Senator Grassley To Ministries – You Better Cooperate! Additional Information Sought from Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long and Others

January 29, 2008

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When the Senator from Iowa asks for information over which he has authority – well, let’s put it this way, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and in this case – Grassley is Caesar when it comes to the taxing authority of the government.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is preparing another round of letters to Christian television ministries, prodding them to answer questions about their spending and the way they are governed, a spokeswoman said back in mid-January.

Jill Gerber, Grassley’s finance committee spokeswoman, said the the follow-up letters would go out in the next few weeks to ministries that have raised concerns or not responded. Gerber said the letters will describe Congress’ authority and duty to investigate and evaluate laws over which it has legislative authority—in this case, tax-exempt policy.

“Customarily, people come to recognize the wisdom of responding to requests by senior members of the Finance Committee, and particularly by Sen. Grassley, before a subpoena becomes necessary,” she said.

Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the finance committee chairman, has not commented publicly on Grassley’s investigation. But Carol Guthrie, communications director for the committee’s Democratic staff, said this week Baucus is aware of the investigation, and suggested that the ministries ought to cooperate.

Gaining support of the Democratic chairman would not only give the investigation added heft, it would deflect criticism like that of Dollar, the most outspoken critic among the ministers under scrutiny.

So what’s next: Well, it appears that the next move is in the hands of the ministries in question. It seems that some want to fight, like Creflo Dollar. Dollar commented on the Fox Business Network that he felt is was Grassley, and not the committee, who was pushing the investigation.

Considering the comment from the Democratic Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus, it would appear that Creflo needs to rethink his position. One doesn’t want to get into a power play with the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Right now, I don’t think politics are on the side of any of the ministers or their ministries. Thus far the only ministry that has taken the high road (and who I feel will be rewarded for her position) is the Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries. Smart move on her part.

Otherwise, it is reported that Kenneth Copeland ministries is willing to cooperate, but to what extent is not clear. Neither has there been much word from Benny Hinn and his ministries. Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar have both taken a public fighting stand – an unwise move in my opinion.

My guess, as this is written, is that Grassley has signaled, much like Bush before the Iraq war, his intention giving the uncooperative ministries another chance to comply. Lack of compliance by the end of January will result in further investigation and an outcome that many of these folk don’t really want.

I could be wrong, but it seems like the writing is on the wall. What Creflo and Eddie don’t want is Senator Grassley’s version of “Shock and Awe!”

You thoughts?

Business Ethics Speaker, Chuck Gallagher, signing off…


Church Doctrine! Come On Eddie, I Just Want To See If You Obey The Law! Grassley Spurned By Eddie Long And Others

December 9, 2007

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:

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“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!


Not Now Senator Grassley…Not Now! Hinn Delays Response. Business Ethics Speaker Gallagher Reviews

December 7, 2007

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Several months ago Senator Charles Grassley, R Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent questionnaires to six ministries asking numerous financial questions – probing whether the pastors and their ministries were complying with IRS rules related to their tax exempt work.

The deadline was today and it appears that Binny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine (Grapevine, TX) and Benny Hinn World Healing Center Church, Inc. have stated that they will not respond to Grassley’s inquiry until next year (2008).

According to the Associated Press:

“A lawyer for preacher Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta had said Wednesday that the investigation should be referred to the IRS or the Senate panel should get a subpoena for the documents.”

“Only Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., has provided the detailed financial and board oversight information sought by Grassley.”

Several questions have been raised by both sides. Many of the ministries through their spokes persons have taken the position that they comply with the law and the IRS is the watchdog. Hence, they feel that Grassley has overstepped his bounds by making such a broad request.

Again, according to the Associated Press in a report in the Dallas Morning News:

“Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters that he “can’t be impressed” by the argument from some of the preachers that the IRS already monitors them, because his past inquiries have unearthed information that the IRS never knew.

Grassley has insisted his investigation “has nothing to do with church doctrine” and is strictly concerned with making sure nonprofit groups are following the law.”

Some of the ministries have suggested that Grassley get a subpoena if he plans on capturing the information he’s requested. Should the ministries refuse to turn over the information, a very interesting court fight could ensue.

“Hopefully these organizations will work with us,” said Grassley, who has been investigating nonprofit compliance with IRS rules for years. “I don’t think I’ve had to issue a single subpoena in the five years that I’ve been trying to get cooperation from organizations.”

So here are the questions and your comments are welcome:

  • What does not complying to Grassley’s request mean to the ministries?
  • If one believed that they were fully compliant, would it be best to turn over the records or stand on principle (perhaps the belief that Grassley over reached)?
  • Since the IRS rules provide that a tax-exempt organization cannot be a conduit for excessive personal gain, is it possible to define that in a highly successful ministry?

For the record, the ministries targeted by Grassley’s requests were, in addition to Hinn: Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, GA; Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, FL; Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, MO; Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in Atlanta, GA; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, TX.

Every choice has a consequence. In fact, in Galatians it states, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” As this unfolds the truth will be revealed…whatever that truth may be.

Comments?


Eddie Long Responds – Is Chuck Grassley’s Request Intrusive?

November 15, 2007

As reported on the Religion News Blog, Bishop Eddie Long said that Grassley’s request was “unjust,” “intrusive,” and “an attack on our religious freedom and privacy rights.”

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/19869/eddie-long

As reported on CBS.com – Grassley is investigating six ministries: “The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six – Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar – also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.” 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/06/cbsnews_investigates/main3456977.shtml

The letter sent to Eddie Long requests a long litany of church, personal and financial data.  (http://media.tbo.com/tbo/pdfs/110507long.pdf

According to Christianity Today – http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/novemberweb-only/145-22.0.html

“Grassley’s office told the Tribune that the IRS “has been unable to keep up with the exponential growth of all tax-exempt organizations, including churches and ministries.”

While Grassley is not proposing any changes to the law or tax code, he’s suggesting that he may do so after the investigation. “Based on initial review, the way ministries operate has changed significantly over the last 20 years to 25 years, while the tax laws governing them for the most part have not,” his office said.”

The Christian newswire reports Grassley’s request as well. http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/510074770.html

What are your thoughts?  Intrusive?  Unjust?  An assult on Religious freedom?  Or is the government exercising it’s authority to maintain accountability so that religious freedom can be enjoyed as it was designed?

Every choice has a consequence.  While there is separation of church and state…reality is that Christianity says that we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – i.e., we must comply with the law.  It does seem that law changes might be in the works based on the types of questions that have been put forward in these requests.

 Do you think that the law is just as it stands or should be changed.  Share your comments.