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A ministry that has refused to cooperate fully with a financial investigation launched by Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has invited the Internal Revenue Service to conduct its own inquiry instead.

Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, made the request on April 7. "We will provide answers to the IRS regarding questions that Senator 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."

Rusty Leonard, founder of North Carolina–based MinistryWatch.com, a watchdog organization, called the efforts by Copeland "deceptive and misleading," because any investigation by the IRS would be confidential.

Grassley's office reported on March 31 that four of the six ministries under investigation are cooperating. Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, had asked last November for detailed information about the spending practices of the ministries—all legally registered as churches and thus not required to file disclosure forms with the IRS.

Creflo Dollar Ministries in College Park, Georgia, has also refused to submit financial records, expressing concerns about congregants' privacy. Grassley and committee chairman Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had asked ministries that weren't cooperating fully to submit materials by March 31. "As for the Copeland request for an audit from the IRS, Senator Grassley has always said that the IRS enforces existing law, while Congress evaluates the adequacy of existing law," said Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the committee. "The two functions are completely different."



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In the Magazine

June 2008

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