A senator’s investigation into spending and oversight at six “prosperity gospel” ministries has hit a roadblock with a minister intensifying his efforts to fight the inquiry, but made progress on Monday when another turned over documents.
Flamboyant Texas-based faith healer Benny Hinn had turned over material to the Senate Finance Committee in response to a letter of inquiry from Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in early November, an aide to the senator said.
Meanwhile, another target of Grassley’s investigation, Kenneth Copeland, sent a letter to supporters this month accusing Grassley of targeting the six ministries because of theological disagreements. Grassley denies the charge.
– The Bible, 1 Timothy 6:3-10 NIV
Copeland, whose supporters have called Grassley’s office to protest, is a pioneer of the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants his followers to be rich both spiritually and materially.
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the finance committee, sent the inquiries after media reports and complaints from the public. He asked the ministries to answer questions about spending on things such as private jets and oceanside homes.
He also wanted to know about oversight from boards at the ministries.
Several ministries complained that religious freedoms were threatened and said that the Internal Revenue Service, not a Senate committee, had any business asking those questions.
Jill Gerber, Grassley’s spokewoman, said it was too soon to characterize the documents from Hinn, but added that Hinn’s representatives say “they want to be cooperative and transparent,” and understood Grassley’s position.
A Hinn spokesman did not immediately respond to calls for comment. Last week, he refused comment about Hinn’s plans.
In a statement Monday, Grassley’s office said it received about three-dozen calls from Copeland supporters echoing the letter’s message. The statement said Copeland’s response has fallen “far short,” and that while lines of communications are open, “additional steps in the congressional review” also would be considered.
Grassley has said he doesn’t think he’ll need to resort to subpoenas, but hasn’t ruled them out. Grassley is expected to send another round of letters soon reiterating the committee’s jurisdiction over tax-exempt policy.
Only one ministry, headed by author and motivational speaker Joyce Meyer, has “substantially answered” Grassley’s questions, Grassley’s office said.
Two Atlanta-area ministers, Creflo Dollar and Bishop Eddie Long, have refused to cooperate, while Paula and Randy White of Tampa also have failed to provide any information, Grassley’s office said.
Copeland, initially reserved, has become increasingly combative toward Grassley.
In a letter this month to supporters, Copeland wrote that the ministry’s response to Grassley “contained detailed information about non-church related questions” but did not provide information it deems private.
Copeland said the ministry fully complies with all laws and pledged that he would go to jail before turning over names of donors.
“The enemy is not going to steal what the Lord has won through this ministry, and he is not going to use this attack to bring harm to the rest of the churches and ministries in America!” Copeland wrote.
Referring to Grassley’s comment that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a Rolls Royce, Copeland wrote that Grassley seems to have targeted the ministries because of their shared prosperity theology.
Grassley has said he is concerned with tax-exempt regulations, not theology.
Original Title: Minister complies with Sen. probe, second resists