Financial crime is a growing problem for places of worship
“No one would think a priest would embezzle funds, and no one would think a church worker would, so they don’t‘t implement the types of internal controls common in the business world,” Charles Zech, professor of economics and expert in church management, The Milwaukee Sentinel in 2007, after the local Catholic diocese decided to require new audits of its parish. Clergy and administrators who balk at requests for information tend to have a personal motivation to do so—and as long as there is no government oversight, they can easily provide falsified reports if pressured by the faithful. Often the power structures within places of worship and the nature of religious authorities that demand complete submission or loyalty can prevent parishioners from seeking transparency.
In extreme cases, financial secrecy in places of worship can even become a security risk: IIt is precisely this lack of transparency that at Goldstein‘the Poway Synagogue. Although the synagogue received $150,000 from the government because it “thought he risked an anti-Semitic attack on his followers,” according to one of the faithfulsubsequent prosecutions—court documents show that on the day of the attack, the building‘The doors were unlocked and no guards, gates or other security measures were in place. Instead of providing a necessary guard at the front of the synagogue, the funds would have been diverted elsewhere; the plaintiffs argue that this error may have cost the life of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the shooting.
It’s not that‘it must be like that. The financial opacity of religious institutions shouldn’t just be of concern to anti-corruption warriors or secular Americans who relish the opportunity to portray religious leaders as greedy villains. The call to accountability should come not from liberal social justice warriors, but from the pious, those who care most about trust, honesty, and America.‘s empty the benches. Because this lack of public oversight may completely damage the reputation of the faith, threatening the future of organized worship.
Recent studies show that not only the United States —but that the seriously, perhaps valuing transparency more than their elders. Consider the correlation between the two. Over the years, I have heard countless times members of various communities express doubts about the institutions‘ governance. “I do not have any‘I don’t wanna give them another dollar,” they whispered to me after discovering a red flag. And when the faithful discover something egregious, they begin to question the religion itself: how can this person preach morality when they represent the opposite? How am I supposed to find this inspirational person when he is secretly using church coffers to get rich illegally? These cases can cause lifelong damage to worshipers‘ faith and prevent them from building meaningful lives in spiritual communities.