NASHVILLE, Tenn -- The National Religious Broadcasters Association is holding its annual convention this week in Nashville, Tennessee. NRB members are in an uproar over what they call an attack on religious freedom.
On the surface, it is a convention filled with new technologies and new ways to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But underneath the bright lights and demos, a battle is brewing -- a battle between federal government and the Church.
"It's going to be a dangerous threat," radio talk show host Janet Parshall told CBN News. "Just before our convention started down here, Charles Grassley actually put out the word that he's going to use subpoena power. If that happens you're going to have a battle royale."
Should the Church be concerned about the Grassley probe? Click play button to watch CBN News' report and Pat Robertson's analysis at the end.
Parshall participated on a special panel at the NRB convention. Panelists addressed the investigation by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley into several large television ministries. The ministries include those associated with Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Bishop Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Randy and Paula White.
"This is not a crusade against ministries," Grassley said. "It has nothing to do with doctrine. It has only to do with the enforcement of the law, and it's no different than the investigation I've been doing on non-profits for the last five years."
Grassley is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. He believes the government has a right to investigate these tax-exempt ministries to make sure they are using funds for charitable purposes and not lavish lifestyles.
Right now, Grassley's investigation focuses on six television ministries. But those associated with NRB say the implications of that investigation are far-reaching, affecting Christian broadcasters across the spectrum.
"It's going to create an insatiable appetite for investigation," Parshall said. "It's really the Church on trial. It would be a bad day for America and it would be a deadly precedent for ministries straight across the board."
Craig Parshall serves as the NRB senior vice president & general counsel. "We put together a letter, a very firmly worded letter telling Senator Grassley why we disagree, why the approach was wrong, and why we believed he should have used a scalpel in this very delicate constitutional area," he said. "Unfortunately he used an axe."
NRB members say wielding an axe amounts to violating the First Amendment rights of television ministries.
"I think the only thing they're going to respond to is public protest and just a voice of Christians being heard in opposition to this witch hunt that's going on," said Ben Bull, chief counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "Because it is a witch hunt and they will not stop with these handful of ministries. This is only the beginning."
Still, the panel believes there's a lesson to be learned in the Senate probe -- make sure your ministry stays above reproach.
"We need to be very careful in our ministries never to give the government the lumber to build our own gallows," Janet Parshall told the audience.