A Christian charitable organization in Calgary has had its charitable status revoked, in part because of public statements by board members. Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) in December told Kings Glory Ministry, which had operated as a registered charity for 30 years, that its status was being revoked. As such, it is no longer able to issue income tax receipts for donations, which are its sole source of income. The ministry oversees a number of charities, including Calgary’s Street Church, which provides about 150,000 free meals each year to the homeless, and also places them in short-term housing in some cases.

Noting that Kings Glory and Street Church have some members in common on their boards of directors, some of whom “espouse strong negative views about sensitive and controversial issues, which may also be viewed as political, such as abortion, homosexuality and divorce, etc.,” the CCRA stated that such “political activity” is in excess of what is allowed for registered charities.

The ministry is appealing the ruling. Pastor Artur Pawlowski told CCRL that the organization serves all the needy without discrimination. He acknowledged that he speaks openly and strongly about sexual orientation issues, and other topics such as divorce and abortion , but said he speaks from a Biblical perspective, not a political one, and that he considers it part of a pastor’s role to challenge politicians to “Godly leadership.” He has never endorsed a candidate, participated in a campaign or engaged in any other partisan activity, he said.

“If the appeal is unsuccessful, I will seek a court case. This is an abuse of power,” said Mr. Pawlowski.

In addition to the advocacy work, the CCRA also cited a lack of clarity in how the agency spends its money. Most of the cases of revoked status listed on the CCRA’s website involve improper expense charges, inadequate bookkeeping or other administrative problems. Registered charities are not allowed to devote more than 10 per cent of their resources to political activity, and any such activity is expected to be in support of its core charitable activity.

The appeal may find that the bookkeeping problems cited by the CCRA will prove adequate reason for its decision. However, this is the first case of which the League is aware in which public statements by board members were mentioned in a letter from CCRA revoking charitable status. We will be watching closely for further developments.
©Catholic Civil Rights League, Jan. 28, 2010

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