Creflo Dollar of World Changers church, host of the Changing Your World television program, is refusing to give a court financial and counseling records in the divorce proceedings of former boxing champion Evander Holyfield and his wife, Janice. Police were about to arrest Dollar for contempt of court when his lawyers filed an appeal in the case.
The boxer may have given a lot of money to World Changers before divorce proceedings began last year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said. Dollar preaches about prosperity, and his services feature testimonies of people who have prospered since following his teachings, the paper said. Members are required to tithe and show church leaders their personal financial information.
Dollar says testifying in the case would violate the privilege of privacy that clergy and those they counsel enjoy. He quoted a Georgia state law saying that "every communication made by any person professing religious faith, seeking spiritual comfort, or seeking counseling" to a clergy member "shall be deemed privileged."
The confidential relationship between a pastor and his or her members "is of vital importance," Dollar said. "Once a pastor testifies in a divorce action between two people who were members of his church and that he counseled in an effort to save the marriage, that relationship is destroyed not only between those two members but between members generally."
The result is that people stop seeking counseling because they can not trust their religious adviser, he said.
"Would you or anyone else go to a minister, priest, or rabbi if you felt that your conversations might end up in court proceedings some time later?" Dollar said. "Do we as a society no longer want a place where we can communicate freely and trust that it will never be repeated? Do we as a society want to have to guess about what communications can be shared freely and which should not be disclosed to our minister, priest or rabbi?"
People are divided in their opinions about Dollar, the Journal-Constitution said. Some note that Dollar "relentlessly attacks the idea that Christians should limit their material possessions," travels to speaking engagements in a $5 million private jet, and enters the 8,000-member church "like a rock star." Others see him as a compassionate person who helps the needy and whose "message of prosperity is twisted out of context."