Imagine if the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of a group like Focus on the Family.
What if the IRS commissioner said the group just wasn’t providing enough of a public benefit to justify all the perks of being a registered non-profit? They could still exist, of course, but they’d have to pay taxes like everyone else.
It would never happen in the U.S. Just think of the public outcry. Think of how whiny the Christian Persecution crowd would get. Think of the never-ending orgasm it would give Todd Starnes. It’s just too absurd to consider.
But that’s essentially what just happened in New Zealand.
An anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality group called Family First New Zealand has been removed from the Charities Register because the group’s activities “do not qualify as being for the public benefit in a charitable sense.” It’s the culmination of a legal battle that’s lasted several years.
In April 2013 the Board previously made the decision to remove Family First from the Charities Register because it did not advance exclusively charitable purposes. That decision was appealed to the High Court by Family First. In June 2015 the High Court directed the Board to reconsider its decision in light of the 2014 Supreme Court Greenpeace judgment and its own judgment.
This decision represents the Board’s reconsideration of Family First’s eligibility for registration.
Specifically, they said the group offers one-sided advocacy that doesn’t meet educational requirements:
The Board does not consider that Family First has a purpose to advance education. For research to qualify as educational, it must be sufficiently structured to provide a public benefit, not seek to persuade rather than educate, and reach a minimum standard.
… The Board considers that Family First’s other reports sought to persuade the reader to a particular point of view, rather than educate.
The group plans to appeal the decision (again) and referred to the ruling as “political correctness and muzzling of free speech.”
“It seems that the Charities Board are simply hoping for a different judge and a more favourable decision. It is a highly politicised and inconsistent decision by the Board and will have a chilling effect for many not-for-profit charitable groups — both registered, deregistered and wanting to be registered — who advocate for causes, beliefs, and on behalf of their supporters, and often have to engage in advocacy at a political level, not always through choice but through necessity.”
[National Director Bob McCoskrie] said the decision threatened other charities and their freedom to speak and advocate on behalf of their “supporters in a civil society”.
The irony here is that if the organization actually put families first, they’d still have their tax exemption. Instead, they lost it because they weren’t providing any objective value to the general public. This isn’t an issue of free speech as it would be in the U.S. It’s a matter of whether the group meets the requirements all registered charities must operate under — and it doesn’t.
Thoughts and prayers all around.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Danna for the link)