Long called the request by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) “unjust,” “intrusive,” and “an attack on our religious freedom and privacy rights,” during a brief address to the congregation during a morning service.
A guest minister was in the pulpit, so Long did not preach.
Other than releasing a statement last week, saying he would cooperate with the request, Long had been quiet.
His cross-town friend, the Rev. Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International of College Park, had talked to the press last week about a similar letter he received. He also expressed concerns about governmental intrusion into religion.
Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has some oversight powers of nonprofits and charities. He asked for documents from six U.S. televangelism ministries. The other four are Randy and Paula White of Tampa, the Rev. Benny Hinn, and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Texas, and David and Joyce Meyer of Missouri.
– The Bible, 1 Timothy 6:3-10 NIV
Grassley said stories of excessive lifestyles and spending by ministry leaders caused him to wonder whether the tax breaks given to ministries were being abused to enrich those involved.
His has questioned other charities in previous years, including the Red Cross and the United Way.
Grassley said he is not interested in religion or doctrine, only the tax issues.
Long saw it as an attack.
“[Grassley] wants to impose the will of government on our religious rights,” he said.
Many in the emotional and supportive crowd stood and cheered Long several times during his brief statement.
Dollar did not address the issue during an early service Sunday.
Churchgoers at the Atlanta ministries stood by their pastors.
Vincent Pearson of Palmetto, a longtime member at World Changers, identified Dollar and Long as part of a long list of African-American leaders or role models who have come what he considers unfair attack. Pearson said, “I feel he’s justified in making sure none of the rights of him and others are being violated by those delving into this.”
Dollar said last week that he would cooperate with any “valid” request, and that a team of legal experts was going over it.
Whitney B. Williams of Marietta, a New Birth member said after the service, “That senator is a clown.”
He resents the financial dispersions the letters could cast on Long.
“Bishop is a good man,” Williams said. “What they are saying is wrong.”