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By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) One of the ministries that has refused to cooperate fully with a financial investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has invited the Internal Revenue Service to conduct an inquiry of its own instead.
Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, made the request of the IRS on April 7.
“We told the IRS in a letter that we welcome them to come and make inquiry of us and we will provide answers to the IRS regarding questions that Sen. Grassley has,” said John Copeland, the ministry’s CEO. “The church desires to protect its and all other churches’ First Amendment rights, and by this action, we believe we are doing just that.”
Grassley’s office reported March 31 that four of the six ministries he has been investigating are cooperating with requests to provide him with financial information.
Creflo Dollar Ministries in College Park, Ga., has also refused to submit financial records, and sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee in late March expressing concerns about congregants’ privacy.
Grassley, the panel’s top-ranking Republican, and committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., had asked ministries that weren’t cooperating fully to submit materials by March 31.
Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the committee, said Tuesday (April 22) that both Copeland’s and Dollar’s ministries continue to decline to send the requested information.
“As for the Copeland request for an audit from the IRS, Sen. Grassley has always said that the IRS enforces existing law, while Congress evaluates the adequacy of existing law,” she said. “The two functions are completely different.”
Rusty Leonard, founder of MinistryWatch.com, a North Carolina-based watchdog organization, called the efforts by Copeland “deceptive and misleading” because any investigation by the IRS would be confidential.
Lawrence Swicegood, director of communications for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, said the ministry has provided 291 pages of information to Grassley.
“While we did not provide 100 percent of what the senator (requested) … we did in fact cooperate to the extent that was appropriate,” he said.
The other ministries under investigation are Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Mo.; Benny Hinn Ministries in Grapevine, Texas; Randy and Paul White, who co-pastored Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., and Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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