Anti-LGBT Hate Groups Declare Themselves To Be Churches, Thereby Evading Financial Disclosure Rules

Miranda Blue reports at Right Wing Watch:

Focus on the Family, the behemoth Religious Right organization founded by James Dobson, has declared itself to be a church, thereby avoiding a requirement that it file public tax documents, according to IRS records and a document available on the organization’s website.

Focus on the Family filed as a non-church 501(c)(3) nonprofit as recently as the 2014 fiscal year, submitting to the IRS a publicly available Form 990 as most tax-exempt nonprofits are required to do. But when the group posted a Form 990 for the 2015 fiscal year on its website—dated October 26, 2017, and reporting a massive budget of $89 million—it was emblazoned with the message “Not required to file and not filed with the IRS. Not for public inspection.”

Gail Harmon, an attorney who has advised nonprofits on tax law for more than 30 years, said that she had never before seen a nonprofit organization declare itself a church. “I just found it shocking,” she said. “There’s nothing about them that meets the traditional definition of what a church is,” she said. “They don’t have a congregation, they don’t have the rites of various parts of a person’s life. There’s a whole system for what a church is.”

David Cary Hart reports at Slowly Boiled Frog:

Somehow the hate group known as Liberty Counsel has managed to convince the Internal Revenue Service that it is a church or church support organization. The result of this is that Liberty Counsel is no longer required to file an annual report with the IRS which means that the organization will operate in secrecy. If that is not bad enough, Congress has passed a measure that makes auditing churches nearly impossible.

This is outrageous. It reeks of Christian supremacy — One set of laws for conservative Christians; another set of laws for everyone else. We all subsidize groups like Liberty Counsel. We have a right to know what they took in and how they spent it. Being tax-exempt is a privilege. It is not a right and it comes with certain responsibilities.

  • That_Looks_Delicious

    So…. are Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner churches too?

    They don’t seem to like financial disclosure either.

    • safari

      Just crypts

    • Uncle Mark

      I REALLY want to see Jared turn his 666 property into a “church,” that the Evangelicals must worship at, if they wish to pay homage to the Orange Messiah. It would actually make Revelations prophetic…complete with the Whore o’Babylon ministers and Orange Beast

    • Cattleya1

      Jared’s is Temple Beth 666.

  • Judas Peckerwood

    Tax. Them. All.

    • No More GOP.


  • safari

    Someone took Russian money.

    • Cuberly Deux

      Was my first thought.

  • Tatonka

    There is clear biblical precedent for this. It’s just like the story about how Jesus helped the money changers reincorporate into pass-through entitles in order to avoid double taxation from the Romans, while maintaining their right to engage in nakedly partisan advocacy.

    • That_Looks_Delicious

      That’s in Two Corinthians, isn’t it?

      • Xiao Ai: The Social Gadfly

        Only 1% of Corinthians could do that.

      • Mikey

        is that the two who walked into a bar?

        • BradCerenzia

          One Corinthian hit his head on bar, but was healed by the holy water he bought on QVC.

          • Snarkaholic

            …but then choked to death on a wood screw that accidentally fell into one of Jim Fakker’s slop buckets at the factory.

        • Scott Carpenter

          And said “Boy, are my arms tired.”

          • Mikey

            ok, for their arms to be tired, they have GOT to have been going at it for hours!

      • boatboy_srq

        No; it’s in 1 Mammon 119:99

        • (((GC)))

          Or the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.

      • Snarkaholic

        Or the Book of Doucheronomy.

  • Smokey
  • Ragnar Lothbrok

    Admitting to having creepy rituals eh ?

  • JWC

    Is there not something in the tax law that as a religious organization not paying taxes they may not be involved in political influence

    • That_Looks_Delicious

      Trump partly undid some of those rules with regards to FEMA disaster relief, and I think I remember reading that the House GOP wanted to undo the rest, but I’m not sure what made it into the final tax bill.

    • Stev84

      That only means they can’t endorse candidates. Not that anyone cares when they do.

      • JWC

        Ya that was it and ya its abused continually

  • FAEN

    Money & power-their real God. Always has been.

  • Michael R

    Good news : any piece of shit is a church .

  • safari
    • That_Looks_Delicious

      The NRA says jump, and they say “How high?”

      • Hank

        More like Bend Over!!!

        • That_Looks_Delicious

          As an incorrigible top, I’ve always felt that bottoms are the most wonderful, fantabulous people in the world and I don’t like seeing them compared to Republicans.

          • Scott Carpenter

            I’ve always thought of myself as a corrigible top – I can take direction, if my partner feels it necessary.

      • Scott Leasum

        How long until the NRA declares itself a church?

        • Cattleya1

          I hope Mat Staver is their legal eagle on this.

        • perversatile

          Not as long as it will take to have myself declared (as foretold by the Prophecy of the Burning Flame from a Can of Aqua Net) the unrivaled- unquestionable all seeing Reverend Center Square of the Paul Lynde Church of Saint Divine the Just Inspiration Emporium & Sanctuary. Completely tax exempt with free parking. Beatus Horae a die XXIV. Quotidie.
          (24 Happy Hours a Day. Every Day)

    • Moebym of the Returners

      Nothing changes.

      So it goes.

    • Ninja0980

      Marion Hammer’s grip on the Florida Legislature is as strong as ever.

    • JackFknTwist

      “Off with their heads.”

    • boatboy_srq

      You can bet most of the legislator bots that pushed this through were from South Georgia the Panhandle and north-central parts of the state.

    • Chris Baker

      My thoughts and prayers are with the NRA during these troubling times. They will be struggling so much in the coming days.


    • The_Wretched

      The kids who are protesting need to make a list and then show up at the rallies for the pro-assault weapon legislators.

      • UrsusArctos 🐻

        Since FL is an “open carry” AND “stand your ground” state, maybe these kids need to “open carry” to political rallies.

        • UrsusArctos 🐻

          Black Panthers with weapons is how CA got it’s gun laws under St Regan.

    • greenmanTN

      Fuck that “swords into plowshares” nonsense, amirite? 🙄

  • Hank
    • Dazzer

      As someone who has followed the Bhuttos for decades (and went to college with one), that is absolutely mind-blowing news.

  • Matt

    I thought these freak shows were ALREADY churches for morons.

  • Bambino

    Sure. Lets declare LBGT is a religion. Bar from discrimination and paying taxes too.

    • Hank

      Every Gay Bar should become a Church and I will gladly pay my Dues…. Daily!!!!

      • Bambino

        Don’t forget the bath houses where one get baptizes on the holy water from the whirlpool frequently.

      • canoebum

        We certainly have our rituals!

      • Uncle Mark

        YEARS ago, a group of us used to meet at Little Jim’s in Boystown after work, once a week. We used to jokingly call it “going to church at St James (the lessor)” especially in front of a mixed crowd at work.

        • Hank

          Why was I NOT invited??? I lived in Chicago in the 80’s and would occasionally go to Little Jims, for Happy Hour and especially after some of the early closing bars closed on the weekends!

          • Uncle Mark

            Alas, I hadn’t really gone to the Chicago bars, until I moved back in the 90s

    • ‘Til Tuesday

      On “Bob’s Burgers” the kids convinced a local aquarium store that was in financial trouble to declare themselves a church. They set up the whole deity thing and rituals to try and convince the IRS that they were a real church. The thing is, people took it seriously and believed it really was a religion and started coming to the store in droves. It was quite funny and really mocked the whole “we’re a church” thing.

    • boatboy_srq

      This will save a yuuge number of LGBT watering holes, too.

      Although FSM help us when the Eagle attempts to convert all the dance clubs to Leatherism, and launches its own Inquisition (“Fetch… the COMFY CHAIR!”)

  • KnownDonorDad
  • Chuck in NYC


  • Rex

    Of course they’re a church, and church people don’t lie do they?

  • KnownDonorDad

    Ask them what kind of Christian they are. I guarantee they won’t say they’re “Focus on the Family-ists.”

    • Uncle Mark

      I had a friend of mine, who used to work for one of the publishing houses that would publish his books. He used to be in awe of James Dobson, until he was privy to the negotiations for one of his books, and was floored by what a greedy son-of-a-bitch he was. (I already figured he was a bastard by 2004, when he was on a power-high, trying to unite Christians to threaten W to ‘do their bidding or else.’)

    • Mike Stidham

      Just for the record, Dobson himself is no longer with Focus on the Family. He wanted to install his divorced-and-remarried son as successor when he retired, but the board, after decades of promoting an anti-divorce message, balked. Dobson and Son focused on their own family, took their marbles, and formed a competing outfit called “Family Talk”.

  • Pollos Hermanos

    Probably to hide the money they’re getting from the NRA to have preachers turn guns into a religion.

    • SoCalGal20

      And Russia (and I’m not being snarky)

    • Natty Enquirer


  • Rex

    If they’re going to use these deceitful tactics it’s time to tax churches.

    • Cattleya1

      This takes scamming the system to a whole new level. We really have become Teabagistan.

  • Rex

    If that’s the case, I’m a church.
    I certainly do a lot of praying when I balance my checkbook and do my taxes.

    • 2guysnamedjoe

      I’m undecided. Should I become a church, or should I just turn into a bar?

      • Uncle Mark

        It depends. Do you put olives in the holy water?

      • RaygunsGoZap

        You obviously are Dionysian so make it both!

  • Cuberly Deux

    In this administration this is an inevitability, I bet even more orgs will do the same.

    It’s the christian supremacy movement. The only way to play is to join them……it’s 7 mountains bullcrap.

  • Westcoast88

    You’re a church? I’M A CHURCH TOO!
    Let’s not pay taxes together!

  • SoCalGal20

    This is such bullshit. The tax exemption should be lifted from ALL churches and their funding should be public. Period. Dumbest fucking thing the IRS ever did.

    Also, I believe Focus on the Family has been getting some Russian money so SOMEBODY might want to look into that.

    • Tread

      Why do you think their finances suddenly went dark?

      • SoCalGal20


    • Kruhn

      Or actually make them go through the same hoops other 501 (c)(3) have to go through. A church just has to declare itself one to get the tax exemption.

    • Octoberfurst


  • Cuberly Deux

    OT: Um, I’ve reported this commenter multiple times to Disqus. They’ve been copy/pasting this same post between multiple disqus accounts. Invading pretty much any thread.

    Sorta surprised disqus hasn’t taken any action on this.

  • Lumpy Gaga

    A long overdue move from Big Gay.

  • JackFknTwist

    And I declare myself a god, one of the old gods.
    I’m not sure if Jesus did the same…I don’t think he ever did.

    Or so Arius tells me.

  • Ninja0980

    Time to start taxing churches.

    • Jean-Marc in Canada

      Time to destroy them, figuratively speaking.

  • Randy503

    Well, then, we can form our own churches. We will start with the HRC, GLADD, and other gay organizations. They can’t complain because, after all, they claim that homosexuality is a religion that we practice.

    Then we move on to evolution clubs, since they claim that evolution is a religion too. All science based organizations can hide as well and be non profits.

  • ‘Til Tuesday

    Their name (“Liberty Council”) is a fraud. They’re an organization dedicated to taking away the legal and Constitutional liberties of LGBT people. It should be more accurately called the “Anti-liberty Council”. They’re a fraud from the get-go.

  • bkmn

    Lack of transparency = criminal activity

  • William

    I declare myself a church. Let the Sacrament of the Dancing Go-go boys begin.


    • Marty Pavelka

      I am the head of the Church of Grilled Cheese. You and your infidels shall be smitten at the coming of the Great Fromage (BLESS his cheesy name!)!

      Fondue be with you.
      And also with you.

      I just can’t anymore. If I don’t make jokes, I’m going to punch a wall.

      • greenmanTN

        Let us bow our heads and Brie.

      • William

        Heretic. The one true church is the Church of the Infinite Bundtcake.

    • Cattleya1

      High Hooter of the First Church of the Great Carrot here!

    • Canadian Observer

      I wanna go old school, tending towards Notre-Dame du Soir. Fishnets mandatory.

  • DaveMiller135

    I know everyone’s testing the Johnson Amendment, but doesn’t that mean they can’t engage in politics? I can at least imagine this backfiring for a group whose main focus is spreading political hate.

    • William


    • Jean-Marc in Canada

      Oh honey….

  • ETownCanuck
  • The_Wretched

    “Being tax-exempt is a privilege.”


  • John Boily

    Well played Satan.

  • Lane

    Does this mean donors will have to stop giving money because that’d be like tithing to a different religion? I know logic doesn’t always play well with the religious crowd but this one seems solid.

  • -M-

    There should be a short and narrowly defined list of what kinds of organizations can be tax exempt or take tax exempt donations. And churches shouldn’t be on it. I don’t mind if they get a tax break for legitimate charity work, but promoting your religious beliefs isn’t charity.

    • The_Wretched

      If you want the charity tax break, you should have to show how much you took in and how much you spent on charity. All too often, these ‘churches’ do minuscule charity work.

      • -M-

        Exactly. If you run a soup kitchen, a shelter, a toys for tots drive that helps the general community that’s great turn in the receipts and write it off your taxes. But get your parishioners & donors to pay the taxes on your church property etc. instead of the general public.

    • ‘Til Tuesday

      I’d go one further: no church or organization should be tax-exempt. Instead they would file a return showing the actual services they provided to the betterment of others, and get a tax-deduction for that part of it. But those high salaries and benefits would be taxed. I’m sick of churches and other organizations paying all these millions of dollars to their preachers and organization leaders and giving them fancy cars and houses, and all of it being tax exempt! The only tax-exemption should be for actual charity provided.

      • NZArtist

        Should, should, should….
        It’s a damned shame the US is a theocracy and will therefore only priviledge churches and whacko religious organizations ever more.
        Vote out the evil religious fuckers, vote in more-sane politicians who will work to disempower the cancer of religion.

      • -M-

        Yes. That’s what I’m saying. They need to pay taxes to support the public services they use just like everyone else. If they do something that actually qualifies as charity they can take a deduction for it on their taxes like anyone else.

    • 2guysnamedjoe

      Churches should be taxed, same as any other branch of the entertainment industry.

    • Helen Damnation™

      Amen, godammit.

    • Cattleya1

      I agree with you, but you shouldn’t hold your breath nor stand on one foot waiting for this one.

  • Uncle Mark

    How many men need to yell “Oh Gawd…Oh Gawd…Oh Gawd,” in my bedroom, before I can call it a church?

  • pch1013

    Then sue them for endorsing political candidates from their “pulpits.” Sue them into little tiny bits, and then sue the little tiny bits.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    Today, I establish The Church of Hunky Jesus and Latter Day GoGo Boys.

    Our Holy book is The book Ru and it’s companion, the Missal of Paul.
    Worship is Monday through Wednesday with High Masses on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Brunch on Sunday, but not before 11AM.
    The Sacraments are offered at High Mass only, which involve the taking orally of cock and the drinking of the most holy of holies, cream of some guy.
    Following the sacraments, the celebratory dance and booty shaking in praise of our lord and savior, some hottie named Dave and proper respects to St. Milk, St. Marsha P., St. Stormé, St. Sylvia, St. White, etc.
    Alms to be offered up during the sacrament of the Divine Drag Show and Sunday Queer Bingo.

    Praise be to logic and fabulousness.

    Yeah, I’m actually this bored LOL

  • anne marie in philly

    I think the IRS and the justice department should investigate this scam. TAX THE RELIGIOUS FREAKS, EVERY DAMN LAST ONE OF THEM, NO EXCEPTIONS!

    • Kruhn

      Not while the KKKeebler Elf is in charge.

  • Talisman

    I’m ordained through the Universal Life Church and live like a monk. Therefore, I declare my apartment the Church of Perpetually Awkward. I’m now tax exempt.

  • EdA

    Franklin Graham did the same thing two years ago, though with somewhat greater validity, to hide the fact that he personally skims about $600K a year plus tax exempt housing, from the gullible.

    • JackFknTwist

      With those kind of returns on investment maybe more of us should follow this lead……..lots of Churches or one or to friends forming ‘clubs/churches’……meeting up in the pub on a Thursday night and consider’church’ business and income and no taxes.
      I like it.

  • JCF
  • Archipelagos

    Can I declare my ass a church? That’s how this works, right?

  • rednekokie

    Is there any doubt, now, that these vermin are nothing but government suck at the titters — with the minds of bigots?

  • GanymedeRenard

    Fantastic! Now we, as a minority group targeted for discrimination, should found The LBGT Church, as some of our fellow commenters have suggested. Let’s do this, and let’s do this soon!

    • Ben in Oakland

      I think I would join immediately if Ryan Reynolds were the priest, and I could be on my knees in front of him begging for it…errr, ummm, I mean, his blessings.

      • GanymedeRenard


        Other options for priests/bishops/archbishops/cardinals/popes/preachers/prophets/apostles/ministers/pastors/elders…:

        Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt (I know, all Chrises!), Denzel Washington, Dwayne Johnson, Isaiah Mustafa, Ricky Martin… Never Mind. 😀

        • Kruhn

          Add Antonio Banderas, Daniel Dae Kim, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and Sam Claifin, and we’re golden.

          • GanymedeRenard

            My gawd, the list of hotties keeps growing! I’m simply unsatisfied!

          • Richard, another Canuck

            Being gay worshippers…well it’s addictive. Feel this spirit, feel that spirit, linger over another spirit, feel the spirit enter you, annoint you……excuse me a moment…BRB

        • Ben in Oakland

          I’m rather partial to Ryan’s myself . Ryan Reynolds, Ryan gosling, my former neighbor Ryan, my current neighbor Ryan.

          • GanymedeRenard

            LOL! I understand. My spirit animals seem to be the Chrises. LOL

          • Ben in Oakland

            Jesus Chris?

          • GanymedeRenard

            In that case, his name would be spelled ‘Jesús’ and have the body of any of the aforementioned Chrises! XD

      • customartist

        John [and I mean Long-John] Hamm

  • Kruhn

    Joe, it’s time to declare JMG a church. May I suggest The Church of Antinous Ascendant as our Church name.

    • M Jackson

      I have skills as an altar boy.

  • April

    Two words: Total War. That is what they are waging against LGBT folks.

  • RaygunsGoZap

    If you can’t show that your religious organization, spends most of its budget providing direct support to people and communities through charitable works, then you should be charged as a corporate entity. Because that’s what you are.

    • customartist

      see my comment above

    • Cattleya1

      They are basically pass-through corporations for the teavangelists.

  • netxtown

    And what has been the IRS response??? The IRS has no balls, and damned few ethics. But, if i fail to file or claim just a little too much deduction…they will be up my ass in no time flat. Fuck these churches. Fuck their gawds. And fuck their religion, too.

    • customartist

      Non-profits, churches and otherwise, are only required to spend the “majority” of their proceeds on their “stated purpose”, and therefore they may spend up to 49% on “other stuff”.

  • narutomania

    I hereby declare the pub in my neighbourhood a church (hiccup) … the .. uh … the (hic) The Church of Blessed Scotch.


    Now I don’t gotta disclose nothin’ to nobody ’bout my drunking.

    • SinfulJosh

      I often spend many a sunday morning kneeling around they porcelain alter after a long night of church service..

      it checks out in my book.

    • customartist

      Just call it “com-mun-ion”

  • Bryan

    Time to point out that the very moment they advocate for ANYTHING that they’ve broken the church’s tax exemption laws and punish them by fining them into goddamn fucking irrelevance. If the IRS won’t do it now, sue them AND Liberty Counsel and make a stink about it until we’re back in power, in which case we immediately take punitive measures against LC and any supporters for blatant violations of the First Amendment. I’m talking REAAALLLY punitive, multi-hundred-million punitive. Bankrupt the Koch brothers level punitive.

    I’m fucking sick of Libety or Insanity shitwaffles like Staver getting away with this without being bitchslapped across the face by karma. It has to be big, it has to be public, and it has to be relentlessly humiliating. An example has to be made of them so that nobody for the next hundred years even dares attempt to do something similar.

    • greenmanTN

      Nice thought, but like anyone actually enforces that stuff? Ministers preach politics from the pulpit all the time, deliberately push the envelope as an open dare for the govt to do anything about it, and the govt never does.

      • Franciscan

        Liberty Counsel is pretty lame, but I would have thought that Focus Blah Blah would certainly have worked out the tax and legal angles. Somehow they think they can continue to wave away the IRS with this tactic.

      • Bryan

        Oh I’m painfully aware… if people like me could be elected to government, across all generations…. We could do it. I have no fucking quarter to give for arrogant fucks like that who think they’re above the law. I’m also especially sick of fucking Karma Houdinis who create and inspire pure evil never being brought to justice for their crimes. We need a government who WILL do something about it. They wanna play chicken? OKAY! Y’know wot what happens when you done gone lost the game? The chicken goes ker-splatty on the pavement. Thing about these dares is…eventually we’re going to call their bluff. So let’s get on with it then and let the chicken hit the pavement.

  • Gregory Peterson

    This sort of weaselly thing reminds me of the crap that the Bible Belt’s “Massive Resistance” anti-civil rights movement did in the 1950-60’s.

    That was about white theology, too.

    • Mike Stidham

      The fundamentalist Christian school movement was in large part a reaction to racial integration.

  • Billy Green

    The Church Of No-Homo?

  • DaveMiller135

    I think we should register being gay as a religion. I mean, I’ve worshipped the occasional… but I digress.

  • EdmondWherever

    It’s still not going to help them win any cases.

  • LSMC1987

    OK, let’s see a lawsuit and SCOTUS decide this. If they rule in favor, let’s all become churches.

    • Canadian Observer

      I wanna be a mosque!

  • JaniceInToronto

    So? Change the laws. It’s not impossible.

  • Jim Maloney

    If they abuse the meaning of ‘church’, they can set themselves up to be ‘surprised’ when the guidelines are tightened (it’s the old ‘don’t use a hair dryer in the bathtub’ warning…someone does it and they cause the rules to change).

  • Nowhereman

    This is bullshit. Frankly, churches should be taxed anyway.

  • Friday’s_cat

    Tax churches like any other money making business.

  • Kevin Andrews

    Tax all churches. There is no free ride for greedy charlatans and snake oil salesmen

  • Snarkaholic

    I hereby declare that Joe(‘s) My God is a church…
    …now go forth, all of you, and pay taxes no more!

  • Tell me again why churches – unlike all other non-profit orgs – don’t have to report their finances?

  • Friday

    Part of using these “churches” to funnel unlimited campaign money unaccountably to Christian Right Republicans.

  • Xopher Leonard

    This, THIS is gaming the system.

  • Steven in Texas