Well, the deadline came and went and only two of the six ministries provided the data that Senator Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) requested. Joyce Meyer, of Missouri, complied as did Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, of Texas. Atlanta ministers Rev. Creflo Dollar (World Changers Church International) and Eddie Long (New Birth Missionary Baptist Church) failed to provide the financial information Sen. Grassley requested. Both, through their attorneys, said that Senator Grassley had crossed the line and was not entitled to the information.
According to writer Christopher Quinn of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Attorneys for Dollar and Long sent letters in response.
The letter from Dollar’s attorney expresses concern about giving documents to the government, explaining such action could trample on the constitutional rights of people to practice religious beliefs without government interference.
The letter says the six ministries targeted preach the “…’Prosperity Gospel,’ a deeply held religious belief that God’s devout followers and earthly leaders will prosper and be successful in all they do, including in financial matters, as the outward expression of his favor.”
It went on to say, “… we believe that the religious doctrine and practices of a church should not be held out for the world to evaluate as a result of responding to Congressional inquiries.”
It says Grassley should get a subpoena or to refer his request for a review to the Internal Revenue Service.
A written response from Long’s attorney says Grassley’s request is informal, and that it “clearly disregards the privacy protections of the Church under law and appears to cross the line of Constitutional guarantees for churches.”
Mac Hunter, of Atlanta’s Morris, Manning & Martin office, said by phone he believes the letter is a sufficient reply to Grassley’s request.
It’s seems to be an interesting position to take – privacy? Privacy for financial documents that are easily obtained by the IRS? Perhaps I’m missing something (feel free to share with your comments), but if the IRS can get the data, aren’t the folks who refuse to comply bringing on a world of trouble for themselves and the ministries they represent?
Not once in Grassley’s request was there any indication of doctrine or issues with belief. Rather, Grassley’s requests were specific related to financial details of the ministries and how that related to the ministers. Grassley issued a statement:
“I have an obligation to protect the integrity of U.S. tax laws,” Grassley said in a written statement. “If tax-exempt organizations, including media-based ministries, thumb their noses at the laws governing their preferential tax treatment, the American public, their contributors and the Internal Revenue Service have a right to know. Considering tax-exempt media-based ministries today are a billion-dollar industry with minimal transparency, it would be irresponsible not to examine this tax-exempt part of our economy.”
Some questions to consider:
- If you have nothing to hide, why not comply?
- If the IRS has the right to audit or investigate, why not comply?
- The issue that Grassley has at the core of his investigation is undue enrichment from the ministry, if you believe that God has blessed and, as a minister, you have not been unduly enriched, why not comply?
Every choice has a consequence. As an ethics speaker, I know, as I’ve suffered the consequences of poor choices. Perhaps those who lead their flocks will “render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s” and comply. Perhaps, it’s just me, but if the same were asked of Billy Graham, I would bet compliance would be swift knowing that he had nothing to hide.
Comments are welcome!