Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Person of the Week: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley

Calm down,there's a good reason why a Republican Senator is the Person of the Week .


Senator Chuck Grassley is turning heads in Washington for going after the so-called Money Ministries who take advantage of their tax-exemption. I personally think religious institutions should get no tax exemption, but this is better than nothing.

Excerpts are below. Full article is here. http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1684552,00.html

"On the website for their ministry based in Newark, Texas, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland commit to "teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life." And they appear to be victorious in theirs, with books in 22 languages, a global crusade schedule and a TV show reaching millions. No less a luminary than presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is advertised to appear on the show for six days straight to discuss "character in the Bible."

Huckabee might want to opt out. On Nov. 6 the Copelands got a saw-toothed, 42 point questionnaire inquiring into their own character from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance. Grassley wanted to know how Kenneth Copeland--who as a church leader pays no taxes but is expected to plow revenue back into the public welfare--got a private plane and whether flights to Hawaii and Fiji qualified as business trips. Grassley sought credit card receipts and the numbers of the church's offshore bank accounts.

Copeland wasn't Grassley's only pen pal. He also wrote to the Revs. Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Paula White, in total six televangelists who are part of an evangelical subculture known loosely as Prosperity gospel. "Recent news reports regarding the possible misuse of donations made to religious organizations" prompted the probe, Grassley wrote. The ministers' responses are technically voluntary, but the Senator has asked for them in a month and has mused that the replies could lead to testimony under oath. If so, Grassley could end up wiping out what some consider a kleptocracy but what is certainly the public face of a popular theology."

"The larger conservative Christian community has not been supportive. "Grassley has a shotgun, and lead is spraying all over the place, but I'm looking at the good that can be done," says Marvin Olasky, editor of the evangelical weekly World. J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, where some of the six advertise, hopes all can prove their innocence, but he adds, "If God wants to use a Senator to help the American church clean up its act, then I say bring on the Reformation."

But should Grassley play the role of Martin Luther? Some see Grassley's acts as a religious vendetta, launched by a white-bread Evangelical who doesn't get the group's view of rich pastors as a sign of divine grace. Grassley has hinted that his purpose may be to revamp tax laws to keep up with rapacious preachers. Remarks Charles Haynes, senior scholar with the First Amendment Center: "I'm worried that [the six] might be used to push for stringent transparency regulations that would affect all religious groups. They are extreme, and extreme cases can lead to bad law."

Grassley rejects the criticism. "We're not looking at doctrine. I don't know much about the words Prosperity gospel," he says. But he acknowledges that religious-freedom concerns may make an investigation a "little more difficult to defend." Fellow Senators--"I won't give their names"--have asked what they should tell the preachers. Says Grassley: "My answer was, 'Tell them to do what all the other nonprofits do--answer my letter.'" And hope for a different kind of grace.

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