About a year ago (January 6, 2011), the United States Senate Finance Committee submitted the results of their investigation of religious non-profit organizations associated with or operated by:
Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Paula White, Joyce Meyer Ministries, who cooperated with Grassley’s inquiry, and Benny Hinn.
Recent Huffington Post Article on Best Paid Pastors
The final report concluded that there were "no definitive findings of wrongdoing" and "no penalties for the pastors who refused to cooperate".
The ministries or "churches" replied with seemingly predictable behavior.
Hmm, why are these ministries so secret about their money? Why are so many "leaders" so wealthy?
Find More on the Investigations Here
Although this mission was well intended, the Senator's office and staff may have gone into this without anticipating this kind of reception. These results, although not surprising to WW and kindred spirits (WW readers, with the exception of WOFFWATCHER - watchers, who are not kindred), would most certainly be surprising to people unaware of insiders fierce loyalty to their ministry's system or culture and the lengths they will go to to protect it, notwithstanding the fear and intimidation used by the ministries toward it's members who might stray.
The individuals and their ministries were clearly defiant all the while gaming the system created by government, with a bit of help by lobbyists crafting this system, to distinguish them from other entities.
Huge respect and kudos, however to Senator Grassley's staff for forging ahead with this project. The results, such as they were, actually proved useful because of HOW the subjects of the investigation responded. This now leads to more questions and will certainly lead to more types of investigations, perhaps by other bodies of government, but particularly congress.
WW suggests congress because since Senator Grassley's office took this matter on, and his constituency is in IOWA and NOT North Carolina, it could mean that perhaps YOUR congressman/woman in YOUR district, anywhere in the United States, might feel compelled to start their OWN investigation into these types of ministries.
And why stop at those named in this latest investigation? Why not start with smaller, more local ministries? How about one relatively off the radar, but with similar infrastructure as those previously scrutinized, and with a seemingly rich leader.
Where might you find one like that, WW wonders?
So, if you folks locally feel constrained to contact your local congressman/woman because they fear they might be tied to a "church" in some way, you should still try.
If you're in, say, Orange City Florida, you can contact your congressman there, or Falls Church Virginia, or Coldwater Michigan or Goodlettsville, Tennessee, or San Diego, California, and ask them to conduct an investigation. It is unlikely that they will be tied to ANY NC "church" or ministry.
WW's suggestion to Senator Grassley's staff, if you plan on doing this again (and bless you guys for trying) is that you need a street fighter (no violence necessary or condoned, but someone tough as nails, fearless, if you will) to go in with you to help you with tactics they use and how to counter uncooperative people, you need more people in the grassroots (non church members but those who work with them and facilitate them) to help you gather information instead of insiders, study their unique infrastructure.
Here are a couple of ideas to consider:
the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and HIPPAA (Health Information Privacy Act) statutes.
Although the purpose of the RICO statute is "the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce." S.Rep. No. 617, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. 76 (1969). However, the statute is sufficiently broad to encompass illegal activities relating to any enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
The U.S. Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to follow the continuity-plus-relationship test in order to determine whether the facts of a specific case give rise to an established pattern. Predicate acts are related if they "have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events".
Perhaps RICO provides an opportunity to enable a full and proper legal investigation into day to day operations and infrastructure.
From the HHS.GOV website website:
"The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.
The Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards for covered entities to use to assure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information. "
It is not unreasonable to consider an investigation in this category, as it applies to federal law, would apply to ministries that involve their church members to chaperon, observe, participate or otherwise accompany the church member that was getting treated, diagnosed, hospitalized, counseled by a physician or medical practitioner for a condition or disease or routine medical evaluation. Sometimes the clinic or medical practitioner may have ties to the ministry in order to make this practice possible.
Of course, these are just two areas of consideration. There are many more areas of potential investigation to explore.