On November 5, 2007 Senator Charles Grassley wrote six ministries – one being Kenneth Copeland Ministries – asking a series of questions related to the non-profit organizations’ expenses, treatment of donations and business practices. The questions were based on presentations of material from watchdog groups and whistleblowers and on investigative reports in local media outlets.
Of the six ministries from whom material has been requested – according to a news release from Senator Grassley:
Three ministries have not cooperated, citing privacy protections or questioning the committee’s standing to request the information. Baucus and Grassley wrote to them on March 11 to describe the committee’s jurisdiction and role in determining the effectiveness of tax policy developed by the committee, distinct from the Internal Revenue Service’s role, which is to enforce existing law.
The three ministries are: Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Newark, Texas; Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries College Park, Ga.; and Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries, Lithonia, Ga.
Senator Grassley and Senator Max Baucus sent the following letter to the Copeland Ministries requesting their cooperation again! The letter is shown below:
March 11, 2008
Kenneth and Gloria Copeland
Kenneth Copeland Ministries
14355 Morris Dido Road
Newark, TX 76071
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Copeland:
As senior members of the United States Senate and as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, it is our duty under the Constitution to conduct oversight into matters related to legislation enacted by Congress. The purpose of oversight is to determine how well a particular agency of the executive branch is administering legislation enacted by Congress, if a particular law or section of the law is being administered in a manner consistent with the intent of Congress and what changes might be required to a law to improve and enhance it. Oversight through the committee system is an important way for Congress to determine if the laws of this country are sound and if they are administered according to the intent of Congress.
One of the roles of the Finance Committee under the Standing Rules of the Senate encompasses the exercise of oversight over the administration of the federal tax revenue system by the Internal Revenue Service to make sure that its rules and procedures meet the purpose and intent of the revenue code, including those rules applicable to non-profit organizations. In order to do this effectively, the Committee needs to understand clearly and specifically how non-profit organizations are structured and operate.
On November 5, 2007, Ranking Member Grassley sent a letter requesting information from your ministry related to the laws that govern tax-exempt organizations. While the inquiry is not part of an enforcement action, which would properly belong to the IRS, it is within the jurisdiction of the Committee to make these inquiries. The Committee conferred with the Senate Legal Counsel to ensure that the letter was well within the scope of the authority of the Committee and that it does not infringe upon First Amendment rights.
Prior to your organization determining whether to submit the requested information, Committee staff members met with your legal counsel to explain the purpose of the investigation and to address your specific concerns. The Committee recognizes the concerns regarding the privacy and confidentiality of certain records and has offered to work with your organization to protect any proprietary or confidential information. Unfortunately, the information submitted by your organization was incomplete. Staff members contacted your legal counsel in an attempt to secure further cooperation and once again address your concerns. To date, you and/or your legal counsel have not provided the requested information to Senator Grassley, nor offered any assurances that the information would be forthcoming.
The Committee continues to hope that mutually respectful discussions will enable the Committee to obtain the requested information without resorting to compulsory process. Therefore, as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, we are affording you another opportunity to send the information requested by Senator Grassley in the letter dated November 5, 2007. Our office should receive the requested documentation no later than March 31, 2008.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to your cooperation.
Max Baucus Charles Grassley
Chairman Ranking Member
What I must admit I’m confounded by is why Kenneth Copeland and his ministries refuse to cooperate. It states in the Bible – Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. In this case Caesar is the government and the law which gives Kenneth Copeland Ministries the right to operate in a tax free environment. If all laws are being followed, then what is there to hide?
Copeland, in my opinion, has made some amazing statements in his effort to elect not to comply. The following is quoted from a report in the Baptist Press:
Kenneth Copeland Ministries provided a cover letter from its legal counsel, 23 pages of answers to questions and 291 pages of supporting material in response to Grassley’s initial request, Copeland said on the ministry’s website. The information was “incomplete,” however, Baucus and Grassley said in their letter to the Copelands.
Copeland lambasted Grassley in a Jan. 22 address at his annual ministers conference, according to a report in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
Saying he would not disclose information on his ministry’s donors, Copeland said, “You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you! It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. So, just get over it! And if there’s a death penalty that applies, well just go for it!
“You wanna get in a faith fight with me?” Copeland said, according to Roll Call. “Why, just come on. But, I’m gonna warn you. I fight dirty. I got somebody else does my fighting for me. I just sit back and watch.
“I just throw the first punch and then get out and let my angels go to work.”
Let my angels go to work? I believe in the power of God. I also believe in the responsibility we have to comply with the law and respect the law of man, just as we should respect the law of God. From an ethics perspective what does this all mean? The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has encouraged cooperation by the televangelists, but the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) has expressed concerns about the probe’s implications for ministries.
None of the six ministries is a member of either ECFA or NRB.
“It’s good to see the majority of the ministries offering information,” Grassley said. “They receive generous tax-breaks as non-profit organizations. In general, the federal treasury forgoes billions of tax-dollars a year to tax-exempt groups. The ministries sharing of material with the Senate Committee in charge of tax-policy shows an interest in accountability for their special tax status.”
As of the deadline – Kenneth Copeland Ministries and those ministries of Creflo Dollar have refused to cooperate fully (if much as all).
What are the ethics ramifications of these ministries refusing to cooperate?
Your comments are welcome!