It isn’t exactly a street paved with gold and, alas, it doesn’t include any pearly gates, but controversial mega-church pastor Creflo Dollar might be getting his own highway.
A Georgia state senator filed a resolution to rename a portion of Old National Highway in Dollar’s honor.
“It is abundantly fitting and proper that this enduring example of God’s message be recognized by dedicating a road in his honor,” state Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta), who appears to have nothing better to do, wrote in her proposed legislation. Last year, James successfully lobbied the legislature to change the name of a section of Spring Street to Gladys Knight Highway.
At least one Atlanta blogger is calling foul.
“There are many, many God-fearing Christians of every denomination who believe [Dollar’s] message is sinful at best, exploitative at worst, and want as much distance between their government and this man as possible,” wrote George Chidi for GeorgiaPol.com.
World Changers Church International, where Dollar is the founding senior pastor, sits in James’s south Fulton County district just outside of Atlanta. Its 8,500-seat World Dome is purportedly home to around 30,000 members, many of whom are pressed to “tithe” 10 percent of their gross earnings to support the ministry. At one point, in 2006, the praying enterprise took in nearly $70 million in cash collections.
While Dollar—who is often derisively called “Rev. Cash-Flow”—has never disclosed his income, he has been widely criticized for enriching himself on the backs of his working-poor and middle-class congregation. The sanctuary, built for $18 million without bank financing, stands in a predominantly black, economically depressed neighborhood. Meanwhile, Dollar owns two Rolls-Royces and flies around the world in a private jet. He made headlines last year when the church attempted to raise $65 million for a brand new luxury Gulfstream.
Dollar “renounced” his church salary in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press and said he relies on personal investments, including income from book sales. A U.S. Senate committee investigated Dollar, along with Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Baptist Church and four other faith leaders, but ultimately found no wrongdoing.
“Some people hear the name Creflo Dollar, and immediately sing his praises,” Andre Walker blogged at Georgia Unfiltered.
“Others hear the name Creflo Dollar, and think he's a two-bit shyster who uses the Bible and poor religious people to support his lavish lifestyle through the so-called prosperity gospel."
Dollar, who faced allegations that he punched and choked his daughter in June 2012, hasn’t said a word about James’s proposal. According to police reports, the pastor “slapped” his 15-year-old daughter in the face and “choked her for about five seconds.” Another of Dollar’s daughters, who was 19 at the time, allegedly witnessed the attack. In the heat of the accusations, the preacher denied that the altercation unfolded as his daughters reported and issued a public statement, saying he would never hurt them. His supporters pointed to a father’s “duty” to discipline his children.
The Daily Beast reached out to church spokesman Vic Bolton, who is Dollar’s brother-in-law, for comment, but he did not respond.
Curiously, the senator’s latest street-naming gambit has four co-sponsors—Michael ‘Doc’ Rhett, Gail Davenport, Harold Jones, and Valencia Seay— all of whom are Democrats hailing from various parts of the state.
Since the GOP took over both houses of the state legislature nearly 20 years ago, Democrats have been remanded to the largely ceremonious role of voting against legislation that was almost sure to pass. Others, like State Sen. Vincent Fort, have turned the well of the Senate into a pulpit for social justice.
There is no word that Sen. James has received anything in exchange for her street-renaming adventures. But maybe this will get her a first-class ticket on the highway to heaven—or maybe one moving in the other direction.