Lynn v. Sekulow

Lynn v. Sekulow


Freedom of Religion Is Absolutely Protected; Fraud Not So Much

posted by Rev. Barry W. Lynn


We both know that law enforcement officials can investigate”fraud” without passing new laws against specific activities like reading Tarotcards.  In fact back in l944 the SupremeCourt allowed the Postal Service to investigate something called the “I Am”movement that was soliciting funds through the mail.  The Court noted, quite sensibly, that if a”religion” was actually set up to bilk people, it had no absolute FirstAmendment protection.  In other words,you can accept money for beliefs that are new, or sound strange to others, butyou better believe them yourself.

It was a nice try to link this tothe ongoing investigation by Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa of the finances ofsome “prosperity gospel” television preachers including Creflo Dollar andKenneth Copeland.  There is of course ahuge difference between the issues. Senator Grassley is not trying to ban people from “preaching” that “godlinesswill get you wealthiness.”  He was merelyasking these ministries to provide enough financial data to be sure theyweren’t running afoul of IRS rules against setting up religious groups forpersonal benefit.  He has every right todo so.  If, and I emphasize if, some ofthese groups should be paying taxes and are not, it just means the rest of ushave to pay more.

 

By the way, I know “wealthiness” isnot a real word, but neither was “truthiness” until we got Steven Colbert!



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jimbino

posted September 12, 2008 at 11:27 am


“In other words, you can accept money for beliefs that are new, or sound strange to others, but you better believe them yourself.”
That is not a practical standard for judging fraud. It would be common for a Unitarian church to solicit funds from members who are trinitarians or jews, as membership in the Unitarian church is not determined by doctrinal beliefs.
And the obvious way to avoid imposition of “fraud” constraints is clearly to hold accumulation of wealth, even by “fraud” to be a doctrine of your “church.” Then you can hardly be a hypocrite when you defraud other folks! You are just practicing what you preach!



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ds0490

posted September 12, 2008 at 1:59 pm


This foolishness would go away if we simply revoked the 501(c)3 regulations regarding churches and required them to pay taxes on their incomes like any other business. A major incentive to commit fraud would be removed. Those ministries that were doing the will of “God” would be given the money they need for their taxes (for the Bible says that God will provide for the needs of those who do his will), and those who go bankrupt over it…well, it would be “God” judging them, not humans.



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Phredone

posted September 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm


You have missed the point of the Grassley investigation. He has stated that he is looking into whether there needs to be new laws regarding Churches. It appears that the Sen. does not care for what these Churches believe and the way to stop them is to accuse them of financial wrongdoing using the media to spread the unfounded accusations.
Rev. Lynn your bio says you defend religious liberty from gov. interference so why do you not have a problem with the Senators investigation?



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dsjulian

posted September 12, 2008 at 8:19 pm


ds0490 is absolutely right. Giving tax exemptions to certain Churches (but no others) is a direct violation of the First Amendment. And, with all due respect Barry, the First Amendment guarantees Freedom of Conscience, and it is spelled out specifically as such in most State constitutions.



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Telles

posted September 12, 2008 at 9:27 pm


Let us remember that the Senate is NOT a “law enforcement” agency. It is a legislative branch. The IRS, however, IS a “law enforcement” agency. They should be the ones checking into any charges of fraud, not Sen Grassley. Let us also remember that Copeland has invited the IRS to investigate them, which indicates they don’t feel they have anything to hide from a legal and honest inquiry. They have maintained that their concern is the privacy rights of all churches against unwarranted government intrusions. And lastly, let us remember the official charge from Grassley’s office was not that any fraud has occurred in these ministries, but that they had lifestyle standards that he considered to be too “opulent” for a ministry. To make the assumption that fraud or anything illegal has occurred at these ministries simply because they are “prosperity” teachers, without any actual facts to support it, is to commit a shameful injustice.



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Ann L.

posted September 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm


Let me add to the comment above by Telles….
The senator behind these attacks has stated that he wanted to make public any information he got his hands on. The IRS IS the CORRECT & LEGAL agency to look into any such issues…NOT a US senator. AND the IRS cannot make private information public (as the senator wishes to do). Grassley didn’t make any charges of fraud because I’m sure even he realizes that’s not the real issue here & isn’t the real reason behind his attacks… and that charge would be disproven anyway – after he’d done the damage to these ministries that he wished to do.
Furthermore, a personal opinion here…. Grassley would have apoplexy over the vastly wealthy estates of ABRAHAM, SOLOMON, etc…. who were blessed by GOD! (or would it just be plain old jealousy???) hmmmmm…
KCM has invited the IRS in and personally, I’d like to see the senator required to make a PUBLIC apology for his actions when all is said & done.



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Cara Floyd

posted September 14, 2008 at 2:02 am


Yes, we want to make sure we are giving to ministries who actually do the work of God. I am not afraid of ministries being prosperous, in fact God wants us that way. Debt is a curse. I hope that ministries around the world are giving to the needs of the church and around the world. If preachers are supressed in what they preach from the pulpit, than what will be our guide? Why are views of the Bible trying to be suppressed? What are they so afraid of? Does the Word of God change peoples hearts? Does it go in like a two edge sword and make the heart ponder and change it’s view and ideas? yes
Cara



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Happy Day

posted September 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm


Phredone, Telles, Ann L – all excellent comments and I have to agree with you. This Grassley “investigation” has been going on for way too long now without a conclusion. As has been mentioned, Copeland invited an IRS investigation. Grassley could have already had the information he requested, but would have had to keep it confidential. Hmmmm…then to resort to the smear campaign tactics in the last few months proves to me that Grassley has lost any kind of ground he thought he had to stand on. It’s time to bring this to an end.



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Malcolm McGuffin

posted September 15, 2008 at 7:52 pm


I’d like to share a few thoughts on your article and the responses it generated. As one of the responders so accurately pointed out, Sen. Grassley is in the legislative branch, not the executive branch. Under the constitution, the executive branch is charged with enforcing laws. Tax laws are enforced through the IRS and the Treasury Dept, not the US Senate. The IRS is the proper agency Sen. Grassley should approach to get the information he wants.
By singling out these “prosperity” ministries, it is quite clear that he is questioning their doctrine. This crosses that fine line of separation of church and state. He disagrees with what they teach but he cannot ban them (yet). It sure looks like he’s trying to pressure them because of their doctrine. I hesitate to use the word “persecute” but he is very close to doing that. Every Christian should thank God the Copeland ministry is not bowing to the pressure. They are taking a stand on the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution and law, laws which Sen. Grassley helped write but which he now wants to ignore.
I am surprised, Rev. Flynn, that you, who appear to oppose government interference in religion, condone what Sen. Grassley is doing.
One final thought: These ministries have been teaching the Word of Faith which includes healing and deliverance as well as prosperity for a number of years, one of them for more than forty. If what they teach is of God, nothing is going to stop them. If it is not of God, then he will stop them and he won’t need any help from Sen. Grassley or his kind to do it.



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Boris

posted September 15, 2008 at 8:48 pm


Malcolm said: One final thought: These ministries have been teaching the Word of Faith which includes healing and deliverance as well as prosperity for a number of years, one of them for more than forty. If what they teach is of God, nothing is going to stop them. If it is not of God, then he will stop them and he won’t need any help from Sen. Grassley or his kind to do it.
Boris says: Does this mean that Joseph Smith was teaching the Word of God? God never stopped him – his teachings still live on after his death. What about the Saudi cleric who just announced that astrologers and people with televisions should be put to the sword? Is he teaching the Word of God? He’s parroting Muslim teachings that have been around for quite a while now. God never stops them, the Pope, the Scientologists, the Pastafarians or anyone else from teaching whatever they want does he? The way to stop hoaxers like Copeland, Hinn, Dollar, Bentley and the rest of them is for people to wake up, smell the Godless 21rst century and stop sending them money then get off their knees and help science make the world a better and safer place to live.



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Aaron M

posted September 15, 2008 at 9:39 pm


I have to disagree with you firmly that the Senator has no business trying to do the job of the IRS. This is reminiscent of the witch hunt for Communism, except this time instead of communism it is evangelical christianity.
People like Senator Grassley and your self need to know that the separation of church and state are there for a reason..
I also find it personally offensive that you would infringe on my personal rights by letting the government spend my donations to Gods ministry on taxes.. I also find it offensive that you would assume that ministers like Copeland are fraudsters. Who are you to judge what is religion and what is not?
It is sad that people like you would give power to men like Grassley
Aaron M
Virginia



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Tarot_Is_A_Card_Game!

posted September 16, 2008 at 2:16 am


It’s time to start telling the truth about those cards. They were not originally intended for divination. They were meant for no other purpose than for playing a card game similar to modern Bridge. Variants of the original Tarot card game are still played today in continental Europe and there is now, thanks to the internet, a growing number of Americans and others, becoming aware of these card games. As an American player of Tarot card games, I must say I am upset with Beliefnet.com’s use of the unreliable Tarot.com website for its information on Tarot. Playing cards do NOT come from the Tarot. The Tarot came after the creation of playing cards and these cards would not be used for the occult or divination until the 18th century. Tarot is not only a divination system. It is also a family of card games. It is shameful how the popular media continue to distort and stereotype this deck of cards. Below are some links regarding the truth about Tarot.
http://www.tarocchino.com/
http://www.pagat.com/tarot/
http://i-p-c-s.org/history.html



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harrytruman

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:21 pm


Whether or not one agrees with the lifestyles of these ministries, the fact remains that they feed many, many people spiritually. That is still a freedom in this country. And, we have to remember that almost sixty years ago, America went through a horrible misuse of senatorial power that terrified ALL citizens from speaking their truth because they would be the next to be ground up in the inquisition. My favorite president, Harry Truman, had the guts to speak against the issue. “Real Americanism means fair play,” he said. “It means that a man who is accused of a crime shall be considered innocent until he has been proved guilty. It means that people are not to be penalized and persecuted for exercising their constitutional liberties.” Senator Grassley’s investigation seems to me to be pushing the boundaries of Senator McCarthy’s infamous witch hunts. Will he be burning us at the stake next for holding our faiths sacred?



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Michele

posted September 17, 2008 at 2:43 pm


harrytruman – EXCELLENT points made. I agree with you completely, and there is NO telling what will be next. It’s time for this to come to an end and Grassley be brought under control. There are lines that do not need to be crossed and he’s walking the fine one. I think that Grassley needs to move on with the subpeonas he has threatened or go ahead and call this whole thing off. Thank God Copeland has not given up his fight.



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Jack

posted September 19, 2008 at 11:35 am


Grassley obviously can’t find the “evidence” he thought he would to bring down these ministries that he so apparently has a problem with. I am not a follower of any of the organizations in question, but I do agree with Copeland’s defense. I am also thankful that he and others that have jumped to his support see the bigger picture here. This could set some very unnecessary precedents, and I am praying this ends before that.



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Neculai

posted September 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm


Senator Grassley was asking for information that can be gotten through an IRS audit and I know that some of these churches asked the IRS to do just that. Grassley wants to take these people down, not protect donors. If he wanted to protect anyone, an IRS audit would show what was needed and keep information confidential. Once donor info comes out publicly it can be twisted into anything. If a law was broken then give it to the IRS to look into.



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MAC

posted September 19, 2008 at 6:38 pm


Something is very amiss in this country. Here we are bailing out unethical financial institutions (which taxpayers will have to pay for eventually) and Senator Grassley is worried about these ministries who genuinely help millions of people. I suggest that the real criminals be sought out and prosecuted and let the legal, honorable ethical ministers and their ministries alone.
Dittos with Neculai’s comment about Grassley’s real ambitions. Is he up for re-election????



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Betty Lou Simpson

posted September 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm


Hi everybody! I’m not one to ever say to much until the Spirit Moves me, but i want to remind everyone that this is a war against God . We are his sons and daughters .I think we should declare a united time of fasting and prayer across this nation after all we are the nation of the gentiles!



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grandapa in the RV

posted September 19, 2008 at 8:14 pm


Republican Senator Charles Grassley’s demand for information is having a chilling effect on my freedom to excercise my religion. I hope my name and address was not turned over to him by Benny Hinn, who is making a big deal about his cooperation with the “investigation”. I thought Congress was not to make any laws governing the excercise of ones religion. But, then, this is not a “law”, but only public harrasment. His actions have caused me to reconsider our support of the GOP. It is the job of the IRS to investigate fraud. Not the anti-prosperity – (anti-charimatic ??) senator



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sheryl

posted September 19, 2008 at 8:56 pm


I would call this persecution. This has caused a ministry that helps many people all over the world with faith issues undue duress. They have helped with relief for hurricane Katrina and now have an effort for the latest hurricane relief.This ministry gives to many smaller ministries and they have had to waste there time and efforts on something that could have been simply handled by the right people. As far as I am concerned the Senator has abused his position. I wonder if he would like the same treatment.



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Roger Terry

posted September 20, 2008 at 4:11 am


All of the information that Senator Grassley wants can be obtained through the IRS. If these faith ministries send him all the information he has requested without requiring him to get it through the IRS. Then he and the secular media can make that information look like anything they want it to. I believe in my heart that the Senator intends to try to destroy these ministries. This investigation represents nothing more than a shameless attempt by one religion to use the power of a political office to beat up another religion, simply because they dont believe like they do. I believe we have a constitution that’s supposed to prevent that kind of abuse and Senator Grassley should be called into account for it.



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RSDunn

posted September 20, 2008 at 10:30 am


Senator Grassley’s time/money/effort applied to this investigation of ministries which help so many people would be far better spent on investigations of Wall Street. The abuse of American people’s money by these financial entities is a much wider problem and if corrected would have a much wider impact on “taxes” than the ministries’ theoretical impact on taxes. The increase in our tax burden due to Wall Street’s irresponsibilty makes the theorized ministries’ impact a drop in the bucket. As an American citizen I recommend Senator Grassley and cohorts focus on the important issues facing America. Most of us who work for an employer would soon be fired for using work time for trivial matters; hopefully those who voted Grassley in will take this to heart when he comes up for re-election.



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J Camden

posted September 20, 2008 at 10:57 am


I am tired of all the slander the media is spreading about Kenneth Copeland Ministries. KCM has willingly asked the IRS to take a church tax inquiry of their finances. This disproves all of Senator Grassley’s slanderous accusations about them. Joyce Meyer Ministries frequently helps starving children in third-world countries. Kenneth Copeland Ministries helps hurricane victims with humanitarian support. This whole “investigation” is another reason why I have lost all respect for our lying media.



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ds0490

posted September 20, 2008 at 11:33 am


“Let us remember that the Senate is NOT a “law enforcement” agency. It is a legislative branch. The IRS, however, IS a “law enforcement” agency. They should be the ones checking into any charges of fraud, not Sen Grassley.”
Actually, as part of the oversight duties of Congress, the Senator is well within his right to question these ministries. This is no different than the S&L hearings back in the 80s, or the tobacco hearings in the 90s.
If the ministries have nothing to hide and are operating in accordance with the law, why should they fear coming before the Senate? Law abiding people have no reason to fear exposure of their actions…only criminals.
At least that is what conservatives were saying when it as the Whitewater investigation taking place. Funny they change their tunes now.



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J Camden

posted September 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm


Two of the ministries in this “investigation” have gone through an extensive audit by the IRS and have been given a clean bill of health. I already mentioned how KCM has asked the IRS to conduct a church tax inquiry of their finances. This proves these three ministries are innocent. If it didn’t go through the IRS, then Senator Grassley and the media would present the information out of context and spread more slander. Senator Grassley held a press conference before KCM even got his first letter. What does that tell you about Grassley?



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ch1958

posted September 20, 2008 at 8:39 pm


Senator is simply misusing his power to attempt to disparage a belief he finds unpalatable. Too bad God did die and appoint him in His stead. It must be such a burden to have that big an ego.
“If the ministries have nothing to hide and are operating in accordance with the law, why should they fear coming before the Senate? Law abiding people have no reason to fear exposure of their actions…only criminals.” Why? Why indeed…. why not have the police show up on your doorstop and rifle through the contents of your home without cause? If you’re not guilty, why would you complain??? Because WE HAVE RIGHTS! That’s why! This nation is not a communist country, yet! And, while we’re at it, perhaps it’s time to remove every incumbent from office and clean out the aides as well. It’s time for the PEOPLE to be in charge of this country again. If we re-instill common sense, we’ll eliminate this kind of abuse. If Senator really had a legitimate question about any of these ministries, he would have requested information from the IRS FIRST, but he didn’t. He went to the press FIRST, then to the ministries. He has yet to go to the IRS. He doesn’t want to go through the IRS as the law says he must. That has sticky little checks and balances he doesn’t want to abide by, such as “privacy” standards he would be responsible for keeping. No, if he gets any info outside the IRS he is free to “spin” it or “nuance” it to support his agenda. SHAME ON YOUR SENATOR GRASSLEY!



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John Nead

posted September 20, 2008 at 11:36 pm


If there were a problem with the finances of these ministries it would be the responsibility of the I.R.S. to investigate. The Senator has, as I understand it, been offered all the financial information on Kenneth Copeland Ministries, if he will abide by the rules. These rules are to protect the donors to the ministry, who don’t owe the Senator any explanation. People who give to a ministry such as K.C.M. do so purely of their own free will. They don’t need some self- appointed nanny to protect them from themselves. Besides, it is well known that K.C.M. has for most of it’s existence had an outside auditor come check their books. In addition, they have had the I.R.S. come and check them out. Would that government were that financially transparent



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C. Burns

posted September 21, 2008 at 12:20 pm


I find it interesting that Barry Lynn is concerned about the possible fraud, when most of his time is spent trying to get any mention of the gospel out of the public square. To attack men and women who use their finances to feed the hungry, help the homeless, build schools, be there when horrible things happen, KCM, Creflo Dollar and many others do this as well as live by the gosple (which is granted in the bible) is just one more way to stop their influence with the gospel in the earth. Also, the IRS was set up by congress to look into tax matters. There is privacy laws that they must abide by, where as Sentor Grassley says it will be private, however if you have been in this country for the last 4 years you know even highly classified things have been revealed because some Sentor wanted to get political points.
So, Keep it up KCM, Creflo and others.



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Boris

posted September 21, 2008 at 1:25 pm


There is nothing illegal about Creflo Dollar paying himself 5 million dollars a year in salary and bonuses or buying himself a 15 million dollar jet. There is something VERY immoral about it though. The fact that Christians don’t recognize this as immoral proves how inferior Christian morals really are.



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Melva J Harris

posted September 22, 2008 at 9:06 am


My comments are more about “Rev.” Barry Lynn. Certainly, it is never for us go judge any person’s salvation, however, God did tell us to try the “spirit” and see if it is of God. The title “Rev” does not in any way signify that a person “knows” the Lord Jesus or is a follower of His teachings. And, the Word tells us that in the last day there will be a great falling away. Many people are being seduced by other voices that are indeed spiritual but not of God.
For Mr. Lynn to attack men and women of God for teaching exactly what the Word says and making wealth to be ungodly says he does not KNOW the Word or does not believe the Word. While it saddens me to see how many professing Christians are against the total teachings of the Word and select out the passages that agree with their thinking, I do pray that the rest of us will stand fast in the Word, becoming even more CERTAIN that we will reach our status here on the earth – to rule and reign until Jesus returns.



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Boris

posted September 22, 2008 at 10:14 am


“The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible have largely been withheld from them.” – Hans Conzelman (1915-1989), German Bible scholar



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JABK

posted September 22, 2008 at 2:40 pm


Does Senator Grassley think he’s smarter than those folks at the IRS? If there were any financial problems with any of these ministries shouldn’t he just let the IRS do their job? If I lived in Iowa I would be asking why he’s not spending more time working on HIS job rather than trying to do someone else’s. Maybe he could do something constructive rather than try to tear down ministries that have proven track records of helping people. Maybe he could spend a little more time trying to get drugs off the streets or something. If he tried, I’m sure he could think of a few more important things he could be spending his time on.



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Mary Garcia

posted September 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm


The Kenneth Copeland ministry has made all that information available to the Senator via the IRS department and IRS records. Please do not water down the facts that the Senator’s investigation has not used the correct avenues to gather the information. He has the ability to get all he has need of with regard to the financial records from the IRS. Attacks on specific denominations by using his seat of the Senate is wrong and a misuse of that authority, and needs to stop.



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Della Sinnock

posted September 24, 2008 at 3:38 pm


First, let me address the comments that deal with the issue of KCM and other ministries “not being afraid of the senate if they are innocent”.
How many in this country, in the ’40’s swallowed that same line about the members of the entertainment community and others who were brought up before the “communist” witch hunt of Sen. McCarthy? Why is that period in our recent history considered shameful and tragic to so many who were hurt or even ruined by that man’s misdirected zeal?
This “investigation” should raise so many more red flags with the public in general, because it isn’t just limited to those in the public eye as the last episode was, this attemps to affect a freedom that we should all hold dear and that many thousands have given their very lives to protect in this country. At the very least it is a cruel slap in the face of those brave heros who sacraficed EVERYTHING so we could live free from all forms of government tyranny!!
If the IRS was established by the government to enforce the laws pertaining to the financial accountability of ministries, then, if the senator and his staff had any kind of question about the operation of these ministries, they should know that the proper way to go about addressing any concern is to go through the branch of government that has the mandate to enforce proper practices, namely, the IRS.
It is more than clear that his agenda is anything but abiding by the law just by looking at the way he has handled this right from the start. Calling it a smear campaign is a compliment to the term. It is quite evident that the senator means to destroy these ministries, and will use any tactic he can, including dishonesty, to accomplish his goal.
I have heard with my own ears Kenneth Copeland publically proclaim that he holds no malice or resentment towards the senator, and also that he prays for him regularly. That takes guts and a supreme willingness to stick to the Word (Bible Teaching) that says to love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you.
It would be SO easy for Brother Copeland to use his public platform to defend himself and his ministry with verbal attacks against the senator and his tactics, but there has been nothing of the sort. Only a willingness on his part to cooperate with the senator under the letter of the law, (which means going through the IRS). Any lawfully elected public servant should be bound by the responsibility to the office to uphold the law of the land with the strictest of adherance, clearly this public servant has lost his zeal to serve, and now seeks to promote a strictly personal agenda. Shameful, to say the least.
The Bible says, If My people, which are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek my Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and heal their land. This land is in sore need of God’s healing touch, please pray and trust God to turn us back around to the nation we can be under His Guidence!
Thank you,
Della Sinnock



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FRIDaY

posted October 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm


I think that it’s ridiculous that this situation is still going on. Grassley could have had the information months ago. Copeland offered for the IRS to come get the info, but Grassley chose not to go that route. It’s time for this to come to an end before any wrong decisions will be made. Copeland’s camp realizes the bigger picture here and I hope he continues to stand strong.



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N. Lindzee Lindholm

posted August 27, 2009 at 10:03 pm


Religious groups who are not paying taxes but whose purpose is financial gain should be investigated. IF folks are preaching in the name of Jesus solely to get wealthy, and what’s worse, eluding people they have won a free pass into heaven if they give X amount of dollars, this is not a purpose the government meant for 501c3 tax-status. Thus, these groups should be thoroughly looked into since they are committing fraud, and since we the innocents are paying their taxes.



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Previous Posts

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