Acting on tips about preachers who ride in Rolls Royces and have purportedly paid $30,000 for a conference table, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday he's investigating the finances of six well-known TV ministers.
Grassley sent letters to the half-dozen Christian media ministries earlier this week requesting answers by Dec. 6 about their expenses, executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets.
In a statement, Grassley said he was acting on complaints from the public and news coverage of the organizations.
"The allegations involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls Royces," Grassley said.
"I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code."
Who is under investigation? Several of the top preachers of the prosperity "gospel."
Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, a $20 million organization and prosperity gospel pioneer. Questions were raised about the transfer of church assets to a for-profit company, Security Patrol Inc., a $1 million loan from Gloria Copeland to the group, and a "personal gift" of more than $2 million given to Kenneth Copeland to mark the ministry's 40th anniversary.
Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga. Grassley's letter asks for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and donations and "love offerings" to visiting ministers. In a statement, Dollar called his ministry an "open book" and said he would cooperate. He also questioned whether the investigation could "affect the privacy of every community church in America."
Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, is asked about use of a private jet, a home in Dana Point, Calif. and "layover trips" while traveling on ministry business. Hinn did not respond to requests for comment.
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., was questioned about his salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and not the board, holds sole authority over the organization. Long plans to fully comply with the Senate's request, and his church has "several safeguards" to ensure transactions comply with laws governing churches, according to a statement from Long's spokesman.
Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., who were quizzed about receiving donations of money and jewelry and the handling of cash from overseas crusades. They also were asked about expenditures at ministry headquarters, including a $30,000 conference table and a $23,000 "commode with marble top."
Randy and Paula White of the multiracial Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla. are asked about home purchases in San Antonio, Texas, Malibu, Calif., and New York, credit card charges for clothing and cosmetic surgery and the reported purchase of a Bentley convertible as a gift for Bishop T.D. Jakes, a prominent Texas preacher and televangelist. An e-mail to a spokeswoman for Jakes was not immediately returned.
Ya know, it was just a matter of time. God is "slow to anger, slow to wrath" (Psalm 103:8), but the US Government is a whole different story.
I know there will be some who will say that this opens the door for the government to swoop down and force every church to open its books. That is not what is going on here. This is a case where it is obvious that these pimps are robbing people under the guise of (and appropriating the title of) "mimistry". These people DO NOT RUN MINISTRIES! These people are running rackets! They are running get-rich-quick schemes. (Of course, the only ones getting rich are the pimps!)
These people are pimps, they are charlatans, they have no knowledge of anything biblical, and they trick people--usually the most desperate and the most gullible--out of their money, and leave those they fleece high and dry. But someone--finally--is calling them on it.
And if these pimps think the weight of the United States Government is a heavy load, wait until they stand before God and are forced to account for why they blasphemed His name, and took advantage of His Christ. And they have. After all, Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25, that whatever you do to "the least of these," you have done to Him.