DALLAS — The son of a Christian televangelist targeted by a Senate committee investigation into possible financial wrongdoing is defending the church and preacher’s spending in an interview with a Dallas-Fort Worth television station.
“How can you reach the world if you don’t have money to do it?” asked John Copeland, chief executive of Newark, Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries, in an interview with KTVT-TV.
His father, Kenneth Copeland, is among six well-known evangelical ministries under scrutiny over their preachers lifestyles, funded with donors’ generosity. The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, said he wants to know if tax breaks given to churches were being abused.
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland is one of the founders of the modern prosperity gospel movement, which holds that God wants his faithful followers to be rewarded spiritually and financially.
“There’s a lot of doctrine that teaches that you’re not a good Christian unless you’re poor. But that’s not our doctrine, that’s not what we believe,” the younger Copeland told KTVT-TV.
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“A lot of people may see that as a luxurious lifestyle, but when you hit 19 countries in 12 months, what are you going do that with. The jet is a tool. It’s just a tool to use in ministry,” John Copeland said.
The Copelands say the Senate committee investigation is singling out Pentecostals and maintain the requests for financial review are a violation of the church’s first amendment rights.
“Where in the Bible does it say you should have watchdogs and judgment groups that watch over ministries?” asked John Copeland.
Grassley contends the investigation is a review of non-profit tax policy “like the numerous others that I’ve conducted since 2001. I’m not interested in church doctrine. I’m interested in the adequacy of tax-exmpt laws and the protection of federal taxpayers.”
Attorneys for Kenneth Copeland Ministries sent a letter to the IRS’ Office of Examinations in April saying the church was willing to cooperate with a tax inquiry by the agency. Leaders of the television ministry contend dozens of questions about expenses, executive compensation and amenities asked by Grassley are similar to those posed in an IRS church tax inquiry.
The IRS requires that pastors’ compensation be “reasonable,” a figure set by collecting comparable salaries and weighing factors such as church size and a pastor’s value to the congregation.
IRS rules prevent pastors and other insiders from excessive personal gain through their tax-exempt work.
Original title: Televangelist’s son defends church and preacher’s spending