Sen. Charles Grassley still wants ministries’ money info

Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is preparing another round of letters to Christian television ministries, prodding them to answer questions about their spending and the way they are governed, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

At the same time, an aide to the committee’s Democratic chairman indicated it would be in the ministries’ best interest to cooperate with the Iowa Republican’s investigation.

Grassley started his probe of the ministries in early November but has met resistance from some of the six ministries he has questioned.

The senator’s latest attempt to get answers from the holdouts comes as criticism of his probe is mounting within the evangelical establishment. The flagship magazine of the movement, Christianity Today, editorialized this month that the Grassley probe amounted to “oversight overstep” that risked delving improperly into theology.

In early November, Grassley sent letters to six Christian ministries seeking answers to dozens of questions about salaries, mansions, private jets, expensive furniture and board makeup. While Grassley has emphasized his interest lies not in doctrine but whether tax laws are being followed, several ministries have complained that religious freedoms are being endangered. They say the IRS, not a Senate committee, is the proper forum for investigating complaints that Grassley says prompted his probe.

The ministries — all of whom preach a “prosperity gospel” that God wants his followers to flourish financially — also have insisted that they follow IRS rules on how they spend their donors’ dollars.

Under IRS guidelines, ministers may receive “reasonable” compensation but cannot enrich themselves through their nonprofits.

Two of the ministers, Creflo Dollar and Bishop Eddie Long, both based in suburban Atlanta, have refused to cooperate. Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries pledged full cooperation and has turned over documents. A Texas ministry led by Kenneth Copeland also has turned over information, although the extent of the group’s cooperation isn’t clear.

The two remaining groups, one led by Texas-based faith healer Benny Hinn and the other by Randy and Paula White of Tampa, Fla., have been in touch with Grassley’s office but have not indicated whether they are cooperating or fighting.

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