An Iowa senator investigating six prominent television Christian ministries, including two in Atlanta, said Friday he will take up Creflo Dollar‘s challenge to subpoena the documents he requested from them, if necessary.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he hopes to avoid that. He said a second round of letters going out soon to five of the ministers, and time to think, may turn some of them around.
“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 in Atlanta.
Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. He has taken an interest in looking into nonprofit organizations to make sure they are abiding by and spending donors’ money according to the law.
The Rev. Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park rebuffed Grassley’s request last December with a letter from a lawyer. The letter said Grassley is entangling church and state and that he should refer any investigation to the Internal Revenue Service.
An attorney for Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, the other local minister on Grassley’s list, sent a similar letter.
They could not be reached Friday.
Grassley also asked Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Texas, Paula and Randy White of Florida, and Benny Hinn, also of Texas, for information. They have not complied, though some sent partial documentation.
Grassley was in Atlanta to talk about public policy and hunger at a gathering of Baptists called the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.
He said after his talk that the resistance by the ministries to his request for documents surprised him.
“Except for Jack Abramoff and his nonprofits — and he is in prison now — every time I asked nonprofits for information, I got it,” Grassley said.
Abramoff was a high-profile Republican lobbyist caught up in a scandal involving Indian tribes and gambling. He pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2006.
Grassley said he is not interested in church policy or doctrine, only in the tax laws.
Grassley would need the support of the Senate Finance Committee, particularly the chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, to move ahead with subpoenas. The committee has supported Grassley in other investigations.
Baucus could not be reached Friday.