Senator Grassley’s ‘Crusade’ of Honor
On November 6th, 2007, Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office sent letters to six “televangelists” (i.e. Christian ministers who have extensive television exposure) in an effort to obtain information about potential “abuses” of donor-originated funds within these non-profit organizations. Regarding this expansion of an ongoing investigation into non-profit organizations, his office’s website states:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, has asked six media-based ministries for information regarding expenses, executive compensation, and amenities given to executives. The inquiry is part of Grassley’s long-standing interest in making sure tax-exempt organizations are accountable to donors.
“I’m following up on complaints from the public and news coverage regarding certain practices at six ministries,” Grassley said. “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. 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.”
Grassley wrote to Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.; Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church, Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., and Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.
Grassley has reviewed a wide range of non-profit issues over the last five years, first as Finance Committee chairman and now as ranking member. The committee has exclusive Senate jurisdiction over federal tax policy, including the policy governing the billions of dollars donated to and controlled by the nation’s tax-exempt groups.
(Rich Note: Copies of the six specific letters can be found on the Senator’s website.)
Of the six contacted, four have cooperated in ways that apparently please the Senator’s investigators. Two of the ministries, however, have not: Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; and Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Georgia.
Biblical Precepts Vs. Copeland’s Games
Why have these couples and their ministries refused to cooperate? The Scriptures themselves seem to be very clear regarding ministers needing to be transparent with their use of offerings (i.e. donor contributions):
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:17, KJV)
And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. (2 Corinthians 8:18-21, NIV)
Paul certainly wanted to make sure there was no room for criticism of his ministry—nor reproach brought upon the Gospel itself. Yet, these two ministry couples and their ministries are refusing to “provide things honest” in the sight of ANYONE.
In fact, rather than cooperating with the Senator’s office… the Copelands called for an “IRS Review” of their finances on April 7th, 2008—over FIVE MONTHS after the original letters were released from Senator Grassley’s office. Rusty Leonard of MinistryWatch.com (a Christian watchdog group that attempts to induce major ministries to be appropriately transarant with their finances, as the Scriptures above state they should) described Copeland’s maneuver this way:
…Copeland is trying to create the impression that he is being cooperative, when in fact he failed to comply with 25 of the 42 requests for information from Sen. Grassley. Now, he wants the IRS to continue the investigation, but only because IRS investigations are confidential. Copeland doesn’t want the public or his donors to see what he’s been doing, and that’s alarming. It screams that he his hiding something from KCM donors and the public.“
Further, in his Friday morning March 7th “partner meeting” at the 2008 Branson Victory Campaign, Kenneth Copeland stated openly that KCM conducted an internal audit of the ministry immediately after the Grassley investigation began November 6th, 2007. Of course, he brushed it off as a “just in case” type of effort, stating that there were no problems in their books. But that raises a major question…
Why did it take FIVE months for Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) to get around to requesting the audit from the IRS? Couldn’t they have done so within a month or two—or even three—if KCM’s books were truly clean? What was so complex about the internal audit that they wanted to wait FIVE MONTHS before requesting the review?
(Note: We will read more of Rusty’s assessment of Copeland’s probable true motives further below within this article. However, I want to draw your attention to the “Media Video” tab at the top of this blog, wherein there is embedded an excellent 20/20 John Stossel report that details the history and Christian principles behind the foundation of MinistryWatch.com by its founder, Rusty Leonard.)
‘Buffalo Chip’ Alert
To listen to the perspectives of Kenneth Copeland or Creflo Dollar regarding the announcement of the Senate Finance Committee’s investigation of non-profit entities, you might possibly think that the investigation is an anti-Christian “witch hunt” that suddenly erupted upon their ministries without provocation.
Claiming “religious persecution”, these two ministries now claim that this investigation is directed toward them (and the other four televangelists) because they are “all Word of Faith ministries.” Thus, Copeland and Dollar have refused to cooperate so on the grounds of “Constitutional First Amendment rights.” They claim that their rights of religious freedom are being specifically targeted because of their “Word of Faith” beliefs.
But is that true? Not really… but it sure sounds like a good excuse for their continued efforts to keep their financial records secret (unless, of course, you review the facts).
Investigation Background Facts
The earliest reference I can find to Senator Grassley’s now-seven-year investigation into the potential abuses by non-profit organizations of donor contributions is a press release on his Senate website dated March 9th, 2001 entitled, Grassley Announces Hearing on Charitable Giving.
However, beginning with the following excerpt from a April 5th, 2004 press release, we learn that there are actually TWO senators looking into things. SFC member Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is also actively involved in investigating non-profit abuses, and the two senators seem to have specific goals in mind for their efforts:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, and Sen. Max Baucus, ranking member, today expanded their ongoing review of charities’ governance to include the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Their action came after media reports described the lack of movement from the foundation and the National Park Service to improve the statue and offer adequate public access after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.
“For months, the Finance Committee has been reviewing the financial practices and accountability to donors of charities and private foundations,” Grassley said. “We’ve seen a pattern of these groups sitting on huge endowments, paying executives six-figure salaries, and spending relative pennies on their stated missions. Some of these foundations seem to exist only to perpetuate themselves. Unfortunately, it looks like the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation might be in that category…. (Grassley, Baucus Expand Charities Review to Statue of Liberty Foundation, emphasis added)
(So, the Statue of Liberty Foundation is one of the non-profit organizations that has been on their “radar.” Does that sound like a case of religious persecution to you? I think not.)
Let me point out that two things are clear from the excerpt above: First, that the senators were made aware of the alleged abuses through media reports. Second, that the key issue of the investigation is related to “the financial practices and accountability to donors of charities and private foundations.” This is about explaining “where the donor money goes”—and not about the personal beliefs of The Statue of Liberty Foundation or its members.
Next we find in the following press release excerpt from April 25, 2005 that the senators were expanding their investigations into other areas of apparent non-profit tax law abuse:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, and Sen. Max Baucus, ranking member, today said they plan to propose reforms to stop the use of “supporting organizations” for generous tax breaks rather than charitable purposes. The senators plan to include a crackdown on supporting organization abuse in their comprehensive charitable governance reform legislation to be introduced in the next few months.
Grassley and Baucus have learned of supporting organization abuse through their own investigation and media reports, such as the front-page story in today’s New York Times.
“This is extremely troubling,” Grassley said. “Individuals are using supporting organizations to play fast and loose with the tax rules intended to help charities and encourage giving. It’s clear Congress and the administration will have to take steps to stop this abuse and ensure that charitable donations benefit the needy. I’m deeply disturbed that with a good number of supporting organizations, people are taking multi-million dollar tax deductions for what they claim are contributions to charity, yet too often the result is a thimbleful of benefit to charity….Meanwhile, the charities are lucky if they receive enough money to buy a blanket for the homeless. While the taxpayers get bilked by this abuse, sadly the needy ultimately suffer because they’re denied the benefits intended by the tax law. (Grassley Plans to Take Aim at Abusive “Supporting Organizations” for Charities, emphasis added)
Again, we notice that the senators learned of the alleged abuses in-part through the media. We also see that their chief focus is that the U.S. tax law is being complied with as intended—not the personal beliefs of individuals.
The following more-recent release even explains how the two senators were calling on the Treasury Secretary to “pay particular attention” to two specific types of non-profits regarding tax-reporting requirements:
Seeking greater transparency into the workings of tax-exempt organizations including charities, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus are urging the Treasury Secretary to update the IRS tax form used by the nonprofit sector.
The senators made their request in a letter sent today. They urged the Treasury Department to make gathering more and better information a top priority and to pay particular attention to the operational complexities of nonprofit hospitals and universities. “While we always hear that sunshine is the best disinfectant, sunshine can’t do its work unless we open the blinds,” Grassley and Baucus wrote. “The sooner we open those blinds the better.”
Grassley and Baucus have worked together to conduct oversight and achieve major legislative reforms of the laws that help to govern tax-exempt organizations. Baucus is Chairman and Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance….(Sen. Grassley works to build confidence in nonprofits with greater transparency, May 29, 2007, emphasis added)
In the press release above, the two senators are targeting “nonprofit hospitals and universities” above…which shows two additional types of nonprofit organizations they are investigating in the light of U.S. tax law. Do you think the beliefs of those entities is their concern? (Neither do I.)
Now Let’s Review…
With what I have provided here so far, we can easily identify several key facts about the non-profit investigations to date:
- That they have been ongoing since at least the year 2001, and are NOT recent efforts.
- These are not limited to any one type or class of non-profit organizations, but are a sweeping review of all types—with a focus of reviewing/refining current tax laws in place.
- That the senators involved primarily learn of potential abuses through the media (and “whistleblowers” as we will see below), though their own offices’ investigations surely provide the bulk of the information obtained.
- They do not care about the beliefs of any of these non-profit groups. The senators are concerned ONLY with the financial practices of these groups in the light of the law—and the legitimate interests of their trusting donors.
And for additional confirmation of the above points, consider for a moment now this following news reports about Senator Grassley’s efforts to hold various groups accountable:
“Grassley deserves credit for taking steps to ensure nonprofits are honest and their tax exemptions are reasonable. He has investigated and questioned agencies all over the country, including the Red Cross, hospitals and televangelists. He knows nonprofits do important work. He also knows there’s something wrong when board members collect hundreds of dollars an hour to serve a ‘charity’.” (Credit Grassley for Probing Tax Status of Lush ‘Charity’, Des Moines Register, Tuesday, February 12, 2008)
“Grassley is a ‘non-profit cop,’ who keeps watch on tax-exempt organizations.” (Look into AARP’s nonprofit status, The Des Moines Register Editorial, Monday, November 10, 2008)
“…As the senior Republican on the Senate’s finance committee and as a senior member of the judiciary committee, he [Senator Grassley] has carved out a role as a relentless watchdog who acts a magnet for whistleblowers in government agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Defense to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In the last several years, Grassley has set his investigative sights on issues relating to medicine. A leading critic of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the surprise withdrawal from the market of Merck’s painkiller Vioxx in 2004, Grassley is now focusing on university researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who haven’t been properly reporting income from drug companies.” (Straight talk with…Charles Grassley, Nature Medicine, October 2008)
Of the two senators involved, Senator Grassley in particular has obviously developed over the years a reputation as being a “magnet for whistleblowers” and a “watchdog” of both government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Now with all the above facts in mind, let me ask you:
- If the Senate Finance Committee (and these two senators in particular) are doing a “sweeping review of ALL non-profit organizations”… then isn’t it logical that eventually they would come around to checking on churches and religious non-profit organizations?
- If these two senators often learn of non-profit abuses through news reports and “whistleblowers” that come to them, then should they not also expand their review of charities to possibly include ministries or churches who have been reported to them as potentially abusing their donors’ money?
Personally, I believe that any impartial person would have to look at the above facts and conclude, “Yes!” to all of the above.
I certainly not a big fan of the U.S. Federal Government (or ANY government) getting its nose into the affairs of the Church in general. However, neither am I a big fan of over-bloated “ministries” who squander funds for their own pleasure that could be better utilized elsewhere in the Body of Christ—especially if they use deceptive practices to “fleece the sheep” of their money.
There are valid ministries going “without” while these “preachers” are driving donor-funded Rolls Royces… and there is something extremely wrong with that in my opinion. So within that context, I can easily support the Senator’s efforts to ensure financial transparency of such “ministerial” behemoths.
Further, now that we have been discussing him all this time, let us give Senator Grassley a chance to explain to us what brought these issues to his attention, and what his clear intentions are in expanding this investigation to include the six televangelists in question:
Senator Chuck Grassley stated in the video above that he certainly understands the “line” of the “separation of church and state” in that he is NOT interested in doctrinal issues at all. What he is interested in determining is whether the U.S. tax law is being complied with, if there are abuses by these televangelists of their donors’ money, and whether there is appropriate transparency between the ministries and their contributors. Again, it is not their “beliefs” that he is concerned with… it is their deeds in the light of the law.
It is my personal opinion that all the evidence at hand concerning the history of the investigative efforts of Senators Grassley and Baucus concerning non-profit organizations, confirm the positions he stated within the video above. Thus,I have already personally concluded:
The Senate Finance Committee’s investigation of the six televangelists—including Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar—is certainly NOT a case of religious persecution “because of their Word of Faith beliefs.”
In fact, I agree with the following fuller assessment given by Rusty Leonard of Ministry Watch concerning Kenneth Copeland’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation when he said (which we had previously referenced only in brief further above):
…Copeland is trying to create the impression that he is being cooperative, when in fact he failed to comply with 25 of the 42 requests for information from Sen. Grassley. Now, he wants the IRS to continue the investigation, but only because IRS investigations are confidential. Copeland doesn’t want the public or his donors to see what he’s been doing, and that’s alarming. It screams that he his hiding something from KCM donors and the public.”
Leonard said that Copeland was clever by asking for the IRS to intervene, because it is his best chance to hold Grassley and the media at bay.”For many years the IRS has been under-resourced when it comes to this kind of investigation,” Leonard said. “An IRS investigation could take years, will be completely out of the public eye, and may result in nothing more than fines for KCM. Copeland has made a business decision that it’s far better for him to deal with the IRS in secret than to face Sen. Grassley or ’60 Minutes’ in public. One can only wonder what he might be trying to hide from his donors.”
Copeland should “come clean,” Leonard said, and fully disclose all requested information to both Grassley, to the donors to KCM, and to the public. “The idea that Copeland is standing on some constitutional principle is simply a diversion,” Leonard said.
Leonard added: “Copeland’s complaint about Sen. Grassley’s right to ask for this information is nothing more than a sideshow. KCM donors themselves have every right to ask for this information and Copeland has a moral obligation, that overrides any constitutional issue, to provide it. Donors are fortunate that Grassley is using his position to act on their behalf.”… (To review the entire Ministry Watch statement, download the PDF here)
I can wholeheartedly agree with Rusty’s assessment above, because it perfectly aligns with what Jesus said about they type of behavior that Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and Creflo and Taffi Dollar (and their ministries) have exhibited to date:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21, NKJV, emphasis added)
Copeland refuses to “come to the light,” which indicates strongly that he is hiding something. His actions to date (in the light of the passage above) indicate that there is something likely “evil” in his deeds that he does not want to be exposed.
(Nevertheless, despite his efforts to conceal his affairs, I will actually be exposing and documenting within KennethCopelandBlog.com a few of those “hidden” deeds of which I am aware…)
Lastly: Senator Chuck Grassley’s investigation of the Copelands, Dollars, and the other televangelists is certainly NOT a case of religious persecution because of their “Word of Faith beliefs.” In fact, as the next article will reveal, Senator Grassley’s investigation is actually IN FULL COMPLIANCE with the doctrines of the “father” of the Word of Faith movement… the Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin.
So once again I draw your attention to the byline of this blog at the top of every page: We are calling on the man (Kenneth Copeland), his family, and his ministry…to simply repent.
**** See also this related post by Chuck Gallagher ****
Note: This blog does not allow comments. Please review our Commentary Policy page for more information.