In 2007, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opened a probe into the finances of six televangelists who preach a “prosperity gospel.” The probe investigated reports of lavish lifestyles by televangelists including: fleets of Rolls Royces, palatial mansions, private jets and other expensive items purportedly paid for by television viewers who donate due to the ministries’ encouragement of offerings. The six who were investigated are:
- Kenneth Copeland and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas
- Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Georgia.
- Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas.
- Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Georgia; DocuSeries – SEX SCANDALS and RELIGION did a 2011 investigative episode on his alleged sexual misconduct.
- Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Missouri.
- Randy White and ex-wife Paula White of the multiracial Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Florida.
On January 6, 2011 Senator Grassley released his review of the six ministries response to his inquiry. He called for a further congressional review of tax-exemption laws for religious groups. Grassley was concerned over the following problems he learned about the “prosperity preachers”:
Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas, a $20 million organization and prosperity gospel pioneer. Questions were raised about the transfer of church assets to a for-profit company, Security Patrol Inc., a $1 million loan from Gloria Copeland to the group, and a “personal gift” of more than $2 million given to Kenneth Copeland to mark the ministry’s 40th anniversary.
A Copeland spokeswoman released a statement saying the ministry is working on a response to Grassley’s letter, follows all laws and best practices governing churches and religious non-profit groups, and “will continue to do so.”
Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Georgia. Grassley’s letter asks for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and donations and “love offerings” to visiting ministers. In a statement, Dollar called his ministry an “open book” and said he would cooperate. He also questioned whether the investigation could “affect the privacy of every community church in America.”
Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, was asked about use of a private jet, a home in Dana Point, California and “layover trips” while traveling on ministry business. Hinn did not respond to requests for comment.
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Georgia, was questioned about his salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and not the board, holds sole authority over the organization. Long plans to fully comply with the Senate’s request, and his church has “several safeguards” to ensure transactions comply with laws governing churches, according to a statement from Long’s spokesman.
1. “Grassley seeks information from six media-based ministries.” 11.06.2007. http://grassley.senate.gov/news/Article.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1502=12011. (Archived by WebCite at www.webcitation.org/5s5pjHGFo).
3. USA Today. “Sen. Grassley probes televangelists’ finances.” A.P. 11.07. 2007. www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-11-07-televangelist-probe_N. htm. 4. http://finance.senate.gov/newsroom/ranking/release/?id=5fa343ed-87eb-49b0 -82 b9-28a9502910f7.
5. USA Today. “Sen. Grassley probes televangelists’ finances.” A.P. 11.07. 2007. www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-11-07-televangelist-probe_ N.htm.