November 2007 was when it began – the “witch hunt” that is – started by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, when he sent a massive informational request to six major media-based ministries.
Substantial financial inquiries were sent to: Joyce Meyer Ministries, Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church, Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, and Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries.
When the Grassley issued his extensive financial requests cries erupted from many in the various segments of the faith based community. Claims that Sen. Grassley was over reaching rang far and wide and many suggested that the separation of church and state was at play here. I, as a business ethics speaker, on the other hand felt that full disclosure was appropriate. If you had nothing to hide, then why resist? Obviously, some listed above agreed.
The issue Grassley was investigating was weather the tax exempt status of the ministries should be revoked based on the lavish lifestyles ministry leaders lead.
According to a CNN article written by Eric Marrapodi:
The review by the committee did not impose new rules on the religious organizations or suggest they be stripped of their tax-exempt status. But it did bring to light compensation practices that may raise eyebrows in the non-profit community and lead to a discussion of new tax policies for religious organizations.
“The staff review sets the stage for a comprehensive discussion among churches and religious organizations,” Grassley said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to helping facilitate this dialogue and fostering an environment for self-reform within the community.”
SO WHO COMPLIED?
Two of the six ministries contacted were willing to fully comply: Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church. Both groups reported that they were working on reforming financial practices of their respective ministries.
Again the CNN states: “Committee staff members Theresa Pattara and Sean Barnett wrote in the staff review, “The reforms undertaken by Pastor Hinn and Joyce Meyer are extensive and are to be commended.” Joyce Meyer Ministries, based in St. Louis, went so far as to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.”
Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church, Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries submitted incomplete responses to the senator’s questions.
Atlanta-based Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries did not participate at all, declining the senator’s requests, according to released correspondence between Grassley and Dollar’s attorneys.
GRASSLEY REPORT FINDINGS:
A 61 page report was presented and can be found here – SFC Staff Memo to Grassley re Ministries 01-06-11 FINAL.
“While the majority of churches and religious organizations operate with policies and procedures that make them accountable to their members, it is the small minority that don’t that are subject to scrutiny by the members and the public, including the press. These outliers present tax policy issues for consideration,” the review said.
Grassley made the following comment as this phase of his worked seemed to come to an end, “The challenge is to encourage good governance and best practices and so preserve confidence in the tax-exempt sector without imposing regulations that inhibit religious freedom or are functionally ineffective.”
Do you think that the actions taken by the six ministries was appropriate and sufficient?
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!