Pentecostal Preacher Pledges Holy War Against GOP Senator
It hasn't generated a lot of headlines, but in the world of religion and politics, it's a pretty big deal. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently asked six high-profile, hyper-wealthy Pentecostal televangelists for their financial records, under the suspicion that they're using their ministries for personal gain. (Imagine that.)
Not surprisingly, most of the televangelists' ministries have been loath to cooperate with the inquiry. One in particular is pledging a holy war.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has gone after more than a few iconic nonprofits during his tenure atop the Finance Committee, including the Red Cross, Smithsonian and Harvard University.
But now the Finance ranking member and former chairman may have met his match: televangelist Kenneth Copeland of the sprawling Kenneth Copeland Ministries based in Newark, Texas.
In a Jan. 22 closed-circuit broadcast of his 2008 Ministers' Conference obtained by Roll Call, Copeland pledges a holy war against "Brother Grassley" and the Senate for attempting to get a look at the controversial ministry's finances. Grassley wrote a Nov. 6 letter to Copeland and five other prominent ministers requesting a variety of financial information.
"You render unto the government what belongs to the government. And you render unto God what belongs to God," Copeland loudly intones to approving murmurs from the crowd of 1,000 ministers and their guests.Oh, the irony is rich. These TV preachers believe the separation of church and state is some kind of Satanic, communist plot to be rejected by decent people everywhere. That is, right up until a senator wonders if perhaps they're abusing their tax-exempt status, at which point the church-state wall is high and impregnable.
Now, I should note that, as a rule, I'm not inclined to have government officials poking around churches' books -- unless the church is receiving tax dollars or is suspected of wrongdoing. In this case, the latter applies.
Grassley contacted six ministries that has engaged in activities that certainly look like fraud. These tax-exempt ministries are required, by law, not to use donations from followers to enrich themselves, and there's considerable evidence that they've done just that.
It's no wonder, then, that some of these Pentecostal televangelists are reluctant to share information with Grassley. Copeland seems to be quite the drama-queen about it.
After a searing attack on Grassley's tactics -- which Copeland says were designed to sully his image and pressure him via the media -- Copeland says he will never provide information on his donors, even if he is ordered to do so by subpoena.
"You can go get a subpoena, and I won't give it to you!" Copeland storms. "It's not yours, it's God's and you're not going to get it and that's something I'll go to prison over. So, just get over it!" he tells Grassley, jamming his finger into the air. "And if there's a death penalty that applies, well just go for it!"I see.