Focus On The Family Claims It’s (Pretending To Be) A Church To Protect Its Financial Donors
The Christian organization Focus on the Family, which has been claiming to be a tax exempt church since 2016 for an IRS tax exemption, says this move was done to protect the identities of its donors.
Right Wing Watch recently reported that Focus on the Family claims in its IRS filings that all of its employees are both “ministers” and the congregation (even though they are not ordained ministers).
Right Wing Watch also noted the Focus on the Family is claiming that its employee cafeteria is actually its chapel, or “chapelteria.”
Listeners to the Focus on the Family radio show are counted as part of the congregation, without their consent, noted Right Wing Watch, and Focus on the Family president Jim Daly is called the “head deacon and elder” even though he does not have a religious degree, but rather an MBA, reported The Denver Post.
Paul Batura, vice president of communications for Focus on the Family, told The Christian Post:
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.
When Focus on the Family was a nonprofit there were no personal details listed about donors except their names. It’s not clear what “targeted” means, although it could refer to lawful news reporting about donors.
Batura pointed to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which changed its tax status in 2016 from a nonprofit to an “association of churches” (to also avoid taxes):
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.
After suggesting that hiding the names of donors was “fiscal transparency,” Batura said that any critics of Focus on the Family “should take it up with Congress,” and then he played the Christian persecution card:
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.
Batura failed to mention that Focus on the Family has also ceased paying unemployment benefits (under its new tax status as a church) and avoids many regulations for retirement plans.