Aides said Kenneth and Gloria Copeland provided a response that “falls short” of Grassley’s request. The Nov. 6 letter to the Copelands asked them to provide a detailed accounting of their compensation, housing allowances, credit card statements and a list of bank accounts, the tax-exempt purpose of layovers in Hawaii and Fiji on the church’s Citation X jet and information on a 40th anniversary “gift” of $2 million from other ministers.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the church said it “greatly respects” Grassley’s interest in nonprofit churches. “Our church is serious about financial accountability and has instituted policies and procedures to ensure our financial integrity.”
“At the same time, we have also instituted policies and procedures to ensure the privacy of our donors, employees, directors and ministers.”
But in the Jan. 22 Ministers’ Conference, Copeland vowed to vigorously fight Grassley.
Copeland says he learned about the probe through the media and was not even certain that the “plain-paper-looking trash” that arrived by fax from Grassley’s office was authentic.
“We answered them. We gave them a several-page lesson on no,” Copeland says dramatically, drawing laughter and applause. “Our attorneys cited the confidential privacy statutes, and not just for our ministry. If I yield this stuff, they’re coming after you!”
“We gave [Grassley’s office] the address of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C.!” he flourishes, to “amens” from the audience.
He suggested that the stop in Hawaii was to rest and refuel and that the layover in Fiji was for a ministers’ conference. He allows there might be some “element of truth” in each of Grassley’s allegations, but that how they framed it was a “lie.”
“You wanna get in a faith fight with me?” Copeland says toward the end, holding a Bible. “Why, just come on. But, I’m gonna warn you, I fight dirty. I got somebody else does my fighting for me. I just sit back and watch.”
To laughter, Copeland adds: “I just throw the first punch and then get out and let my angels go to work.”