As we have been reporting, the massive Religious Right group Focus on the Family convinced the IRS in 2016 to classify it as a church, allowing it access to various tax-law carve-outs. While the organization told the IRS that it needed church status in order to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate and other employment regulations, a spokesman told the Christian Post on Friday that the change in tax status was meant to protect the “privacy” of donors in a “hostile environment” for groups like theirs.
The Focus spokesman, Paul Batura, cited what he said were several recent occasions “on which nonprofit organizations were targeted for information, including the names and personal details of their donors.” One example that might have been on Focus’ mind is the National Organization for Marriage’s ongoing legal fight over concealing the donors to its battles around state marriage equality ballot initiatives. However, unless organizations spend substantial sums to support or oppose ballot measures or candidates, they are unlikely to be required to disclose their donors.
Batura also cited the example of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which also recently changed its tax status to an “association of churches.”
From the Christian Post:
Paul Batura, vice president of communications for Focus on the Family, told The Christian Post that the news stories on their reclassification as a church give “sinister and fictitious motives to our application.”
Batura explained that the main reason for the reclassification was to protect the identities of donors to the conservative Christian organization.
“In recent years there have been several occasions on which nonprofit organizations were targeted for information, including the names and personal details of their donors. In order to protect our constituents’ privacy, and because Focus does, in fact, meet the definition of a church under IRS regulations, we applied for and received this designation,” said Batura.
“In doing so, we have joined the company of many other Christian nonprofit parachurch organizations … who have done likewise. Having said this, we remain committed to the highest standards of fiscal transparency and will continue to make our financial statements available.”
Batura cited the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which in 2016 changed its tax status from a nonprofit to an “association of churches.”
“In a hostile environment, we’re going to do everything we can do within the parameters of the law to ensure our freedom to continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, protect and defend the sanctity of life, help couples with their marriages, help parents raise their children, and find forever homes for orphaned children,” said Batura.