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"It's about time", Ole Anderson on televangelists probe!

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  • rlbaty50
    http://www.tbo.com/news/nationworld/MGBIBGRYN8F.html Without Walls Finances Face Senator s Scrutiny By MICHELLE BEARDEN and BAIRD HELGESON The Tampa Tribune
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 6, 2007
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      http://www.tbo.com/news/nationworld/MGBIBGRYN8F.html

      Without Walls Finances Face Senator's Scrutiny

      By MICHELLE BEARDEN and BAIRD HELGESON The Tampa Tribune

      Published: Nov 6, 2007

      TAMPA - The ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance has
      launched an investigative review of possible misuse of donations made
      to Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries,
      along with five other Christian organizations.

      Letters were faxed Monday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, requesting
      ministry leaders respond by Dec. 6 to a wide range of questions
      regarding their personal and organizational finances. The senator
      expects full cooperation, he said in a statement released by his
      staff.

      "It's about time some sanity is brought to these religious
      nonprofits," said Ole Anthony, founder of Trinity Foundation, a
      Dallas-based televangelist watchdog organization.

      "Some are committing outright fraud, and it's getting worse, not
      better, as time goes on."

      Grassley, former chairman of the finance committee, said his requests
      for information came in response to complaints from the public and
      news coverage about practices at the six ministries. The allegations
      involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous
      salaries and housing allowances for church leaders, and amenities
      such as private jets and Rolls-Royces.

      "I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an
      obligation to donors and taxpayers to find out more," he
      wrote. "People who donated should have their money spent as intended
      and in adherence with the tax code."

      Besides the Whites, letters went to Benny Hinn of World Healing
      Center Church of Grapevine, Texas; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce
      Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of
      Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of
      New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, Ga., and Creflo and
      Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International of College Park,
      Ga.

      In a five-page letter to Randy and Paula White, Grassley asked for
      detailed information on 28 areas of church and personal finances,
      mainly from the years 2004 to present. Some of those include:

      •A detailed explanation of the compensation paid to the Whites, as
      well as cash and noncash gifts, housing allowances and personal use
      of assets.

      •A detailed list of any expenses paid for by their church or
      ministries toward the purchases and monthly maintenance of their
      residences on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, and in New York, San
      Antonio, Texas; and Malibu, Calif.

      •Credit card statements for expenses paid by the Whites' tax-exempt
      entity, including a list of all expense account items such as
      clothing and cosmetic surgery.

      •A list of all domestic and overseas bank accounts and investments
      belonging to their organizations.

      •A list of all vehicles purchased, leased or maintained by their tax-
      exempt organizations.

      •Copies of flight records of any aircraft leased or owned by their
      ministries, as well as flight itineraries for both the Whites.

      •A copy of the bill of sale, type of payment used and an explanation
      of the reported tax-exempt purchase of a Bentley convertible as a
      gift for Bishop T.D. Jakes.

      •A detailed accounting of $871,000 worth of items reportedly sold to
      the church since 2005 by two of the private businesses owned by the
      Whites, and an explanation as to who determined that the church would
      purchase these items.

      •An explanation of who determines how the funds of Without Walls and
      Paula White Ministries are spent, copies of all board minutes and
      whether any of the decisions, both operational and financial, are
      subject to oversight by an elected or appointed body.

      Randy and Paula White, who founded Without Walls in 1991 and divorced
      this year, reacted Monday to the Grassley letter in a statement
      released by their public relations firm, Tucker/Hall. Representatives
      from the other ministries did not respond to a request for comment.

      Whites Call Letter 'Unusual'

      The Whites said they were initially notified of the letter by a
      reporter, and found it peculiar that the media learned of it before
      they did.

      "We're assuming it's authentic - but we find it unusual, since the
      IRS has separate powers to investigate religious organizations if
      they think it's necessary," the statement said. "So we find it odd
      that the IRS did not initiate this investigation. It also seems odd
      that they have asked about areas that have no relationship to the
      operation of the church."

      The Whites said they could not comment further because they had just
      received the letter and their lawyers had not finished reviewing it.

      This year, The Tampa Tribune detailed problems at Without Walls, one
      of the largest independent nondenominational churches in the nation.
      Detractors said the Whites borrowed $170,000 from an elderly widow
      and failed to keep promises to care for her or pay it back. A young
      woman who said she was promised a house for winning a church essay
      contest did not get it, though the church repeatedly publicized the
      award ceremony.

      The Whites have since repaid the widow and secured a house for the
      young woman. After inquiries from the Tribune, the church published
      an audit of its 2005 and 2006 finances on its Web site. It states
      that the church took in $39.9 million in 2006 and itemizes some of
      its spending. It does not break down how much was spent on specific
      ministries or on salaries for its top staff.

      That a U.S. senator is asking about finances, and not the IRS,
      doesn't surprise Anthony, whose organization has provided information
      to the Finance Committee for more than two years.

      "You've got approximately 1.5 million [nonprofit] organizations in
      America, and 30,000 starting up each year," he said. "The government
      can't possibly keep up with that workload. But it's apparent that
      media coverage isn't enough to expose this. If anything is going to
      change, it takes a drastic step like this."

      'He's Picking A Fight'

      Kenneth Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial
      Accountability, an accreditation agency for Christian ministries,
      called the inquiry "a very big deal." He said he is not aware of a
      high-ranking lawmaker ever undertaking such an extensive
      investigation into so many churches.

      "I think he's picking a fight," Behr said. "He is not just asking
      them to come in and talk, he is asking them for everything."

      And if they don't tell all, he predicted, Grassley could ask the IRS
      to step in.

      "An IRS audit is not pleasant," said the former Ford Motor Co.
      executive. "I wouldn't wish it on my enemy."

      Gloria Sutton, an IRS spokeswoman in Jacksonville, would not comment
      on Grassley's letters or how the agency might respond. She could not
      say how many churches the IRS has audited in recent years.

      The churches probably can't take refuge in laws governing the
      separation of church and state. Religious organizations are subject
      to all sorts of government regulations, said Ayesha N. Khan, legal
      director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

      If the churches don't respond, or don't respond in full, Grassley
      could push for a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

      Ministries Teach Prosperity Gospel

      Rodney Pitzer, of a North Carolina-based donor advocacy organization
      called Ministrywatch.com, said some ministries are purposefully
      designed to make their leaders wealthy. He said he hopes the Senate
      inquiry will encourage religious organizations to "start cleaning
      house."

      "Some of these nonprofits really know how to work the system," he
      said. "They may be in compliance with the law, but they're certainly
      not in compliance with the heart and the spirit of the law."

      The pressure to change the laws will have to come from donors rather
      than the government, said Ted Olsen, managing editor for news and
      online journalism at Christianity Today.

      But the ministries targeted by Grassley are in a subgroup of the
      Christian evangelical movement that Olsen calls the "health-and-
      wealth crowd." They preach prosperity Gospel, a teaching that
      promises material rewards for those who give to the church.

      "There's little fear of donor backlash when your donors see opulence
      as a sign of God's blessing," he said.

      Even a national Christian publication that has given favorable
      coverage to ministries such as Without Walls is taking a harder look.

      Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, is now calling for financial
      reform in Christian evangelical circles. He is bothered that some
      ministries are giving "all of us a bad name because money has been
      misused."

      "This is an awkward time for the church," Grady said. "I believe God
      is putting his finger on some problems and demanding that we set our
      house in order. If we don't correct these problems ourselves, then
      the government may have to step in and do it. And that will be
      unfortunate."

      ------------------------------
      ------------------------------
    • w_w_c_l
      Robert, It appears some of these characters are linked to Oral ... Grassley probes televangelists finances By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS, Associated Press Writer
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 6, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        Robert,

        It appears some of these characters are linked to Oral
        Roberts University:

        ---------------------------------------

        Grassley probes televangelists' finances
        By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS, Associated Press Writer
        November 6, 2007


        Acting on tips about preachers who ride in Rolls Royces and have
        purportedly paid $30,000 for a conference table, the top Republican
        on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday he's investigating the
        finances of six well-known TV ministers.

        Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said those under scrutiny include faith
        healer Benny Hinn, Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar and one of
        the nation's best known female preachers, Joyce Meyer.

        Grassley sent letters to the half-dozen Christian media ministries
        earlier this week requesting answers by Dec. 6 about their expenses,
        executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and
        private jets.

        In a statement, Grassley said he was acting on complaints from the
        public and news coverage of the organizations.

        "The allegations involve governing boards that aren't independent and
        allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as
        private jets and Rolls Royces," Grassley said.

        "I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an
        obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who
        donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence
        with the tax code."

        Those ministries that responded Tuesday either said they were
        cooperating or committed to financial transparency and following the
        law.

        The investigation promises to shine new light on the kind of TV
        ministries that were crippled by sex and money scandals in the 1980s.
        Experts also say it stands out as an unusual case of the government
        probing the inner workings of religious organizations.

        Most of those under investigation preach a variation of
        the "prosperity gospel," the teaching that God will shower faithful
        followers with material riches.

        Grassley's letters went to:

        • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of
        Newark, Texas, a $20 million organization and prosperity gospel
        pioneer. Questions were raised about the transfer of church assets to
        a for-profit company, Security Patrol Inc., a $1 million loan from
        Gloria Copeland to the group, and a "personal gift" of more than $2
        million given to Kenneth Copeland to mark the ministry's 40th
        anniversary.

        A Copeland spokeswoman released a statement saying the ministry is
        working on a response to Grassley's letter, follows all laws and best
        practices governing churches and religious nonprofit groups,
        and "will continue to do so."

        • Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and
        Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga. Grassley's letter asks
        for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and
        donations and "love offerings" to visiting ministers. In a statement,
        Dollar called his ministry an "open book" and said he would
        cooperate. He also questioned whether the investigation could "affect
        the privacy of every community church in America."

        • Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn
        Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, is asked about use of a private jet,
        a home in Dana Point, Calif. and "layover trips" while traveling on
        ministry business. Hinn did not respond to requests for comment.

        • Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop
        Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., was questioned about his
        salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and
        not the board, holds sole authority over the organization. Long plans
        to fully comply with the Senate's request, and his church
        has "several safeguards" to ensure transactions comply with laws
        governing churches, according to a statement from Long's spokesman.

        • Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., who
        were quizzed about receiving donations of money and jewelry and the
        handling of cash from overseas crusades. They also were asked about
        expenditures at ministry headquarters, including a $30,000 conference
        table and a $23,000 "commode with marble top."

        The ministry's lawyer released a statement describing the ministry's
        work and public release of several years' worth of audits. He also
        said the IRS found in October that the group continues to qualify for
        tax-exempt status.

        • Randy and Paula White of the multiracial Without Walls
        International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla. are
        asked about home purchases in San Antonio, Texas, Malibu, Calif., and
        New York, credit card charges for clothing and cosmetic surgery and
        the reported purchase of a Bentley convertible as a gift for Bishop
        T.D. Jakes, a prominent Texas preacher and televangelist. An e-mail
        to a spokeswoman for Jakes was not immediately returned.

        In a statement, Randy and Paula White declined to comment on
        specifics, saying they needed time to review the letter with their
        lawyers. But the Whites called the Grassley letter "unusual, since
        the IRS has separate powers to investigate religious organizations if
        they think it's necessary."

        Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar all sit on the board of
        regents for Oral Roberts University, which is mired in a financial
        scandal of its own.

        The Senate Finance Committee has chided secular nonprofits for
        governance and compensation problems in the past, but this level of
        scrutiny for what are basically "non-pulpit churches" is
        unprecedented, said Ken Behr, president of the Evangelical Council
        for Financial Accountability.

        Because the groups have tax status as churches, they are not required
        to file tax forms open to public inspection.

        ------------------------------------------------


        --- In Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com, "rlbaty50" <
        rlbaty@...> wrote:
        >
        > http://www.tbo.com/news/nationworld/MGBIBGRYN8F.html
        >
        > Without Walls Finances Face Senator's Scrutiny
        >
        > By MICHELLE BEARDEN and BAIRD HELGESON The Tampa Tribune
        >
        > Published: Nov 6, 2007
        >
        > TAMPA - The ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance has
        > launched an investigative review of possible misuse of donations
        made
        > to Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries,
        > along with five other Christian organizations.
        >
        > Letters were faxed Monday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa,
        requesting
        > ministry leaders respond by Dec. 6 to a wide range of questions
        > regarding their personal and organizational finances. The senator
        > expects full cooperation, he said in a statement released by his
        > staff.
        >
        > "It's about time some sanity is brought to these religious
        > nonprofits," said Ole Anthony, founder of Trinity Foundation, a
        > Dallas-based televangelist watchdog organization.
        >
        > "Some are committing outright fraud, and it's getting worse, not
        > better, as time goes on."
        >
        > Grassley, former chairman of the finance committee, said his
        requests
        > for information came in response to complaints from the public and
        > news coverage about practices at the six ministries. The
        allegations
        > involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous
        > salaries and housing allowances for church leaders, and amenities
        > such as private jets and Rolls-Royces.
        >
        > "I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an
        > obligation to donors and taxpayers to find out more," he
        > wrote. "People who donated should have their money spent as
        intended
        > and in adherence with the tax code."
        >
        > Besides the Whites, letters went to Benny Hinn of World Healing
        > Center Church of Grapevine, Texas; David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce
        > Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of
        > Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of
        > New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Lithonia, Ga., and Creflo
        and
        > Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International of College
        Park,
        > Ga.
        >
        > In a five-page letter to Randy and Paula White, Grassley asked for
        > detailed information on 28 areas of church and personal finances,
        > mainly from the years 2004 to present. Some of those include:
        >
        > •A detailed explanation of the compensation paid to the Whites, as
        > well as cash and noncash gifts, housing allowances and personal use
        > of assets.
        >
        > •A detailed list of any expenses paid for by their church or
        > ministries toward the purchases and monthly maintenance of their
        > residences on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, and in New York, San
        > Antonio, Texas; and Malibu, Calif.
        >
        > •Credit card statements for expenses paid by the Whites' tax-exempt
        > entity, including a list of all expense account items such as
        > clothing and cosmetic surgery.
        >
        > •A list of all domestic and overseas bank accounts and investments
        > belonging to their organizations.
        >
        > •A list of all vehicles purchased, leased or maintained by their
        tax-
        > exempt organizations.
        >
        > •Copies of flight records of any aircraft leased or owned by their
        > ministries, as well as flight itineraries for both the Whites.
        >
        > •A copy of the bill of sale, type of payment used and an
        explanation
        > of the reported tax-exempt purchase of a Bentley convertible as a
        > gift for Bishop T.D. Jakes.
        >
        > •A detailed accounting of $871,000 worth of items reportedly sold
        to
        > the church since 2005 by two of the private businesses owned by the
        > Whites, and an explanation as to who determined that the church
        would
        > purchase these items.
        >
        > •An explanation of who determines how the funds of Without Walls
        and
        > Paula White Ministries are spent, copies of all board minutes and
        > whether any of the decisions, both operational and financial, are
        > subject to oversight by an elected or appointed body.
        >
        > Randy and Paula White, who founded Without Walls in 1991 and
        divorced
        > this year, reacted Monday to the Grassley letter in a statement
        > released by their public relations firm, Tucker/Hall.
        Representatives
        > from the other ministries did not respond to a request for comment.
        >
        > Whites Call Letter 'Unusual'
        >
        > The Whites said they were initially notified of the letter by a
        > reporter, and found it peculiar that the media learned of it before
        > they did.
        >
        > "We're assuming it's authentic - but we find it unusual, since the
        > IRS has separate powers to investigate religious organizations if
        > they think it's necessary," the statement said. "So we find it odd
        > that the IRS did not initiate this investigation. It also seems odd
        > that they have asked about areas that have no relationship to the
        > operation of the church."
        >
        > The Whites said they could not comment further because they had
        just
        > received the letter and their lawyers had not finished reviewing it.
        >
        > This year, The Tampa Tribune detailed problems at Without Walls,
        one
        > of the largest independent nondenominational churches in the
        nation.
        > Detractors said the Whites borrowed $170,000 from an elderly widow
        > and failed to keep promises to care for her or pay it back. A young
        > woman who said she was promised a house for winning a church essay
        > contest did not get it, though the church repeatedly publicized the
        > award ceremony.
        >
        > The Whites have since repaid the widow and secured a house for the
        > young woman. After inquiries from the Tribune, the church published
        > an audit of its 2005 and 2006 finances on its Web site. It states
        > that the church took in $39.9 million in 2006 and itemizes some of
        > its spending. It does not break down how much was spent on specific
        > ministries or on salaries for its top staff.
        >
        > That a U.S. senator is asking about finances, and not the IRS,
        > doesn't surprise Anthony, whose organization has provided
        information
        > to the Finance Committee for more than two years.
        >
        > "You've got approximately 1.5 million [nonprofit] organizations in
        > America, and 30,000 starting up each year," he said. "The
        government
        > can't possibly keep up with that workload. But it's apparent that
        > media coverage isn't enough to expose this. If anything is going to
        > change, it takes a drastic step like this."
        >
        > 'He's Picking A Fight'
        >
        > Kenneth Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial
        > Accountability, an accreditation agency for Christian ministries,
        > called the inquiry "a very big deal." He said he is not aware of a
        > high-ranking lawmaker ever undertaking such an extensive
        > investigation into so many churches.
        >
        > "I think he's picking a fight," Behr said. "He is not just asking
        > them to come in and talk, he is asking them for everything."
        >
        > And if they don't tell all, he predicted, Grassley could ask the
        IRS
        > to step in.
        >
        > "An IRS audit is not pleasant," said the former Ford Motor Co.
        > executive. "I wouldn't wish it on my enemy."
        >
        > Gloria Sutton, an IRS spokeswoman in Jacksonville, would not
        comment
        > on Grassley's letters or how the agency might respond. She could
        not
        > say how many churches the IRS has audited in recent years.
        >
        > The churches probably can't take refuge in laws governing the
        > separation of church and state. Religious organizations are subject
        > to all sorts of government regulations, said Ayesha N. Khan, legal
        > director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
        >
        > If the churches don't respond, or don't respond in full, Grassley
        > could push for a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
        >
        > Ministries Teach Prosperity Gospel
        >
        > Rodney Pitzer, of a North Carolina-based donor advocacy
        organization
        > called Ministrywatch.com, said some ministries are purposefully
        > designed to make their leaders wealthy. He said he hopes the Senate
        > inquiry will encourage religious organizations to "start cleaning
        > house."
        >
        > "Some of these nonprofits really know how to work the system," he
        > said. "They may be in compliance with the law, but they're
        certainly
        > not in compliance with the heart and the spirit of the law."
        >
        > The pressure to change the laws will have to come from donors
        rather
        > than the government, said Ted Olsen, managing editor for news and
        > online journalism at Christianity Today.
        >
        > But the ministries targeted by Grassley are in a subgroup of the
        > Christian evangelical movement that Olsen calls the "health-and-
        > wealth crowd." They preach prosperity Gospel, a teaching that
        > promises material rewards for those who give to the church.
        >
        > "There's little fear of donor backlash when your donors see
        opulence
        > as a sign of God's blessing," he said.
        >
        > Even a national Christian publication that has given favorable
        > coverage to ministries such as Without Walls is taking a harder
        look.
        >
        > Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, is now calling for
        financial
        > reform in Christian evangelical circles. He is bothered that some
        > ministries are giving "all of us a bad name because money has been
        > misused."
        >
        > "This is an awkward time for the church," Grady said. "I believe
        God
        > is putting his finger on some problems and demanding that we set
        our
        > house in order. If we don't correct these problems ourselves, then
        > the government may have to step in and do it. And that will be
        > unfortunate."
        >
        > ------------------------------
        > ------------------------------
        >
      • w_w_c_l
        Preacher rebuffs Senate spending inquiry By ERIC GORSKI and RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writers December 5, 2007 One of six Christian ministries under
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 5, 2007
        • 0 Attachment
          Preacher rebuffs Senate spending inquiry By ERIC GORSKI and RACHEL
          ZOLL, AP Religion Writers
          December 5, 2007


          One of six Christian ministries under investigation by a Senate
          committee is rebuffing inquiries into its spending, challenging the
          panel's watchdog role over religious groups, The Associated Press has
          learned.

          A lawyer for preacher Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church
          International in suburban Atlanta has asked Sen. Charles Grassley to
          either refer the matter to the IRS or get a subpoena, according to a
          letter from Dollar's attorney obtained Wednesday by the AP.

          Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent
          pointed questionnaires in early November to a half-dozen ministries,
          asking about salaries, perks, travel and oversight. The Iowa
          Republican set Thursday as the deadline for a response.

          All six organizations preach a form of the "prosperity gospel," the
          belief that God wants his faithful followers to reap material rewards.

          Besides Dollar, several other televangelists have signaled concerns
          about invasions of privacy and violations of religious freedom. Only
          Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., has provided the detailed
          financial and board oversight information sought by Grassley.

          Dollar's refusal could lead to a court fight, giving a judge the
          authority to decide whether the committee is entitled to all the
          information it requested.

          Grassley emphasized the other five still have time. The senator also
          reiterated that his probe "has nothing to do with church doctrine"
          and is strictly concerned with making sure the tax-exempt groups are
          following the law.

          Dollar has been the most vocal in his criticism of the probe. In the
          Nov. 27 letter obtained by the AP, Dollar attorney Marcus Owens wrote
          to Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, that
          the church is willing to comply with a "proper" request for
          information — but it should be handled by the IRS.

          Owens, the former director of the IRS's exempt organizations
          division, pointed to precedent: In the 1980s, a House subcommittee
          asked the IRS to review concerns about televangelists.

          "A referral would permit Senator Grassley and the Senate Finance
          Committee to discharge their obligation to oversee federal tax
          administration without running the risk of government entanglement in
          the Church's religious beliefs and practices," the letter said.

          An IRS review also would ensure privacy, Owens wrote. All IRS reviews
          are confidential, and Dollar has said he worries that a Senate probe
          might air sensitive information about salaries, among other things.

          Failing a referral to the IRS, Owens requested that the committee
          seek subpoenas to "provide an appropriate legal context for the
          review." With a subpoena, the church and its members could gain
          confidentiality protections.

          Joyce Meyer Ministries expressed confidence last week that it would
          be found in "complete compliance" with financial regulations.

          The organization also addressed one of the more salacious details in
          the letter from Grassley — its reported purchase of a
          $23,000 "commode with marble top." The ministry said it was not a
          common toilet but a "a tall elegant chest of drawers," and that the
          selling agent got the price wrong.

          Aside from Dollar and Meyer, the other televangelists have been
          noncommittal in their public responses. But some have voiced strong
          objections that echo Dollar's about privacy and religious freedom.

          Bishop Eddie Long, who leads a megachurch and ministry in Lithonia,
          Ga., initially promised to "fully comply" with Grassley's request.
          But a few days later, Long told his congregation the request
          was "unjust," "intrusive," and "an attack on our religious freedom
          and privacy rights."

          The others who received letters from Grassley are Randy and Paula
          White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White
          Ministries of Tampa, Fla.; Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church
          Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; and Kenneth and
          Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas.

          Owens said in an e-mail to the AP that while each ministry
          is "separately responding as it sees fit," lawyers for the ministries
          have been in touch and share common concerns about Grassley's
          request.

          The letter from Dollar's attorney describes the prosperity gospel as
          a "deeply held religious belief" grounded in Scripture, and that the
          six churches are part of the "rich tapestry of religion in America"
          deserving of protection.

          Some legal scholars believe the Senate is a proper forum to review
          religious nonprofit groups' finances — although with caveats.

          Congress has a legitimate interest in making sure nonprofit rules are
          followed because confidentiality rules make it hard to track IRS
          enforcement, said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish
          Congress, who advises religious groups on church-state issues.

          "On the other hand, Congress is a very blunt instrument," he
          said. "Congressional hearings are hardly models of due process and
          they can pick on anything they want for any reason they want and that
          raises real concern. So there's this pull in both directions."


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