Media-based televangelists benefiting from tax code exemptions are warned — Sen. Chuck Grassley is a terrier-like congressional inquisitor with time and a big stick on his side.
“I am not threatening them, at this point,” the Iowa Republican said.
Grassley, since late 2007, has sought financial information from six televangelist ministries that watchdog sources told the senator may be enjoying lavish benefits not allowed under their tax-exempt status.
…Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries offered general but incomplete information.
In two explosive lawsuits filed yesterday in DeKalb County, Georgia, two members of televangelist [Bishop] Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, charge that as teenagers and participants in the church-sponsored Longfellows Church Academy, Long coerced them into sexual relationships with him.
…They allege that Long, while sexually pursuing them, put them on the church payroll, and used church funds to buy them gifts and take them on lavish trips. Long used his position of spiritual authority to coerce the young men into sexual relationships with him, they charge, relationships that Long insisted were sanctioned by God.
Of course, the the former doesn’t mean that the latter is true, but it does give an unfortunate impression.
The second quote above was taken from Sarah Posner’s overview on Religion Dispatches; Sarah also tells us that Long’s self-described “spiritual father” was none other than the late Earl Paulk, who died mired in multiple sexual abuse scandals (I blogged him here). Sarah gives us an extract from her own book, God’s Profits:
Through the 1980s and 1990s and into the first years of the twenty-first century, Paulk continued to be exalted as a spiritual leader, as evidenced by visits by [T.D.] Jakes, [Carlton] Pearson, [Mark] Hanby, and others, and by offering spiritual guidance to Long, who went on to launch his own church, New Birth Missionary Baptist. “There is a network of these guys that support each other, look out for each other, now something is wrong with each other to some extent, and they cover for each other,” said Johnny Enlow, who was a member of Paulk’s church form 1987 until 1992, and even became part of the church leadership. Enlow wouldn’t name names, but he said, “They threaten, through spiritual tones, people who would tell on them. And it’s part of the overall effect, the effectiveness of them. Staying in power, and keeping people quiet, and keeping their own members believing them.”
Again, this doesn’t prove anything – but did Long push for a healthier attitude to leadership accountability in Charismatic churches in the wake of the Paulk scandal? It doesn’t look like it.
Sarah also draws attention to this sermon, in which Long compares the word of God, as preached by him, to “fresh sperm”:
The job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm! And when he speaks it, the womb, the church, is to take it in!
And yet again… but oh dear.
Meanwhile, I’m sure that Long will be particularly grateful for some words of support he’s received:
Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard cautioned today that no one should rush to judge…
“Nobody’s guilty until the court says he’s guilty,” Haggard, the former head of a 14,000-member congregation in Colorado, told AOL News today in a phone interview.
…Haggard said that Long deserves a fair hearing and that if the accusations are false, he will survive the ordeal. “The bishop is surrounded by people that will counsel him well,” he said.
Haggard continues to complain that his massage sessions with a male prostitute while using methamphetamine have been misreported:
“I didn’t do what I was accused of, but what I did do was bad enough,” he said today.
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