Magazine article Church & State

Falwell Legal Group Hides Its Budget from Public Scrutiny

Magazine article Church & State

Falwell Legal Group Hides Its Budget from Public Scrutiny

Article excerpt

A Religious Right legal group connected to Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Liberty University apparently doesn't want Americans to know anything about its budget and is claiming to be a church-related entity to dodge public disclosure laws.

Liberty Counsel, founded by attorney Mat Stayer, tells the Internal Revenue Service that it is a "church auxiliary."

Under this status, the organization is tax-exempt under Section 501 (c)(3) of the tax code but doesn't have to file a Form 990, a detailed financial statement that tax-exempt groups must file with the IRS and make publicly available.

The Form 990 includes information on a given non-profit's salaries, the amount of money it raises and how those funds are spent. (Houses of worship don't have to file this form.)

Because Liberty Counsel no longer files a Form 990, the public doesn't know how much money the group takes in or how that money is spent--even though the organization aggressively solicits donations from the public.

It seems unlikely that Liberty Counsel would qualify as a church or a church auxiliary. Its website says that Liberty Counsel "is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics."

Similar groups, such as the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Center for Law and Justice, file the Form 990. …

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