Donald Trump's IRS allowed the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council to register as a church
In 2020, under President Donald Trump’s Internal Revenue Service, an anti-LGBTQ hate group whose leader had “open door” access to the Oval Office was quietly and quickly allowed to change its tax status to become a church. That designation, as ProPublica reports Monday, “comes with the ability for an organization to shield itself from financial scrutiny.”
For many years, the Family Research Council has been known for appearing on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Founded in 1981 by James Dobson, who also founded Focus on the Family, FRC has been headed by former Louisiana Republican state lawmaker Tony Perkins (photo, with Trump) for nearly two decades.
Many Americans know that FRC has targeted the LGBTQ community in the U.S. and around the world. Under Perkins’ leadership, the organization spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to support Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” legislation. The group’s leaders have said homosexuality should be outlawed. They’ve said allowing soldiers to be openly gay in the military would force thousands – even more than the actual number of gay troops – to “refuse to serve.”
The list of FRC’s attacks against the LGBTQ community is long but the overriding principle of Perkins’ Family Research Council, its “real speciality,” as the Southern Poverty Law Center says, “is defaming LGBTQ people.”
And now FRC is a church, thanks to the IRS and its Commissioner, Charles Rettig.
Donald Trump nominated Rettig to be Commissioner of the IRS in 2018. In 2016 Retting reportedly penned an op-ed declaring candidate Trump had no reason to release his taxes, despite every major presidential candidate having done so since Nixon.
In 2019 Retting, and his boss, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, fulfilled that belief by refusing to allow the IRS to hand Trump’s taxes over to Congress.
Three years later, as The Washington Post reports, a federal appeals court panel ruled “that House lawmakers can see years of former president Donald Trump’s financial accounting records but narrowed the range of documents Trump must turn over in a long-running legal battle over his compliance with presidential ethics and disclosure laws.”
CNN in 2019 reported Retting was “a Beverly Hills lawyer” who spent “three decades of his career representing wealthy taxpayers and businesses in complex disputes with the government.”
“Democrats blasted him during his June confirmation hearing for failing to disclose that he had a stake in two rental units in Hawaii at a Trump-branded hotel,” CNN added. “Those ties were resurfaced last week by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, after disclosure documents showed Rettig earned as much as $1 million in rental income from his Trump-related branded properties while under political pressure to release the President’s tax returns.”
Meanwhile, ProPublica on Monday reported on the Family Research Council, noting on its own website FRC says it is a “nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life. In addition to providing policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government, FRC seeks to inform the news media, the academic community, business leaders, and the general public about family issues that affect the nation from a biblical worldview.”
“In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, though,” ProPublica adds, “it is also a church, with Perkins as its religious leader.”
“Once the IRS blessed it as an association of churches, the FRC was no longer required to file a public tax return, known as a Form 990, revealing key staffer salaries, the names of board members and related organizations, large payments to independent contractors and grants the organization has made. Unlike with other charities, IRS investigators can’t initiate an audit on a church unless a high-level Treasury Department official has approved the investigation.”
Frederick Clarkson of the nonpartisan think tank Political Research Associates chastised the decision to allow FRC to be labeled a church.
“The FRC can say whatever bullshit things they want to,” he told ProPublica. “The IRS should recognize it as a bad argument.”
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