Some of Mr. Copeland’s backers question whether Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, is biased against the Pentecostal televangelists because of his Baptist faith.
Mr. Copeland, a subject of the investigation, recently launched a Web site called believersstandunited.com.
He said the senator’s investigation is “aimed at publicly questioning the religious beliefs of the targeted churches, their ministers, and their members while ignoring televangelists of other denominations.”
Mr. Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he bears no ill will toward Pentecostals.
“Doctrine is not a part of this committee’s review,” he said.
Mr. Copeland, who is based in the Wise County town of Newark, is backed by almost two dozen leaders of conservative secular and religious organizations.
Some of them recently sent a letter to the Finance Committee suggesting that the televangelists were targeted for sharing “the same branch of evangelicalism.”
All six targets preach the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God will grant financial and spiritual wealth to the faithful.
Their ministries include hundreds of thousands of worshipers who watch their TV shows, buy their products and donate to their churches.
Watchdog groups have complained for years that the ministries’ charismatic leaders fund extravagant lifestyles with their followers’ donations.
Some evangelicals say the investigation could alienate some of the Republican Party’s religious supporters.
“You’ve got a Baptist senator attacking six Pentecostals,” said Doug Wead, a conservative blogger who was former President George Bush’s liaison to the evangelical community and an informal adviser to the current President Bush.
Mr. Grassley, whose committee has authority over tax-exempt organizations, sent letters in November to the six ministries, asking detailed questions about their financial operations and seeking credit card records, as well as information about executive compensation and amenities.
After initial resistance, four of the televangelists – Grapevine-based Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer of Missouri, Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia and Paula White of Florida – are cooperating, Mr. Grassley said.
The remaining two, Mr. Copeland and Creflo Dollar, who operates out of Georgia, have provided only documents to the committee, the senatorsaid.
Mr. Copeland has suggested that the devil is behind Mr. Grassley’s effort.
“Satan has an agenda,” he said in a recent broadcast.
“He is looking for a way to drive a wedge and get strife between one another.”
Original title: North Texas’ Copeland sees bias in televangelist inquiry
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