Pastor Charles Flowers (at center in blue
shirt) with clergy from his coalition at a meeting he held last week at
his church, Faith Outreach Center International, to discuss repealing
the nondiscrimination ordinance and recalling city council members who
supported it. (Photo: facebook.com/justiceforallsanantonio)
Are anti-gay churches
violating tax law with recall efforts?
QSanAntonio, September 27, 2013
Last week, Pastor Charles Flowers and his wife Janice hosted an invitation-only
meeting of over 30 pastors at their church, the Faith Outreach Center
International. At that gathering, there was a discussion about recalling
City Councilman Diego Bernal and Mayor Julian Castro, and support was
voiced for a referendum to overturn the city's new nondiscrimination ordinance.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Janice Flowers told Brian Chasnoff from
the San Antonio Express-News (who she threw out of the meeting) that there
would be no talk of a recall, only the referendum.
Mrs. Flowers was covering the church's bases because a church can loose
it's non-profit status if it campaigns for or against a politician.
The referendum, however, can be championed by anti-gay churches because
it is an "issue." Organizing for or against a law (or an ordinance)
is legal church activity under federal tax law.
QSanAntonio learned from a source who attended the Flowers' 4-hour meeting
that participants got a binder with information detailing how churches
could help organize the referendum.
What they did not get with those printed materials was how churches can
help with the recall of Bernal and Castro. That advice was conveyed verbally
at the meeting by Pastor Flowers and his fellow opposition organizers,
according to the source.
The Facebook page of Real Truth News, a division of Kingdom Studios, which
is supporting the repeal of the ordinance, described the Flowers' meeting
in a post with photos:
"Many people left today's planning meeting held at Faith Outreach
Int. encouraged, and ready for the challenge to take on city hall once
again. Pastor Flowers began the mornings session with some sobering comments
on 'the church; why we're where we are in today's culture.' He also pointed
out that 'It is up to us right now to implement the right people into
city positions. The referendum is not going to come easy but with God
all things are possible.' It sure is clear that the church is mobilizing
to make a lasting impact in the city of San Antonio that will be felt
around the nation. God is with us who can be against us!!"
A September 12 article by Diane Freda in Bloomberg BNA discusses the Internal
Revenue Service's regulations after a recent Congressional Research Service
warning to non-profits about the distinction between advocacy and campaign
"Under IRS rules, charities are allowed to take positions on policy
issues as long as they don't rise to the level of intervening in political
campaigns. Intervention is defined as taking verbal or written positions
'on behalf of or in opposition to' candidates.
"Election-related activities, such as putting out voter guides, conducting
public forums, registering voters and linking to websites are allowed
for charities under the tax code, but there are guidelines for how the
activities are to be conducted.
"For instance, charities sponsoring public forums must invite all
of the candidates to speak, and the topics must cover a broad range of
issues of interest to the general public, not just those of interest to
Members of the Tea
Party Patriots and the Bexar County Conservative Coalition collecting
recall signatures across from the Conerstone Church. (Photo: facebook.com/BexarCountyConservativeCoaltn)
One group, the Bexar County Conservative Coalition, is organizing independently
but is setting up volunteer tables on the sidewalks in front of churches
to give the impression that they are affiliated with those houses of worship.
This week, they collected recall signatures in front of the Basilica of
the National Shrine of the Little Flower and at St. Mary Magdalene's Catholic
Deacon Pat Rodgers, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, recently
told the Express-News, "Groups advocating for a recall election have
rights in common with the general public to use public property to further
their purposes. However, Archdiocesan property (such as churches and parking
lots), personnel and resources should not be utilized in any manner. Failure
to abide by this federal law could result in a loss of tax exempt status.”
Pastor Gerald Ripley
Pastor Gerald Ripley of the Abundant Life Church this week unveiled a
web site, Repeal It SA, that will organize churches to help gather the
75,000 signatures needed by mid-October to get a referendum to repeal
the nondiscrimination ordinance on the ballot. He lists over 30 different
religious organizations as part of his coalition.
Ripley instructs pastors that: "First, it is legally permissible
to sign the referendum petitions INSIDE your church building even if you
are a 501(c)(3) organization. . . Second, your church captain will oversee
this ministry under your supervision so your time involvement will be
as minimal as you like. Third . . . a coordinator in your city council
district will respond to your church captain’s inquiries."
Pastor Ripley is optimistic. A post on his new web site reads: "When
we submit the required number of petition signatures on October 11, 2013,
the ordinance passed by City Council will be suspended until the citizens
vote it in. THANK YOU for your stand for righteousness in San Antonio
with your participation in this referendum!"
Ripley and Flowers' other allies (some of which are registered non-profits)
include the Liberty Institute and Liberty Counsel, the San Antonio Family
Association, the Texas Leadership Coalition (right-wing Catholics), the
San Antonio Human Rights Coalition and the Tea Party Patriots.
One lawyer told QSanAntonio that anyone who wants to report a violation
of the IRS' rules for churches, can file a claim with the Freedom from
Religion Foundation. Additionally, they can complete IRS form 13909, "Tax-Exempt
Organization Complaint (Referral) Form" and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above set of guidelines was part of
the information distributed by Pastor Charles Flowers at his meeting of
local clergy on September 19.
Acrimony persists after
passage of NDO
QSanAntonio, September 20, 2013
In the two weeks since the passage of the city's nondiscrimination ordinance
that added protections for LGBT citizens, there is still much resentment
and acrimony among opponents who are intent on exacting revenge from Mayor
Julian Castro and the city council members who voted for the measure.