Anti-LGBT groups claim to be ‘churches’ to avoid disclosing finances

Anti-LGBT groups in the US are claiming to be churches in order to hide information about their finances.

At least two of the largest anti-LGBT lobbying groups in the US, the Liberty Counsel and Focus on the Family, have taken the extraordinary step.

Evangelical legal group the Liberty Counsel is behind actions across the US seeking to undermine state LGBT anti-discrimination laws and provides free legal representation to Christians who refuse to serve gay people – most famously to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel

Meanwhile Focus on the Family has aggressively lobbied against LGBT rights for decades, opposing basic rights for gay couples, same-sex adoption and transgender rights – while also advocating gay ‘cure’ therapy.

But the groups, which would be obliged to file with the IRS as non-profits, are claiming to be churches, and thus exempt from the requirement to file documents.

Right Wing Watch reports that Focus on the Family, which was previously registered as a non-profit, is now claiming church exemptions – with public documents identifying it as “not required to file and not filed with the IRS [and] not for public inspection”.

The group identifies its exemption as being a “church, convention of churches or association of churches”.

Liberty Counsel, meanwhile, has been registered as a “church auxiliary” for more than a decade, linked to Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel

Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch wrote: “Focus on the Family declaring itself to be a church is puzzling… [as] it remains active in political debates and advocacy.

“A ‘social issues’ section on the group’s website currently features information on a supposed threat to bathroom safety posed by transgender people thanks to LGBTQ activists fighting in politics, churches and popular culture, and contains an update on ‘cultural issues in the courts’.

“In June, Focus invited Vice President Mike Pence to speak at an event celebrating its 40th anniversary, where he promised the group it had an ‘unwavering ally’ in President Trump.”

David Cary Hart of Slowly Boiled Frog, who secured the Liberty Counsel’s documents via a freedom of information request, also questioned the move.

Hart wrote: “The result of this is that Liberty Counsel is no longer required to file an annual report with the IRS which means that the organisation 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 subsidise 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.”

Evangelical legal group the Liberty Counsel has a history of spreading anti-LGBT propaganda and is classified as a hate group by extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its aggressive messaging and tactics.

The group – which has also been helping Republican lawmakers draft anti-LGBT legislation, as well as attempting to push anti-LGBT laws around the world.

The Liberty Counsel rose to national prominence after providing free legal representation to embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, when she refused to carry out her duties because of same-sex marriage.

Liberty Counsel’s head Mat Staver has falsely claimed that first responders at last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting had to “get tested for AIDS-related conditions” because of the blood of gay victims.

He claimed: “There was a narrative that the Obama administration and local politicians wanted to promote, and it was the rainbow flag, and anti-gay, and it really was a terrorism issue.

“In regards to the Pulse nightclub, as tragic as it is, some of these officers have, no doubt, gone through trauma as well.

“They were going through the Pulse nightclub, it was blood everywhere and now they’re having to get tested for AIDS-related conditions because they’re literally walking in pools of blood.”

LC President Anita Staver previously claimed she takes a gun to the toilet in case there are any transgender women in there.

Ms Staver tweeted: “I’m taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room. It identifies as my bodyguard. #BoycottTarget”.

She added: “I want protection from the perverts who will use the law to gain access to women.”