Thursday, January 13, 2011

Senate Investigation Report on "Prosperity Preachers"

A report prepared for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released last week, wraps up a three-year inquiry into the operations of six ministries that many say preach what is called a "prosperity gospel" message.

In 2007, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to six televangelist ministries requesting information about their operations. Of the six ministries, only two, Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church, provided answers to all the questions. Three ministries, Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church; Bishop Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, provided incomplete information. World Changers Church, which is led by Rev. Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar, was called the "least cooperative." To date, the review said, the committee staff has been unable to determine the names of the ministry's board members or any information regarding compensation.

"We didn't evaluate each ministry for findings of wrongdoing, as we're not an enforcement agency," said Jill Gerber, Grassley's press secretary. "Instead, we found the basis for a serious stakeholder discussion of tax policy issues that would affect ministries and churches, such as whether the parsonage tax allowance should be limited for those who have multiple mansions and lake houses, tax-free."

In response to the Grassley report, The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an independent accrediting group for churches and religious nonprofits, plans to create a national commission to lead a review of financial operations and accountability within churches and nonprofits. Grassley's staff also recommended that the IRS sponsor an advisory committee comprised of representatives of churches and religious organizations to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with the IRS. []

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