The Internal Revenue Service considers anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles’ TruNews media operation a church, allowing it to operate tax-exempt and freeing it from requirements to disclose its donors or even file basic financial data required of nonprofit charitable organizations.
Wiles has used TruNews to promote conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate” and to spread an utterly debased message of hate against Jewish and LGTBQ people for years. Despite the years-long track record that Wiles and TruNews have maintained, the White House routinely grants TruNews press credentials and has invited the operation to cover international events. TruNews landed an interview with President Donald Trump’s adult son Don Jr. earlier this year, and last year, the president took a question from a TruNews correspondent during a press conference about the sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Wiles said in a December 2016 interview that no entity called “TruNews” exists but rather that the operation was housed in a ministry called Flowing Streams. As a result, Wiles and his cohort operate with tax-exempt status, and contributions made in the name of TruNews would be considered “offerings” in the eyes of the IRS.
“The smart thing is to not get entangled with the IRS in the first place. If you are starting a new church, DO NOT FILE FOR 501c3 status. Just be a church. Walk in the authority of the ecclesia of God,” Wiles said, according to a transcript of the interview on TruNews’ website.
In the same interview, Wiles thanked God that Trump had vowed to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits including churches and religious groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates. That year, Wiles’ organization bought a church property that it renovated to include a television studio.
TruNews’ website makes no effort to hide its tax-exempt status. It states: “TruNews is part of the media ministry of Flowing Streams. Flowing Streams is a non-denominational church in Vero Beach, FL.” Additionally, people who seek to apply for jobs at TruNews are redirected to a job portal for Flowing Streams.
When Wiles asked God for $100 million to build a global media empire “to get us through” to the End Times, he said he didn’t know where the money would come from. And thanks to Flowing Streams’ tax-exempt status as a church, neither will we.
Rick Wiles is now asking God for $100 million so that he can build a global media platform to guide humanity through the End Times until Christ returns. pic.twitter.com/NRM4zu7qNx
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) August 1, 2019
Wiles and his TruNews operation’s status as a church is reminiscent of James Dobson’s multi-million dollar operation Focus on the Family, which declared itself a church and was able to avoid filing public tax documents and disclosing its donors. Focus on the Family had convinced the IRS that it needed to be recognized as a church “in order to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s mandate on insurance coverage for contraception and other regulations,” according to documents obtained by Right Wing Watch in 2018. After facing scrutiny for its classification as a church, Focus on the Family said it had changed its tax status to protect its donors’ “privacy” in a “hostile environment” for groups like theirs.