Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Media-Based Ministries “witch hunt” is over! To many prayers are answered…

January 10, 2011

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.”

QUESTION:

Do you think that the actions taken by the six ministries was appropriate and sufficient?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Kenneth Copeland Ministries Would Rather Have A Tax Audit? Why?

April 22, 2008

Over the course of the past six months, I’ve had the privilege of watching one of the most interesting battles take place between a powerful Senator and a popular Minister – Grassley vs. Copeland. I am doubtful that many reading this are not fully aware of the background so I won’t spend much time reviewing that – (however, I will, toward the end of this blog point out some of the more interesting questions asked by Grassley of the Copeland Ministries).

While many of the six ministries have complied in one form or another, Copeland’s ministries have been blatant about their refusal to comply completely. A letter dated March 31, 2008 was sent to Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley outlining the Kenneth Copeland Ministries position. The full letter can be found here.

Here are some excerpts to expedite the process:

The Church provided a complete response to six out of 42 questions, and provided a substantially complete response to eleven out of the remaining 36 questions. Where the Church did not provide a complete answer, the Church determined that the question raises constitutionally and statutorily based privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of association issues with respect to the Church and other parties (including, for example, the Church’s officers, directors, pastors, ministers, and members).

Your March 11th letter indicates that your intent in seeking the requested information from the Church is to allow the Committee “to conduct oversight into matters related to legislation enacted by Congress … 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.” In addition, your letter states that, in order to exercise “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 the intent of the revenue code, including those rules applicable to non-profit organizations … the Committee needs to understand clearly and specifically how non-profit organizations are structured and operated.” In the Church’s view, all of these purposes could be accomplished just as effectively by the Committee asking the Internal Revenue Service to provide all of the information Senator Grassley is seeking through a request pursuant to section 6103 of the Code. Section 6103 of the Code does not limit what the Committee can request from the Internal Revenue Service. It only limits the Committee’s ability to make that information public.

Now here I’m confused. Baucus and Grassley state, per the Copeland response, that they are requesting information “to conduct oversight into matters related to legislation enacted by Congress … 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.” Yet Copeland wants the agency that Baucus and Grassley oversee to do the work to make sure that the IRS does what they are supposed to do. That’s bizarre!

Let me state that again, Grassley wants to make sure “how well” a particular agency (hum…must be the IRS) is administering the law. Yet, Copeland wants the agency in question to do an audit so that Grassley can take those finding to determine if they are doing their job. That will make you head wobble if you think about it.

Your March 11th letter states that “the Committee recognizes the concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality of certain records and has offered to work with [the Church] to protect any proprietary or confidential information.” In discussions with members of both of your staffs, however, it was made clear that the Committee was not willing to provide the types of confidentiality protections afforded by section 6103 of the Code, but rather was willing only to protect a very limited type of information such as social security numbers. However, any confidentiality protections short of those afforded by section 6103 of the Code are simply inadequate to address the Church’s concerns regarding the potential use and public dissemination of any information produced by the Church. In light of the Church’s view that the Committee’s oversight-related purposes could be accomplished notwithstanding the application of section 6103 of the Code to the information sought, the Church is deeply concerned that the information Senator Grassley is seeking could be used to subject the Church and its members to public stigma, scorn, and obloquy.

So the Senators say we will give you protections. The ministry says, we have better from the Internal Revenue Code. The Senators are trying to evaluate just how well the agency is administering the Code. The Ministry thumbs their nose at the Senators and says – not good enough – we don’t trust you. Well, it’s a free country and we enjoy freedom of speech so fair enough. But, as I’ve stated before, that’s playing with fire.

The six ministries under investigation all share a common theology based on the sincerely held religious belief that God wants His children to be spiritually, physically, and financially blessed and that prosperity in all areas of one’s life is an outward sign of the fulfillment of God’s promises contained in the Bible. The Church believes that the targeting of these ministries, and these ministries alone, violates a fundamental tenet of the First Amendment: that the government should not single out any religion for disparate treatment because of its beliefs. With respect to religion, the Constitution requires that the government be neutral, preferring no beliefs above others. The selective investigation only of churches that preach the “Word of Faith” message raises significant concerns as to whether the inquiry is aimed at publicly questioning the religious beliefs of the targeted churches, their preachers, and their members.

Keep in mind, it is just an opinion, but Copeland is way too egotistical here. There are way more than six ministries that believe that prosperity is a God given right and that anyone can claim that. Most new thought churches have believed that for years. In the movie and subsequent book, “The Secret” those same principles were espoused. In my home town of Dallas – Bishop T. D. Jakes has a massive ministry and certainly he believes in prosperity and preaches it as well. Yet, he was not “targeted.”

The Church continues to believe that the most timely and efficient manner for the Committee to obtain the requested information without compromising the Church’s constitutional and statutorily based rights is for the Internal Revenue Service to obtain the requested information from the Church through a church tax inquiry conducted pursuant to section 7611 of the Code. As you know, this Code section, which was part of the Church Audit Procedures Act that Senator Grassley himself introduced in l983, was enacted in recognition of the of the unique issues raised by the government inquiries into the financial and other operations of churches, including the need for the separation of church and state, and the special relationship of a church to its members. At the conclusion of a properly conducted church tax inquiry, the Committee could obtain the information Senator Grassley is seeking from the Internal Revenue Service through a request pursuant to section 6103 of the Code.

That is a fair statement and request as it is characterized in accordance with a piece of legislation that Senator Grassley introduced. I have long espoused that if you want to fight the government, do it in a way that is not emotional and focuses are potentially effective secular arguments. To put back in Grassley’s face the Church Audit Procedures Act makes sense.

Below are some of the items that Grassley expressly asked for in his first request:

  • A detailed explanation of the personal use of assets of the tax-exempt organization (i.e., jets, employees, facilities) and an accounting of any repayments made to the tax-exempt entity for the personal use of stated assets for years 2004 to present.
  • Credit card statements for all credit cards used by Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland and John Copeland for the years 2004 to present for expenses paid by EMIC and KCM. An explanation of all credit card expenses paid by the organization on behalf of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland for years 2004 to present.
  • Has any of the land or assets tied to the land that was deeded to the church from th estate of Paul H. Pewitt been transferred conveyed, gifted or otherwise placed in the control or possession of any other entity or person? If so, who, when , for what amount and for what purpose? Provide the names and addresses of all person(s) who made the decision to relinquish control of the real property.
  • Provide detailed information (Year, Make, Model and Number) of any aircraft owned, used or leased by EMIC, KCM or any related or integrated auxiliary, including amounts paid for the purchase and/or lease of the aircraft and all maintenance expenses form 2004 to present. Copies of the flight records of any aircraft owned, used or leased by EMIC, KCM or any related or integrated auxiliary from 2004 to present. Copies of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland’s itinerary from 2004 to present.
  • El Rancho Fe is a for-profit working ranch owned by Kenneth and John Copeland. Is any of the property used by El Rancho Fe the same property deeded to the church by the estate of Paul H. Pewitt? If so, how is the church compensated for use of this asset and in what amounts for tax years 2002 to present? Who approved the use of this asset? If the Board of Directors approved, provide the names and addresses of the board members.
  • The name and address of the person and/or company that prints, audio records and video records Kenneth and Gloria Copeland’s material? The name and address of the person and/or company that owns the titles, copyrights, royalties or similar interests in sermons, videotapes, books, CD’s, DVD’s, or other materials prepared by EMIC and/or KCM. Are any of the ministry’s paid employees involved in the printing, publishing, recording and distribution of the books, videotapes, CD’s, or DVD’s?
  • According to documents provided to the Finance Committee, in November 2000, (ouch…the precedent has already been established that Copeland has provided documentation to the Senate Finance Committee without having to have an IRS Audit) EMIC borrowed $1,000,000 from Gloria Copeland for operation of ministry affairs. In 2002, the EMIC board of directors executed a replacement promissory note in the amount of $1,083,407.29. Provide the committee with copies of the executed notes and a copy of the board meeting minutes for each date, an explanation of the loan distribution including the original source of the loan (i.e. personal check, cashier’s check, wire transfer), names and addresses of the board members present at each meeting and a breakdown of the loan repayments to Gloria Copeland since the inception of the original note. Also explain why the church borrowed money from Gloria Copeland when it owns assets in excess fo $20 million dollars.

And the list goes own. For the full six page detailed request go here.

When you look at the study of ethics (which I do as an ethics speaker) you generally go into a discussion of morals. In Wikipedia a statement is made: “People who have moral responsibility for an action are usually called moral agents. Agents are creatures that are capable of reflecting on their situation, forming intentions about how they will act, and then carrying out that action.”

So as I conclude this rather long blog entry, I suppose that both Copeland and Grassley are moral agents. Grassley is a moral agent for watchdogging the enforcement of accountability as it relates to potential abuse by religious organizations in their tax-exempt mission. (Keep in mind, if they weren’t tax-exempt this would go away – there would be no issue!) Copeland, on the other hand, is a moral agent for making sure that people in power in our government play by the rules and don’t over step their bounds or abuse their power.

Either way…asking (in effect) for a tax audit is gutsy. It will be interesting to see what the outcome is…

Business ethics speaker – Chuck Gallagher -signing off…


Kenneth Copeland Ministries – Why Not Comply with Grassley’s Requests? What’s There to Hide?

April 6, 2008

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.

Sincerely,

 

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!

 


Billy Graham – An Example of True Evangelism – Senator Grassley’s Not Interested in His Ministries!

February 14, 2008

Recovering from surgery, Billy Graham noted evangelist, is listed in fair condition following successful surgery on Wednesday to update a shunt that controls excess fluid to his brain.

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Graham, age 89, has been an example of Christianity and true evangelism for my entire life. Recalling at a young age the Billy Graham Crusades that were televised around the world, Billy Graham had a clear and consistent message that has not wavered. Unlike those whose ministry has been called to task by Senator Charles Grassley, Graham has stayed focused on his role.

In an article from Time Magazine the following was stated:

Under a blazing North Carolina sun, faith and power renewed their vows, as three former commanders in chief — Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton — convened in Charlotte, N.C., to pay tribute to a man they all love.

The occasion was the dedication of the Billy Graham library, modeled after the dairy farm where the evangelist grew up, with an immense cross as its doorway and an exhibit designed to soak visitors in the gospel message that Graham had preached to more people than any man who’s ever lived.

Preached to more than any man who ever lived. What an amazing accomplishment. Graham obviously took to heart the mandate – Go and preach the Gospel! By Graham has done with without lavish and fanfare. God provided for Graham, but Graham never needed a Bentley or Cessna Citation to accomplish the mission at hand.

The time article goes on to say:

If Graham’s spiritual message was always consistent, a message of gospel love and Jesus’s saving grace, his political message changed profoundly. There had been a time where he didn’t hesitate to speak out on the issues of the day, on foreign policy, the economy, court decisions. But he had come to see the cost of discussing the issues that divide people.
Jerry Falwell’s death brought many reminders of what happens when preachers take sides; long ago, Graham had decided to go down a different road. He had gotten way too deeply involved in his friends’ campaigns, and he resolved to try and stop diving in. Ten days before his good friend Ronald Reagan was sworn in, Graham told Parade Magazine that “evangelicals can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future.”

Today Graham recovers as he enters the twilight years of his earthly life.

Graham, 89, was hospitalized at Mission for nearly two weeks last year after experiencing intestinal bleeding caused by an arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of small blood vessels in the lining of the colon. He also has suffered from prostate cancer and macular degeneration.

His wife, Ruth Bell Graham, died in June following a lengthy illness.

Wonder what the ministries of Kenneth Copeland, Eddie Long, Creeflo Dollar, Benny Hinn and others think – when they look at what they have done in comparison to Billy Graham’s ministries. The humility and wisdom that Graham has shown is a remarkable accomplishment. The lives he has touched with a ministry, largely untouched with significant controversy, is amazing.

Perhaps others can still learn from the Graham legacy.


Is Kenneth Copeland Confused About Senator Grassley’s Request? Comments By Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 6, 2008

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In a closed circuit broadcast to some 1,000 ministers and guests, Kenneth Copeland stated his position about his response to the requests for financial information about his ministry. Copeland stated:

“You render unto the government what belongs to the government. And you render unto God what belongs to God,” he said, according to the newspaper. “You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you,” Mr. Copeland continues. “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.”

Supposedly, the Copeland ministries has sent some of the information Grassley requested – but not all.

I must admit, I’m confused. Senator Grassley’s requests from six mega-ministries – like the one headed by Kenneth Copeland – is a request for financial information related to the ministries tax exempt status. Grassley is asking – Are you in compliance?

Again, maybe I’m missing it, but if the answer to the question is – Yes – we are in compliance with the laws of man that govern tax exemption – then Kenneth Copeland ministries should have no problem. Simple!

So what’s he talking about? It seems like Copeland, in his comments, is puffing out his chest and speaking double speak. First he says, “You render unto the government what belongs to the government. And you render unto God what belongs to God.” O.K., I get that. The government through laws grants qualifying ministries tax exempt status. In order to retain that you must comply with the law. So Kenneth Copeland’s first sentence makes sense. Give Grassley the subject of his request. It’s simple – comply and follow your own beliefs.

But no. Kenneth Copeland then confuses the who issue – taking a position that a ministry is above the law of man – by saying, “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.” What are you saying? Copeland says it’s God’s not yours.

Is he saying that ministry issues are above the law?

Is he saying that it’s a God given right to be tax exempt?

Why is he contradicting himself through his own comments?

What is he trying to hide?

As an ethics speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com) her in Texas, I know many people who support and believe in the good that the Kenneth Copeland ministries perform both locally and worldwide. I, personally, have great respect for Kenneth Copeland ministries. That said, there is far more power in truth and honesty than is found in rebellion and conflict. For God’s sake – Kenneth – comply and show the transparent truth of your ministry.


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!