I’m so-so ok with bona fide religious institutions not paying taxes on donations from their members, you know, like when they pass the plate on Sundays. However when they have non-religionist businesses and, even more so, when they are actually political institutions, abuse of that exemption should be punished— and severely. On Monday, a grab bag of 40 House Democrats sent a letter to Janet Yellen, secretary of the treasury, and to IRS commissioner Charles Rettig to express “concern regarding the Family Research Council’s (FRC) tax-exempt status as an ‘association of churches.’ In addition, we request a review of the existing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance related to political advocacy organizations self-identifying as ‘churches’ to obtain the status of churches, integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches… [The Family Research Council] claiming to be a church strains credulity: they do not hold religious services, do not have a congregation or affiliated congregations, and do not possess many of the other attributes of churches listed by the IRS."
They concluded that since “the FRC is primarily an advocacy organization and not a church, we urge the IRS to swiftly review the tax-exempt status, and whether there are other political advocacy organizations that have obtained church status, but do not satisfy the IRS requirements for churches, integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches. Further, we urge the IRS to improve the review process for organizations seeking church status to ensure that organizations that are not churches cannot abuse the tax code. Finally, we request the IRS determine whether existing guidance is sufficient to prevent abuse and what resources or Congressional actions are needed to ensure adequate implementation and enforcement moving forward.”
Among the signatories are heavy-weights like Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Suzan DelBene (WA), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Karen Bass (D-CA). Former Congressman Alan Grayson, currently running for his old Orlando seat, told me that “This is just one example of a much larger problem. Many political operations now masquerade as non-profit entities.” I have a feeling we can expect him to spend some time investigating that next year.
This is how the FRC describes itself on its own website: “Founded in 1983, Family Research Council is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life. In addition to providing policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, FRC seeks to inform the news media, the academic community, business leaders, and the general public about family issues that affect the nation from a biblical worldview.”
This should have been done long ago.