It’s hard to miss the new two-story, 25-room house on the corner of River Road and Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan. But most people who drive by it don’t realize that they are helping to pay for it.
The house, which will serve as a church rectory, is the largest single-family home in the parish, according to the parish’s planning and zoning department, and it belongs to Jesse Duplantis Ministries, a religious entity headed by evangelical Christian minister Jesse Duplantis.
The first floor of the rectory has two bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a breakfast room and a parlor. The second floor has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two half bathrooms, a fun room and a theater.
Since the tax-exempt ministry owns the house, Duplantis will not have to pay the over $33,000 a year in taxes that the homeowner of a $3 million house would normally have to pay, according to Parish Assessor Clyde “Rock” Gisclair. The money donated to build the house will not be taxed either.
The Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog organization, has been monitoring Duplantis for over 10 years.
Trinity Foundation President Ole Anthony said that members of Duplantis’ congregation are not the only ones paying for the house.
According to Anthony, every person in St. Charles Parish is helping to pay for Duplantis’ extravagant lifestyle.
Assessor Gisclair said that whereas most homeowners qualify for a tax exemption, Duplantis will qualify for far more exemptions and will not be paying taxes at all. Therefore tax payers will be footing the bill.
“When somebody’s exempt, somebody has to pay the bill,” Gisclair said. He said that instances like this can cause the area’s millage, or property tax, to go up.
Anthony said that the Trinity Foundation’s main investigation into Duplantis has been going on for the past five years.
“We’ve been furnishing information (about Jesse Duplantis Ministries) to the Senate Finance Committee on two issues of the tax code,” Anthony said.
Anthony said that the foundation has been investigating Duplantis on issues of conversion, when donor funds are used to benefit for-profit entities, and inurement, or excessive compensation and lifestyle.
Legally, the ministry’s revenues should only be used to fund what they are getting their tax exempt status for, not for personal use by Duplantis.
“If the IRS finds that he in fact is abusing the tax code with regard to those two issues (conversion and inurement), then they could conceivably revoke his ability to give tax receipts for donations – he could lose his tax exempt status,” Anthony said.
Besides the almost 35,000-square-foot house, Jesse Duplantis Ministries also owns a private plane. Fox 8 News in New Orleans got a copy of the flight records and said that Duplantis has taken nearly 2,500 trips on the plane since buying it in 2000. The trips include two recent flights to Hawaii and 11 visits to Las Vegas.
“If a CEO of whatever needs a plane that is fine,” Duplantis said in a TV interview. “So if a CEO of a ministry needs to preach the gospel and get back to his church, that’s ok with me.”
Duplantis’ congregation does not have a problem with his lifestyle or large purchases, but Anthony said that other parish residents should.
“If I were in your parish, I would rise up and say I didn’t want to buy that 32,000-square-foot house for him and I don’t want to buy that airplane for him,” Anthony said.
The Trinity Foundation began in 1972 as a religious, charitable and educational non-profit foundation for promoting the public interest in the State of Texas by producing Christ-centered communications projects.
The foundation began by taking in the homeless, but the woes of the homeless led to a new mission for the foundation.
“Some of these homeless had given their last dollar to people like Jesse (Duplantis)…and nobody would do anything about it and that’s why we started these investigations,” Anthony said. “We’ve been doing proactive investigations since 1988 and it was based on these people who give their last dollar to people like Jesse on the promise that they were going to get a 100-fold blessing or get healed if they gave enough money.”
Now the foundation has grown to assist in the investigations of suspected fraud or other abuses of the public trust by members of the religious media nationwide. The foundation also regularly provides testimony and investigative reports to various state and federal agencies.
A representative of Jesse Duplantis Ministries said the organization had no comment.