Who are televangelists responsible to? Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has started an investigation into the televangelists, like Kenneth Copeland, who has, according to CBS News, told Grassley that his operation is only accountable to the IRS. Grassley's investigation hinges on the suspicion that a half dozen televangelists are engaging in fraud by getting rich off the donations of the faithful.
A Christian organization that monitors the financial dealings of ministries, Ministry Watch, told the network that they're frustrated at the inability to get Copeland, or any of the other ministries being investigated by Grassley, to submit financials.
“Our position is though, that if there is nothing illegal going on, why not disclose it?” asks Warren Smith of Ministry Watch in an interview with CBS News. “If there is nothing to hide, why are you hiding it?”
Next to Grassley, some of the most dogged work in examining televangelists has been done by Minneapolis writer Charles Quimby, who authors the blog, Across the Great Divide. For months Quimby has been looking at Copeland's operation, and its links locally, including to megachurch pastor Mac Hammond.
Most of the investigated televangelists — and scores of imitators or active partners — make use of a holding company-like structure they call a "ministry." The ministry operates a variety of ventures that produce earned and contributed revenue streams. It may also serve as a master brand that endorses the individual operations, but the farther the businesses stray from the organization's churchly purpose, the more likely they are named and structured to blur the financial connection.
Quimby's work has made clear just how difficult it will be for Grassley's investigation to untangle the operations of Copeland and his subsidiaries.
A two-month investigation by CBS News appears to have reached a similar stage:
From across the main road it was easy to see parts of his sprawling religious empire – the low-lying Eagle Mountain International Church and shiny new ministry headquarters. To the right the framework of a $10 million “children’s building” is on the rise; far, far beyond, we are told, is the Copeland’s 18,000 square-foot lake-front parsonage where Copeland and wife Gloria often lay their head at night. To the left is the ministry’s private airport and planes; just beyond, cattle stand grazing. Somewhere beyond sight are the gas and oil wells.
And Copeland appears ready for a fight according to the Washington newspaper Roll Call (subscription required)
In a Jan. 22 closed-circuit broadcast of his 2008 Ministers’ Conference obtained by Roll Call, Copeland pledges a holy war against “Brother Grassley” and the Senate for attempting to get a look at the controversial ministry’s finances. Grassley wrote a Nov. 6 letter to Copeland and five other prominent ministers requesting a variety of financial information.
“You render unto the government what belongs to the government. And you render unto God what belongs to God,” Copeland loudly intones to approving murmurs from the crowd of 1,000 ministers and their guests.
I remember a lot of this during the Reagan Administration. Big haired men and women making exultations and excuses from the pulpit. Nothing has changed except people were prosecuted (Jim and Tammy Faye) back then.
Apparently Americans learned nothing from this because they: one, have no memory beyond their children's names, and two: those who can rationalize everything down to a one book, will always have an excuse for their excesses, and therefore don't need to learn anything more.
If people believed these so called religious leaders, they would not be giving them money, they would keep it, would they not? So in a strang way these "pastors" deserve their economic positions because the rest of us are so willing to give it to them, and they know it.
You have to admire Grassley. A rare conservative who really works to make government work. He is trying to protect whistleblowers in the administration as well but is being sandbagged by the Bushies.
Maybe someone can convince the televangelists to go public with their stock. I'm sure Vice Fund would love to have some of that to balance their portfolio. That might take some of the mystery out of the process.
Apparently there are quite a few wealthy "sinners" out there, that want to buy a way into the "golden gates" , do their pew time, and go back enjoying their private lives M-Sat. Saw a quote today.. can't remember who it was, but it went something like this...
"Wealth is owning everything that we don't need."
It seems to me that Copeland is just holding to his Constitutional rights, and that the IRS IS indeed the agency that should call for any type of investigation. Senator Grassley has no authority to call for this type of investigation on his own whim. Here is a good read to get you thinking...
It seems to bother some that the church has grown to the proportions it has or is it the area of the church that has grown? Large holdings by churches do not automatically speak of corrupt leadership. Many have book, music royalties, personal investments. My pastor owns some rental property and prospers beyond his church salary for his family. Men of God should be free from financial struggles. Personal excesses do raise questions. What has come out is rather overwhelming in the personal trappings line, but that needs to be investigated properly.
I do not see hiding by those refusing to submit certain things because of the clear fact that this investigation violates both legal and ethical standards in place. Wrong doesn't make right. Many disparate ministry organizations are expressing concerns, sending letters to the senator's office with these. These concerns are mainly that this was tabloided from the beginning, going around the targets to the press, splashing information to the media and demanding things not previously done in these matters - private donor and speaker lists, etc. In that environment, it is understandable why some are in resistance and wish for this to be done through the IRS, who are accountable to safeguard acquired information.