Rev. Creflo Dollar (file photo)
ATLANTA -- "We simply must do everything within our power to protect our Church and its members from public scrutiny and a Congressional evaluation of the validity of our beliefs." Those words are part of a letter Atlanta minister Rev. Creflo Dollar has sent to members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee explaining why he is ignoring their March 31st deadline to hand over his church's financial records.
Rev. Dollar's World Changers Church International in College Park is one of 6 megachurches across the country that Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked to hand over their books last November. Grassley said he was reacting to complaints that some churches may be abusing federal non-profit tax laws through lavish spending. His quest turned non-partisan earlier this month when Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana joined in the request.
Rev. Dollar initially agreed to the spirit of the request last fall, publicly disclosing in December that his church had taken in $69-million the previous year. But he and his attorneys now argue only the Internal Revenue Service can look into whether his church is complying with federal tax laws.
Another metro Atlanta area megachurch who intially resisted the request is now apparently willing to go along with it. Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia has indicated he will comply with the Monday deadline, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Grassley.
In his refusal letter, posted on his church's website, Rev. Dollar claims the Senators' request violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and amounts to a violation of the separation of church and state. The Senate committee has threatened to issues subpoenas for the records of any church that doesn't surrender them voluntarily.
At least one other megachurch minister is also refusing to comply. Rev. Kenneth Copeland of Texas, who has been a mentor to Dollar, sent a letter to supporters saying, "The enemy is not going to steal what the Lord had won through this ministry, and he is not going to use this attack to bring harm to the rest of the churches and and ministries in America."
Four other televangelists, Rev. Benny Hinn of Texas, Randy and Paula White of Florida and Joyce Meyer of Missouri have indicated they will turn over their financial records to the committee.