Televangelist Investigation Update

At least one top televangelist is refusing to cooperate with an investigation by the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Last month, Senator Grassley issued letters to six ministries asking for detailed financial documents by December 6, 2007.

The ministries under scrutiny are: Paula and Randy White, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Kenneth Copeland Ministries. As the deadline for the investigation passed, Grassley's office indicated that responses varied.

-Creflo Dollar's attorney told Senator Grassley's staff that the Senator should get a subpoena or refer the issue to the Internal Revenue Service.

-Paula White's attorney contacted Grassley's office today but did not indicate whether or not they would cooperate.

-Eddie Long's representatives have indicated publicly they will cooperate but the Senator's office says they have not received any documents.

-The Senator received a package of information today from Kenneth Copeland Ministries but his office would not indicate anything about the contents. An email statement from Kenneth Copeland Ministries indicated "Eagle Mountain International Church ("KCM") greatly respects Senator Grassley's interest in, and commitment to, tax-exempt religious organizations. We submitted our response on December 6, 2007." The statement noted that the ministry undergoes an annual independent audit, "Our church prides itself on financial accountability and has instituted policies and procedures to ensure our financial integrity. At the same time, we have also instituted procedures to ensure the privacy of our donors, employees, directors and ministers." The ministry would not comment any further.

-Joyce Meyer recently put out a statement including financial documents and indicated her ministry would fully cooperate with Senator Grassley.

-Benny Hinn's spokesperson Ronn Torossian said in an email statement that Hinn would cooperate and provide requested documents by a deadline of January 30, 2008. Torossian also noted that Hinn's church "is in full compliance with government agencies duly authorized to oversee churches and charitable organizations, and will continue to follow guidelines set forth for that purpose."

Zero cooperation from a non-profit organization under scrutiny by Grassley's investigators is unprecedented. Grassley said in a conference call Wednesday for Iowa reporters that he hoped any uncooperative ministries would reconsider, "They've got to realize that churches are no different than any other non-profit organizations."

Warren Smith of Ministry Watch, a Christian donor advocacy organization says ministries should comply, "Our position is that if there's nothing illegal going on, why not disclose it?"

If Grassley moves ahead to subpoena financial documents from ministries that refuse to cooperate, he will need bipartisan support. Carol Guthrie, the spokesperson for the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Senator Max Baucus, D-Mon., would not comment on whether or not Baucus would support a subpoena, but she said the senator hopes that "people would see the wisdom of cooperating with a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee."