North Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland is not budging, more than six months after a senator began asking for his financial records and those of five other ministers nationwide.
His ministry has launched a Web site — BelieversStandUnited.com — to fight back against the inquiry by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, into the lavish lifestyles of six televangelists.
"Senator Grassley's investigation threatens to trespass upon all of our religious liberties and strike down the First Amendment rights of the Church — rights that are protected by long-standing IRS procedures that allow the IRS to obtain answers to the Senator's questions while respecting the Church's constitutional rights," according to Copeland's Web site.
Meanwhile, Grassley is still working with the ministries to get financial information, spokeswoman Jill Kozney said.
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"He's seeking voluntary compliance by everybody," she said.
Copeland, whose ministry is based in Newark, near Eagle Mountain Lake, isn't expected to make it easy.
Earlier this year, he said he wouldn't turn financial documents over to Grassley, saying "it's not yours, it's God's and you're not going to get it." In April, Kenneth Copeland Ministries asked the Internal Revenue Service to perform a church tax inquiry on the ministry rather than give documents to Grassley. By May, the ministry launched the Web site to counter Grassley's efforts.
Last November, after reports surfaced about lavish lifestyles, Grassley asked six prominent televangelists for financial information — from loan information, credit card and hotel bills to tax records and executive compensation.
Who is involved:
In addition to Copeland and his wife, Gloria, Grassley asked for information from Benny Hinn, with headquarters in Grapevine; Creflo and Taffi Dollar of Georgia; Bishop Eddie Long of Georgia; Joyce and David Meyer of Missouri; and Randy and Paula White of Tampa, Fla.
Those who have not complied:
Copeland and Dollar.
Some of Copeland's backers recently sent a letter to Grassley's Finance Committee suggesting that the televangelists were targeted because they are part of the "prosperity gospel," which teaches that God will reward the faithful in material abundance. Copeland also seems to be drawing support from those posting messages on the Web site:
■ "I believe that you are doing everything according to the Word of God," a reader named Mia wrote. "I stand with you now in prayer and I believe that every weapon formed against us will not prosper."
■ Deborah wrote: "Senator Grassley shame on you for wasting taxpayer money on this issue. Does the Senator wish his contributions to his chosen charities made public."
Copeland's continuing efforts
On his new Web site, Copeland asks people to vote "yes" to send a message that religious freedoms need to be protected, and to say that people believe that Grassley's inquiry is wrong and could affect them. "You are stating your concern that if Christ's followers fail to defend the legal rights of the six churches who received letters from Senator Grassley, then it may be you and your church or your neighbor's church that will be targeted next," the Web site says. "You are stating that all believers must now Stand United to protect and defend religious freedoms from this unprecedented challenge!"