Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar Accused of Choking Daughter
ATLANTA (CNN) — Telling thousands of parishioners that he should never have been arrested, Pastor Creflo Dollar said at his Sunday morning service he neither choked nor punched his 15-year-old daughter, as she claimed in a report to police.
Dollar, senior pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta, told congregants in the sprawling megachurch and listening at one of more than a dozen satellite churches that when the facts of the case come out, they will be “appalled.”
“The truth is, she was not choked. She was not punched,” Dollar said.
On Friday, deputies responding to a 911 call photographed a scratch on the daughter’s neck and arrested Dollar on charges of simple battery, family violence and child cruelty. Dollar said the mark on his daughter’s neck is more than 10 years old, the result of eczema, a skin condition.
“I want the church family to know that all is well in the Dollar household,” he said, in his first public comments since spending more than 12 hours in jail. He immediately addressed the issue upon taking the pulpit Sunday, speaking for nearly eight minutes about the challenge of raising children and denying he had hurt to his daughter.
After Dollar told the crowd about the skin abrasion, one man yelled, “Case dismissed!”
Dollar’s daughter said she argued with her father over attending a party, investigator Brent Rowan of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office told CNN on Friday.
Rowan said the daughter told the deputies that her father charged her, put his hands around her throat and began to choke her, according to a police report. She said he then slammed her to the ground, punched her and beat her with his shoe.
Dollar blamed the devil for causing the controversy, saying that to discredit his message of “prosperity gospel,” the enemy must discredit the messenger.
Prosperity ministers preach that God rewards the faithful with wealth and spiritual gifts. Pastors such as T.D. Jakes, Dollar, and Joel Osteen have become the Prosperity Gospel’s most well known preachers, building megachurches and business empires with a message equating piety with prosperity.
Dollar’s church claims about 30,000 members and has an $18 million, 8,500-seat sanctuary about 15 miles from downtown Atlanta.
Friday’s incident was emotionally charged and escalated from an argument, Dollar said Sunday. But he never intended bodily harm to anyone, he assured the audience.
“I love her with all my heart,” he said, shaking his head with conviction.
He cited a Bible verse from Psalms that talks about malicious witness against the good man, and evil men delighting when he stumbled.
He later, during his sermon, also joked about the arrest, saying that being a religious man sent to jail “upped my resume.”
“Paul … Jesus … and Creflo,” he said to a huge cheer.
The pastor, known for his pinstriped suits, laughed at being clothed in a yellow jumpsuit and sandals while being handcuffed and being held in a cell.
For most of the service, Dollar spoke of the people being “the righteousness of God by faith,” the third in a series of sermons he prepared weeks ago, he said.
“No weapon that forms against you shall prosper,” he reminded the audience, citing scripture.
At the end of the more than hour-long appearance, he said that he was persevering thanks to God’s love.
“And we couldn’t do it without the love of you brothers and sisters.”
After the service, congregants declined to comment on Dollar’s appearance.
Since he started his ministry in an elementary school cafeteria in 1986, Dollar has earned both praise and criticism.
Supporters say he has preached a message that’s financially empowered his parishioners and challenged the idea that Christians should be ashamed to be rich.
Critics call him “Cash-Flow Dollar,” and say his message perverts the Gospel.
CNN’s John Murgatroyd and John Blake contributed to this report.