Kenneth Copeland responds to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley

Texas televangelist says he’ll only turn over requested ministry information if it’s kept confidential. Copeland’s press release cites no scriptural or theological justification for withholding the information, instead citing first amendment concerns.

Question: Is the ministry’s position in harmony with John 3:20-21?

20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”[h]

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            MEDIA CONTACT:
Lawrence Swicegood
Lswicegood@kcm.org

KENNETH COPELAND MINISTRIES / EAGLE MOUNTAIN INTERNATIONAL CHURCH RESPONDS TO SENATOR GRASSLEY

Church has acted in good faith to cooperate, position has not changed 

Newark, TX., Monday July 14, 2008 –  Eagle Mountain International Church/Kenneth Copeland Ministries (the “Church”) has reviewed Senator Grassley’s July 7, 2008, “Memorandum to Reporters and Editors” on the status of the responses and level of cooperation received from the six church ministries who are the subject of the Senator’s investigation that began in November 2007.

The Church’s position continues to be that it has responded to the request of Senator Grassley in good faith and to the greatest extent possible without compromising the privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of association rights and protections afforded to the Church by the United States Constitution and the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”).

As stated in the Church’s letters of December 6, 2007, and March 31, 2008, to Senators Grassley and Baucus, and in discussions with Committee staff members, the Church continues to believe that the most timely and efficient way for the Committee to obtain the requested confidential information — without compromising the universally recognized fundamental constitutional and statutorily based rights of this Church and all religious institutions — is for the IRS to request and obtain the information through a “church tax inquiry” under section 7611 of the Code.  At the completion of the 90-day inquiry period provided by section 7611 of the Code, the IRS would have in its possession and available for disclosure to Senator Grassley all of the confidential information, including financial data, Senator Grassley is seeking from the Church.

Through this well-established statutory process, Senator Grassley and his staff could then obtain all of the information they seek through a request made under section 6103 of the Code, which would provide the Church with the confidentiality protections to which it is entitled.  Had the Senator pursued this course suggested by the Church back in December, he would have the information he is seeking available to him at this time.  The Senator’s suggestion that the Church or its attorneys are being uncooperative or seeking to prolong the process is simply untrue.

Indeed, in an effort to expedite the process, in April the Church took the unprecedented step of pledging its cooperation to the IRS should the IRS undertake a church tax inquiry of the Church.  Church and KCM CEO John Copeland said in a statement following his delivery of the letter to IRS offices in Dallas:  “We told the IRS that we welcome them to come and make inquiry of us and we will provide answers to the IRS regarding questions that Senator Grassley has.  The Church desires to protect its and all other churches’ First Amendment rights, and by this action, we believe we are doing just that.”

The Church respects the oversight role of the Senate Finance Committee and specifically the many efforts of Senator Grassley to provide oversight of tax-exempt organizations.  Indeed, the Church has voluntarily adopted and adheres to policies and procedures that the Senator has publicly suggested over the years are appropriate governance practices for tax-exempt organizations.

However, the Church respectfully disagrees with Senator Grassley’s position that churches are no different from any other tax-exempt organization.  Any government inquiry into the affairs of a church raises serious constitutional issues that must be carefully balanced against the government’s need to evaluate the effectiveness of the laws of the land.  To ensure its constitutional rights are not unnecessarily infringed upon, the Church firmly believes that it must be given the protections from disclosure afforded by the federal tax laws and the benefit of the processes and procedures that apply to inquires of churches made by the IRS.  Without such confidentiality and due process of law, the potential exists for the information to be used in an effort to damage or attempt to embarrass the Church, its pastors, and its members.  Any such use of the information provided interferes with, and ultimately threatens, the religious liberties of this Church, the thousands of other Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches who preach the “Word of Faith” message, and all other churches — irrespective of their particular doctrine or faith. 

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Updated: July 15, 2008 — 6:42 am

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  1. I can’t imagine what legitimate interest the Copeland ministries would have in keeping their finances secret. If people are taking tax deductions for making donations to their ministries, we should all be entitled to know where that money went. As I just posted in another context, secrecy rarely results in anything good in religion: Usually it’s just a way of covering something up.

  2. Caleb: I have noticed since this mess has all come out, that the evangelicals are now calling donations LOVE gifts. Legally would they have to claim this as an income, also can the public still claim it as a donation or tithe.

  3. Peach, that’s a good question. They’ve used words like “love offering,” and the like for years. God knows I’m no tax lawyer, but my understanding always was that a donation is a donation, no matter what you call it. The only exception is a donation that carries with it a gift or a dinner or something. Theoretically, if you go to a fundraiser of some sort and make a $100 donation, but they feed you a $20 dinner, or give you a $20 ticket to a show or something, you should only deduct $80 from your income. Any more, I’ve seen the invitations to things like this specify exactly what portion of the donation is deductible.

    Other than this, if a person makes a donation, the person can deduct it and the organization must report it as income on their nonprofit tax return. Now, nonprofits don’t have to pay income tax, so their tax form is filed to provide the government information, not to calculate taxes like yours and mine is. Of course, if the government declares an organization to no longer be a nonprofit because they’ve violated the law in some way, they’d have to declare the donation as income and pay taxes on it. That happened to Bob Jones University in the ’70s or ’80s because of its racial policies. I don’t know quite what Copeland is afraid of here, but the answer is to run an honest organization, not thumb your nose at the regulators. I suspect he’ll find that out in time.

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