Focus on the Family, the group that runs national anti-gay campaigns and boycotts, has bullied the IRS into classifying them as a church. Now their bigotry can finally operate freely and avoid the pesky public scrutiny that non profits face, and rake in all those sweet sweet benefits.
Is Focus on the Family a church? The IRS didn’t think so, but correspondences released in a freedom of information request show how Focus on the Family lawyers bully the IRS into saying they are. When FOF was justifiably questioned by the IRS, saying they did “not appear to line up very strongly” with 14 standards for religious organizations, FOF threatened that to even question their claim is a violation of the First Amendment. A gaggle of FOF lawyers threatened to sue.
Some of those IRS standards for churches are weekly services, and ecclesiastical government. Focus on the Family lawyers claimed its 600 employees are both “ministers” and “members of their congregation.” They said their cafeteria is their place of worship, their board of directors are the “elders” and president, Jim Daly, is “head deacon and elder.” They said, “Without question, Focus on the Family’s members’ daily work is worship.”
Sounds totally legit. When the IRS said “there appears to be nothing distinctive” about the organization that “would cause a group of believers to coalesce around” FOF cited their wait list for employment and said a “great number of pilgrims” visit their headquarters. The IRS pointed out that employees attend other churches on Sunday, but the smarmy lawyers had an obscure historical reply to every justifiable question.
The anti-gay group said for “its entire existence, Focus on the Family has been a religious tax-exempt organization with many of the essential elements of a church.” Bigotry? Misinterpretation of scripture? Hatred? Okay, yeah they kind of ARE a church. Their argument gained them the right to avoid paying for contraception for women under the Affordable Care Act. They can also avoid paying unemployment tax and retirement benefits and no longer have to file public information about how they spend their money , which means they are now protected from audits.
Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said “everybody is going to try to call themselves a church now.”
This sets a very dangerous precedent.
By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca