LGBT activists to challenge tax-exempt status of anti-gay Mormon Church
Activists are attempting to challenge the tax-exempt status of the Mormon Church, over its war against LGBT equality.
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, known as the Mormon Church, preaches a rejection of homosexuality unless members remain celibate for life.
The religion also rejects the children of gay couples unless they actively disavow their parents’ “lifestyle”, and has been linked to a number of dangerous gay ‘cure’ practises.
A clampdown on LGBT people in the church has been linked to a surge in Mormon youth suicides – while the church has also used its influence to block LGBT rights legislation in Utah and channel funding to anti-LGBT campaign groups.
In a bid to challenge the church’s assault on LGBT people, Republican gay activist Fred Karger has launched a campaign targeting their tax-exempt status – which means taxpayers effectively subsidise the church’s activities.
Mr Karger told the Salt Lake Tribune he has amassed “a network of lawyers, researchers, investigators and like-minded organizations” who will help make the case to the IRS.
Churches who maintain a tax-exempt status are required under federal law to abstain from political campaigning and lobbying. Mr Karger contends that the LDS Church’s activities violate the restrictions.
Raising the spate of Mormon teen suicides, he said: “Somebody has got to fight for these kids… it’s inexcusable, the damage and suffering the church has caused for so many of these families.”
Mr Karger told the newspaper that the case could take more than a year to build, with “hundreds of boxes of documents” prepared for the filing. He also launched a website, MormonTips, dedicated to facilitating internal leaks.
The website explains: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been accused of being more of a business and a political action committee (PAC) than a religion.
“The Mormon Church receives billions and billions of dollars every year from its members through a mandatory, minimum 10% tithing of their gross income. The billions of dollars given to the Mormon Church are tax deductible to Church members.
“The Mormon Church’s business holdings, estimated to be nearly $1 trillion, are run as tax free enterprises owned outright by the Church. Thus the Mormon Church does not likely pay any federal, state or local taxes on its profits from all its holdings.”
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It adds: “The Mormon Church is a major player in politics, starting with its 180 person Public Affairs Office based in the Church’s World Headquarters in Salt Lake City.
“It has recently come to light that the Mormon Church has led, and financed primarily through its members, nearly all of the anti-gay marriage campaigns throughout the country.
“The LDS Church’s involvement goes back to the first gay marriage battle which began in Hawaii in 1995. The Mormon Church often does not report or under-reports its massive involvement in these campaigns.
“The LDS Church and its hierarchy are also heavily involved in federal and state lobbying and participate in many elections across the country.
“We are asking for your help by letting us know of any potential business or political abuses committed by the Mormon Church which might be considered violations of their tax exempt status.”
The case is a long shot, however – there is no precedent for a church having its tax-exempt status revoked.