U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s request for information from six large ministries that preach the “prosperity gospel” has produced mixed results: Two have turned over information, two have asked for more time and two say they won’t comply.
The Iowa Republican raised eyebrows in November when he announced that he has requested detailed financial information from the six ministries. Grassley, ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was responding to allegations that the ministries may be funding huge salaries and lavish lifestyles for their leaders, spouses and family members.
On Dec. 6, the day Grassley set as the deadline for receiving the material, only two had complied – Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Mo., and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Newark, Texas.
Benny Hinn’s World Healing Center Church in Grapevine, Texas, asked for a meeting with Grassley’s office and said it would decide what to do by Dec. 12. It has not been back in touch since then. Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., requested more time to comply.
Two ministries – World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. – have informed Grassley that they will not comply.
Last month, Grassley urged the four ministries to reconsider.
“It’s a new year and the ministries that have chosen not to cooperate have a chance to see the inquiry in a new light,” Grassley said in a statement. “This has nothing to do with church doctrine. It’s only about tax-exempt policy. The ministries are no different from any other tax-exempt group in terms of an obligation to cooperate with a Congressional oversight inquiry exploring tax policy.”
The New York Times contacted Hinn’s ministry, which issued a statement saying it would “facilitate a response to Senator Grassley’s inby Jan. 30.
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has perhaps been the most outspoken against the inquiry.
In a statement, he asserted that Grassley’s request “clearly disregards the privacy protections of the church under law and appears to cross the line of constitutional guarantees for churches.”
Other ministers are defending their lifestyles. Creflo Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church, appeared on “Larry King Live&rdqo; Jan. 4 and said, “No, you don’t need more than one home. But, you know, people in our society today have always had a problem with excess. And we don’t have any problems with movie stars having more than one home. But, boy, if you get a man of God that has more than one home, then he’s got to be doing something wrong.”
Grassley began investigating secular non-profits about six years ago.
The Times reported that Grassley may send letters to other ministries and noted that news media coverage of the issue has led to his office being flooded with calls about other religious organizations.
The investigation has angered some Republican activists, who believe it will harm the party’s standing in the Pentecostal community.
Doug Wead, a longtime GOP activist, wrote a column in December for Newsmax.com, a far-right Web site, attacking Grassley. Wead asserted that Grassley, a Baptist, would drive charismatics out of the party with his investigation.
Wrote Wead, “Grassley has taken to ridiculing black Pentecostal doctrine and culture. ‘Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a Rolls-Royce,’ he said. Two of his targets are black preachers. The black Pentecostal community, which represents the only blacks in the GOP, are furious.”