Friday, December 07, 2007

Two Atlanta Preachers Snub Senate Probe

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that metro Atlanta-based mega churches of Rev. Creflo Dollar, of World Changers Church in College Park and Bishop Eddie Long, of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, have denied Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-Iowa) request for documents sought in a probe of nonprofits. A total of six mega churches, most of whom preach a version of Prosperity Gospel, were included in the probe.



The AJC quotes the church's reply to the senator's request:
  • The attorney for Dollar sent a letter that read in part, "...'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."

    ... 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."

  • The attorney for Long sent a letter that read in part, "[it] clearly disregards the privacy protections of the Church under law and appears to cross the line of Constitutional guarantees for churches."

  • Of the six requests, only Rev. Joyce Meyer, of Missouri, has complied with her church's financial records. In a written statement, Meyers says, "... this latest opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to transparency with our supporters and our dedication to the continual improvement of our own systems of accountability."


    Read the entire AJC article here.


    plez sez: let me state for the record, i wholeheartedly support the separation of church and state.

    with that said, i find it unfathomable how one can ask for tax exempt or tax free status from the government, yet thwart the government to examine one's fitness for that status! it is obvious to me that these "prosperity preachers" are in IT for the money and cannot stand the glaring light of scrutiny into their ministries. i've visited one of the Atlanta-based mega churches and the ministry there is nothing like the religion i was raised with as a child... it is more commercial, more sanitized, more packaged... and frankly, far less inspirational. there is a profound emphasis on money and contributing money and counting your blessings of money and grandstanding about - you got it - money.

    both churches do wonderful work in their respective communities, but i am concerned with the armored-car amounts of money that these preachers generate AND how this money is used to provide them with lavish lifestyles (large homes, expensive cars, jets, helicopters, and all the trappings of success). and if they happen to accidentally blurt out the name, Jesus... oh, never mind!

    i do not work for the IRS, but i would think that if these "ministries" would like to maintain their tax exempt status, that they would have to submit financial records that support that status. and as Rev. Meyer wrote, shouldn't these churches want to be transparent with their constituents and the federal government which provides this tax exempt status? their fierce money grab and the attempt at obfuscation around the need to submit financial records makes me wonder if those "love offerings" and massive salaries are justified by our current tax code.

    and since GOD made it possible for them to reap such huge rewards from their people, i'm sure this same GOD will watch over them during this government probe: if they have nothing to hide, i feel they should turn over their financial records.

    6 comments:

    Martin Lindsey. said...

    I'm curious about the Senator's motivation. Is he taking this up on his own or have his Congressional peers asked him to take the lead for some reason? If so, why?

    The IRS can audit them if the government thinks something shady may be afoot. There may even be other agencies that could subpeona records if they thought they had cause.

    I don't know man. That's a slippery slope when politicians want to randomly go into the church house. Sounds more shady and communistic on the government's end to me.

    If it were me, and knowing the long standing precedent of that degree of separation, I'd make them take what they want via subpeona, purely for perception reasons. I suspect Grassley isn't going that far because he doesn't want to look mean spirited and overly invasive. But so far, that is the mantle he's wearing.

    plez... said...

    Marty,

    please note, it is Congress that writes & votes on the IRS code, so it is the responsibility of Congress to review and revise the code, especially if there is gross abuse (which appears to be evident with these profiteering mega churches). if these preachers are operating their churches legitimately within the guidelines of their tax exempt status within the IRS code, then there should be no issue with opening their books to Congress for review.

    there is no slippery slope. there are no church-state separation issues.

    i think that you and i know that the SHADY characters in this mess are not the congressmen!

    Aaron & Alaine said...

    While the lifestyle choices of some of the preachers targeted I may not be comfortable with, Sen. Grassely is on a pure fishing expedition. He has no evidence or allegation of wrongdoing. He said out of his own mouth, I don't know if anything is wrong and I won't know until I get the information. So he wants people to turn over information for him to comb through so he can find something to pick at. Since when does the government, absent any allegation of wrongdoing, get to demand that you turn over your records to them to satisfy their curiosity about your lifestyle?

    The IRS is not investigating them, and Grassely can't even request the IRS do so without some evidence or allegation of wrongdoing or impropriety. He doesn't have it and he wants them to hand him some evidence with which he can refer them to the IRS. Sorry, but he doesn't have that authority, nor should he.

    plez... said...

    a&a,
    i disagree with you as to the authority of a member of Congress to investigate the financial records of an organization or person that seeks tax exempt status: the IRS operates under the auspices of Congress.

    the lifestyle of these preachers calls into question the operation of their churches as tax exemt organizations... my only hope is that this turns into an IRS investigation into their practices.

    julien bellin said...

    "the lifestyle of these preachers calls into question the operation of their churches as tax exempt organizations"

    very nicely said.

    BESA KOSOVA said...

    This blog has never been so timely as it is today. Thank you for sharing and keeping it posted!