A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Senator Chuck Grassley Speaks, Press Conference

Just returned from the press conference with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Senator Grassley spoke at this morning's plenary session of The New Baptist Covenant on the challenges of public policy and feeding the hungry world. Grassley discussed the need for the dissemination of scientific ideas towards increasing food production and the positive effects of trade liberalization on ending world hunger. You can watch that Video here. And please, watch these videos before you (non-NBC supporters) make sweeping accusations and unfounded claims.

Here's a quote from Grassley's speech:

"Each of us here today is unity by an even greater bond, our faith - here today we Celebrate Unity in Jesus Christ....Our faith can help bridge differences...As Baptists, we're committed to promoting equality, peace and justice in the world...The New Baptist Covenant offers a chance for us to bear witness for Jesus Christ's Love For All"

As most know (blogged about here and here), Senator Grassley has launched an investigation into the ministries of six prominent televangelists for possible financial misconduct. These six Prosperity Gospel peddlers include Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Grassley is trying to determine whether or not these ministers and their ministries are improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.

Thoughts and Notes from the Press Conference, Video here.

Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (and Bible Belt Blogger) asked Grassley how he - as a Christian - felt about political fundraisers being held in a church sanctuary. A good question and I hoped for Grassley to give a personal answer. As a graduate student in Church-State Studies and as a Baptist, I hoped Grassley would retort that such fundraisers are unethical and an inappropriate mix of religion and politics.

Grassley did not do that. Sounding more like a lawyer (which he isn’t), Grassley noted that whether said fundraiser violated non-profit status is a legal matter. True. Though, that’s not the type of response that the question was intended to produce. Although just a bit later in the press conference, Grassley declared that his rule of thumb on these type of important church-state issues is: “Any minister ought to {be able} to do anything that Jesse Jackson can do!”

On the subjection of the investigation, Grassley pointed out that except for Jack Abramoff (who is in prison), every single time that he has asked for info from non-profits, his request was granted. Currently, two of the six ministries have not complied with Grassley’s request for their financial records. The Rev. Creflo Dollar of Atlanta has stated that he will not comply with the request unless a subpoena is issued.

Grassley also claimed to have no personal grudge. He claimed to not even know the names of the televangelists targeted by his investigation. While that’s actually rather hard to believe, I believe the man. He called Creflo Dollar by the wrong name and didn’t seem to realize that Creflo’s World Changers ministry is located here in the ATL. Grassley also referred to Joyce Meyer as Patricia. He even claimed to have no understanding of the Prosperity Gospel. Either the Senator is accomplished at playing dumb or he really is no theologian and not the most informed person. However, Grassley is dead wrong on at least one point. His investigation is not simply an issue of tax law. If Grassley overreaches in his inquiry, there could be far-reaching consequences for church-state issues. All religious liberty advocates should continue to keep a close eye on Grassley’s investigation.

*Grassley grew up in a Baptist congregation aligned with the General Association of Regular Baptists. He is now a member of Prairie Lakes Church which until 1998 was affiliated with ABC-USA and is now affiliated with the Baptist General Conference. Grassley cracked that while some in his church saw fit to remove Baptist from the church sign out front, he was not embarrassed of being a Baptist.

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Anonymous wonderin' said...

I find it HARD to believe that Grassley is not aware of who he is investigating. Copeland is standing up for the future of First Amendment rights. The effects the decisions made in this situation could have are endless. He has even created a website to keep the public up to date on the latest happenings in the investigation.

3:49 PM


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