Long, Dollar Among Televangelists Escaping Penalties

6:52 PM, Jan 6, 2011   |    comments
Bishop Eddie Long (L) and Taffi & Creflo Dollar
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NEW YORK (AP) -- A senator's high-profile investigation of spending by televangelists wrapped up after more than three years Thursday with no penalties for the pastors who refused to cooperate and no definitive findings of wrongdoing.

The report released by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley raises questions about the personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by pastors and their families, and about the lack of oversight of finances by boards often packed with the televangelists' relatives and friends.

However, the senator draws no specific conclusions about whether the ministries violated IRS rules that bar excessive compensation for leaders of religious nonprofits.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican, released the report at the end of his tenure as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. Grassley will remain on the Finance Committee, but will become the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

The six televangelists targeted in the investigation preach some form of the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.

All six insisted they comply with tax regulations for religious nonprofits.

Two of the targeted televangelists - Joyce Meyer, based in Missouri and Benny Hinn, based in California - told Grassley that they have made changes in how they govern their ministries or set compensation.

But four of the televangelists would not provide full information about their finances. Some questioned whether Grassley had the authority to conduct the investigation. Others accused him of violating their religious freedom.

Grassley's staff said in the report that they did not issue subpoenas to further the investigation because witnesses feared retaliation if they spoke out publicly and the Finance Committee did not have the time or resources to enforce the subpoenas.

The four ministries that refused to cooperate are:

_ Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas.

_ Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga.

_ Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.

_ Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla.

(Copyright © 2011, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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