Posted Feb. 5, 2008 – The Iowa Republican who has demanded financial records from several big-name TV preachers says he’ll subpoena the documents if the ministers won’t relinquish them voluntarily.
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Sen. Charles Grassley, who’s investigating six of the most prominent televangelists, said he’d like to have their cooperation rather than having to resort to strong-arm tactics.
"We are going to deal with them in ways of encouraging them. And it will be a while before I will think about a subpoena," he said Friday.
Grassley, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, initiated the probe after he received complaints that the ministers were living tax-free lavish lifestyles. Among the preachers’ toys are such goodies as private jets, Rolls-Royces, and multi-million-dollar homes and apartments.
Initially, Bishop Eddie Long, who heads a mega-church ministry in Lithonia, Ga., promised to “fully comply” with Grassley’s request but changed his mind a few days later by calling the inquiry “unjust,” “intrusive,” and “an attack on our religious freedom and privacy rights.”
Creflo Dollar, whose Georgia-area church raked in a cool $69 million last year, is another late dissenter. Although he had vowed to cooperate, Dollar’s attorney wrote Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, on Nov. 27, saying that his client would only comply with a “proper” request for information – meaning one handled by the IRS.
Others being investigated by Grassley are 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; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas. Both Texas ministries are in the Dallas - Fort Worth area. Joyce Meyer of Missouri is the only televangelist who has cooperated so far.