Televangelist Eddie Long to cooperate with Senate probe

One of two recalcitrant metro Atlanta televangelists under investigation by a Senate committee has decided to cooperate.

The Rev. Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia has indicated he will give the Senate Finance Committee the financial and corporate documents sought by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said a Grassley spokeswoman.

Daniel Rene, a spokesman for Long, confirmed that the minister was talking to the senator.

The Rev. Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park had not responded as of Friday to the March 11 letter asking for cooperation, said Jill Kozeny, on Grassley’s staff.

Dollar’s attorney could not be reached, but he has contested the request.

Today is a deadline for information set by the Iowa senator and ranking member of the committee. If the ministries refuse, the committee could subpoena the documents.

The chess game of Grassley’s requests and the ministries’ countermoves began last November when Grassley first asked for information from the metro Atlantans; the Rev. Benny Hinn and the Rev. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, both of Texas; Randy and Paula White of Florida, and Joyce Meyer of Missouri.

Grassley has a record of pulling nonprofits before the committee to investigate their management and how they use their tax-exempt status. He launched the probe into the ministries of the six jet-setting televangelists, asking about salaries, perks, gifts and ministry oversight. He has said the ministers’ private jets, million-dollar homes, exotic cars and expensive gifts attracted his attention.

The six preach forms of the prosperity gospel, which says God wants his followers to prosper financially as well as spiritually.

Meyer opened her books to Grassley, but the others have dragged their feet or given partial responses.

The Copelands’ ministry remains the other holdout, Kozeny said.

Copeland and Dollar have waged a rhetoric campaign against the investigation, saying they will give everything they are legally required to give, while contesting what that includes.

Dollar has questioned Grassley’s motives and legal authority to request some of the documents and raised the issue of constitutional church-state divisions.

Copeland, who has been a mentor to Dollar, ramped up his rhetoric last month. According to the Des Moines Register, he sent a letter to supporters saying, “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,”

Kozeny said Grassley remains hopeful that Dollar will cooperate.

“We are going to keep on with the dialogue,” she said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 31, 2008.
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