City Harvest Church, one of the largest megachurches in Asia, has reportedly officially been warned by government and police officials not to collect donations from worshipers in order to pay for legal fees related to Pastor Kong Hee's corruption case.
"The Commissioner of Charities (COC) office had earlier issued a Restriction Order to the Board of City Harvest Church (CHC) to restrict CHC from paying the legal fees of the six accused persons and entering into transactions relating to payment of services to the suspended individuals and their related entities, without the approval of the COC," COC said in a statement, as reported by The Straits Times.
Kong was arrested in June along with his deputy and three other ministry members for allegedly misusing $18 million in church funds, which officials claim the minister used to help launch his wife's music career.
COC told The Straits Times that neither City Harvest Church's employees nor members are allowed to raise funds for the legal expenses of the case, and that a restriction order had been placed to stop the church's board from using any already available funds for the same purpose.
The church has apparently responded by discontinuing a donation form that had been circulating around its members, and said that it is not aware of any other money-raising efforts going on.
The megachurch, which attracts around 23,000 attendees weekly, has been left deep in a controversy with many questioning the way it conducts business and how it handles money gathered from the faithful.
Kong has defended himself by saying that he did not participate in any wrongdoing and maintained that he would be shown to be innocent.
"I have and will continue to place my faith and trust in our judicial system. I will explain the facts and circumstances to the Court, and am confident that I will be vindicated," Kong has said.
The 47-year-old megachurch pastor faces a lengthy jail sentence if convicted of misusing millions in church funds and corruption charges.
City Harvest Church was started by Kong and his wife in 1989, and has grown to become one of Singapore's largest evangelical, non-denominational churches with a membership of 30,000.