Some television evangelists, like Rev. Creflo Dollar and his World Changers Church International near College Park, promote the gospel of prosperity.
Now, a powerful U.S. Senator has asked for their financial records to make sure they aren't turning it into personal extravagance and violating their tax exempt status.
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa heads the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. He sent out letters this week to Rev. Dollar and five other major TV evangelists asking for their books. Grassley says his action was sparked by several complaints from the public and the news media about huge salaries, million dollar mansions, Rolls Royce and Bentley automobiles and even a $23,000 toilet.
The other Atlanta area evangelist involved is Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia. Both Long and Dollar released statements saying they would comply with Senator Grassley's request. But Dollar implied it could create a major church versus state controversy.
"The questions at hand are much bigger than World Changers as it could affect the privacy of every community church in America," part of Dollar's statement said.
Meanwhile, some of Rev. Dollar's followers accuse Senator Grassley of persecution. Church member Maurice Blackmon told 11Alive News, "I don't think it's fair, but knowing our man of God...they'll find out that he's right in order and lined up with God."
Blackmon and other supporters say the message of prosperity isn't just about money, but about health, family and other aspects of life as well.
The other four evangelists who got financial request letters from Sen. Grassley are Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Florida; Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Missouri; and Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas.