendations, he said. "Dave and Joyce are not even in the board meeting
when their salary is voted on," Sutherland said.

All four of Joyce and Dave Meyer's children have been paid salaries by the
ministry as have their spouses.

According to tax records for 2003, the ministry paid one son, David Meyer,
$101,076; another son, Daniel Meyer, $49,453 and daughter Laura Holtzmann, who
works part time, $14,250. In 2001, another daughter, Sandra McCollom, was paid

The ministry also paid son David Meyer a $10,000-a-year housing allowance in
2002 and 2003, even though he lived in the ministry home free of charge,
records show.

Sutherland on Friday declined to provide the current salaries of the Meyer

The Post-Dispatch reported last month that the ministry has put up for sale the
homes lived in by daughter McCollom and her family and by David Meyer and his
family. McCollum's is selling for $1.3 million and David Meyer's for $1.25
million. Both adjoin the property where Joyce Meyer lives near Interstate 270
and Gravois Road in south St. Louis County.

Fighting over taxes

Joyce Meyer Ministries has been battling Jefferson County Assessor Randy
Holman for several years to keep its $30 million headquarters and its contents
off the tax rolls.

Holman has maintained that the ministry's property does not qualify to be tax

Under the law, a religious organization can be tax exempt only if its property
is used for the public good and only if public church services are held
regularly at the site, Holman said. Meyer's headquarters has no public
services; its chapel is used only by the 600 employees who produce and sell
tapes and books, broadcast Meyer's television program and collect money for the

Holman contends that the ministry is a business - the business of selling Joyce

The ministry's headquarters is on Highway 30 near Fenton. If the headquarters
were removed from the tax rolls, local governments, schools and other agencies
would lose $761,741 this year alone. The ministry says it has separately
donated additional money to schools and other agencies.

Joyce Meyer Ministries has paid its taxes under protest and is appealing
Jefferson County's actions. The Missouri Tax Commission is expected to hold a
hearing in the coming months.

The ministry's appeal meant it had to provide the assessor with otherwise
private records - minutes of board meetings, income statements, organizational
charts and employee job descriptions. Once the assessor had them, they became
public under Missouri law.

Holman argues that the Meyer family is personally profiting from the ministry.
The law states that exempt religious property "cannot be held for private or
corporate profit," he said.

Bolstering his case, Holman said, is Joyce Meyer's decision last year to begin
getting royalties from the sales of her books and tapes produced by the

Holman says that because Meyer's employees help to write, proofread, edit,
record, advertise and distribute the books, tapes and television program, and
because Meyer is now taking the royalties from their sales, the law bars the
ministry from being tax exempt.

At least 37 workers at the ministry have job duties that include writing or
editing, job descriptions produced by the ministry show. Nearly 90 workers
reproduce and distribute Meyer's products.

"She's using the ministry for her own private gain," Holman said. "That's the
position we're taking."

Records filed with the assessor also show that collecting money and gifts is a
major part of the work at the headquarters. Dozens of workers count the money
streaming in each day. And seven ministry workers spend at least part of their
time keeping track of the personal gifts that go through the ministry to Joyce
and Dave Meyer, according to their job descriptions.

On Friday, Sutherland denied that Meyer accepts any gifts without having them
independently appraised and paying the ministry for them.

Sutherland also disputed Holman's stance on the ministry's tax status.

"We feel that since the federal and state governments have told us that we're
tax-exempt that the local government should honor that," he said. "No one
should pay taxes they are not required to pay."

A watchdog group called WallWatchers previously has asked the Internal Revenue
Service to investigate the Meyer family's use of ministry money. IRS officials
have declined to say whether they are doing so.

Sutherland said Friday that the ministry has "not been contacted by the IRS,
nor do we feel there is a reason for them to contact us."

Reporter Carolyn Tuft
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 314-340-8105


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