Inspiration Networks Defends David Cerullo's $2.5M Salary

Critic Calls Nonprofit's Annual Pay to CEO 'Out of Bounds'

The Inspiration Networks (INSP), a nonprofit Christian broadcaster, has come out in defense of its CEO, evangelist David Cerullo, who has recently come under fire after IRS reports of his $2.5 million salary for 2010 were released.

As a comparison, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), founded by Pat Robertson, paid its CEO a total compensation of $383,000 in 2010, according to a report in The Charlotte Observer.

The reports also noted that Cerullo's salary had increased 47 percent since 2008, and several of his family members also received $200,000 annually. Such large salaries have been criticized in the secular media, CharismaNews reported, but INSP has explained that its CEO's salary is entirely out of his control and he should not be faulted for the large amount.

"David Cerullo's compensation is established by a board of directors utilizing reports and recommendations of an independent executive compensation committee," a statement by INSP said. "He is not present during the board's review and does not participate in these discussions or their decisions."

"This committee compares his compensation with other executive compensation of similar organizations with similar levels of responsibility," the Christian organization added. "This includes cable television network CEOs, senior media company executives, CEOs of faith-based national ministries, and pastors of churches."

With a budget of over $90 million and operating from a 92-acre campus in Indian Land, S.C, the cable television network has become one of the world's largest Christian broadcasters, bringing religious programming to more than 120 countries, The Charlotte Observer reported. 

The INSP statement sought to ensure that the salaries are justifiable:

"Since its founding," the broadcaster said, "The Inspiration Networks and its associated ministries has worked diligently to ensure that all employee compensation is fair, equitable and competitive with comparable positions in cable television networks and national ministries."

However, Rusty Leonard, CEO of Ministry Watch, a Christian watchdog organization, told the Observer that Cerullo's compensation is "out of bounds."

Other Christian organizations, such as Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), have also faced accusations of using a large portion of donor money to pay for salaries or lavish expenses. In 2012, its leaders, Paul and Jan Crouch, faced a lawsuit that accused them of buying a $50 million jet with the organization's money, among other accusations.

A report by The Christian Post, however, revealed that Christian pastors and leaders who make large amounts of money through salaries and best-seller books also tend to contribute hugely to a wide range of charities and community outreach efforts.

In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen was challenged with a question about how some megachurch pastors earn seemingly extravagant amounts.

"I don't think we have to apologize for God's blessings," Osteen said. "But money is not the focus of our life. It never has been.

"We are blessed to be a blessing and help others," Osteen added.