Bishop Long to cooperate with Senate inquiry

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/March 31, 2008

One of two recalcitrant metro Atlanta televangelists under investigation by a Senate committee has decided to cooperate.

Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia has indicated he will give the Senate Finance Committee the financial and corporate documents sought by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said a Grassley spokeswoman.

The Rev. Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park had not responded as of Friday to the March 11 letter asking for cooperation, said Jill Kozeny, on Grassley's staff.

Dollar's attorney could not be reached, but he has contested the request.

Monday is the deadline for information set by the Iowa senator and ranking member of the committee. If the ministries refuse, the committee could subpoena the documents.

The chess game of Grassley's requests and the ministries' countermoves began last November when Grassley first asked for information from the metro Atlantans; the Rev. Benny Hinn and the Rev. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, all of Texas; Randy and Paula White of Florida; and Joyce Meyer of Missouri.

Grassley has a record of pulling nonprofits before the committee to investigate their management and how they use their tax-exempt status. He launched the inquiry into the ministries of the jet-setting televangelists, asking about salaries, perks, gifts and ministry oversight.

He has said the ministers' private jets, million-dollar homes, exotic cars and expensive gifts attracted his attention.

The ministers preach forms of the prosperity gospel, which says God wants his followers to prosper financially as well as spiritually.

Meyer opened her books to Grassley, but the others have dragged their feet or given partial responses.

The Copelands' ministry remains the other holdout, Kozeny said.

Kenneth Copeland and Dollar have waged a rhetoric campaign against the investigation, saying they will give everything they are legally required to give, while contesting what that includes.

Dollar has questioned Grassley's motives and legal authority to request some of the documents and raised the issue of constitutional church-state divisions.

Copeland, who has been a mentor to Dollar, ramped up his rhetoric last month. According to the Des Moines Register, he sent a letter to supporters saying, "The enemy is not going to steal what the Lord has won through this ministry, and he is not going to use this attack to bring harm to the rest of the churches and ministries in America,"

Kozeny said Grassley remains hopeful that Dollar will cooperate.

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