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Religious group loses charity status over political views

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Religious group loses charity status over political views

TOO POLITICAL. Artur Pawlowski and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in March 2009. Pawlowski was in Ottawa for the Manning Conference, where he met Harper, Stockwell Day and other conservative politicians. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Revenue agency cites opposition to homosexuality, abortion
A religious organization in Calgary is being denied charitable status because of its views on abortion, homosexuality and divorce, says the group's head pastor Artur Pawlowski.

In January 2009, the CRA revoked the charitable status of Kings Glory Fellowship, a non-denominational protestant group, "for failing to file its annual registered charity information return," says a spokesperson for the CRA.

Pawlowski admits that the tax return for Kings Glory Fellowship was not submitted on time. He says he failed to meet the deadline because government officials had indicated they would give him an extension.

After the CRA revoked the charitable status of Kings Glory Fellowship, Pawlowski applied to re-register it as a charity. But the CRA responded with a letter, denying the application, because Kings Glory Fellowship spends more than 10 per cent of its time on political issues, says Pawlowski.

"We note from the applicant's website that the members of the board of directors espouse strong negative views about sensitive and controversial issues, which may also be viewed as political, such as abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc," the CRA wrote in a letter to Pawlowski.

"They [the CRA] just assumed a lot," says Pawlowski. "They went onto my website, Street Church [Ministries], and they said, 'A-ha, that's the same guy, and he has the same views. We don't like those views, therefore, he's not allowed to keep his charitable status.'"

Street Church Ministries is another religious organization headed by Pawlowski. Unlike Kings Glory Fellowship, Street Church Ministries is not a registered charity.

Pawlowski says Kings Glory Fellowship's primary role is to help the homeless by providing them with housing, food, clothes and furniture. It also runs an orphanage in Kenya.

Kings Glory Fellowship and Street Church Ministries sometimes partner to provide these services, says Pawlowski. In the past, those who donated to Kings Glory Fellowship received a tax receipt, while those who donated to Street Church Ministries did not. Pawlowski also receives personal donations, which he claims as income.

Both Kings Glory Fellowship and Street Church Ministries share the same board members, the same head pastor (Pawlowski) and the same mailing address. But Pawlowski says they are separate organizations with separate bank accounts, and he says they should be treated separately by the CRA.

"One person can own 10 different businesses... so what is the difference?" he says.

The CRA could not comment on specifics of Pawlowski's application nor could it confirm that a letter had been sent to Pawlowski. However, a spokesperson for the CRA did say that the CRA will issue an "Administrative Fairness Letter" on an application for registration or re-registration if it wants to "express potential concerns on the application and seek clarification from the applicant in order to ensure a full and fair decision on its eligibility for registration."

The law stipulates that registered charities must devote substantially all — 90 per cent — of its resources to charitable activities. Resources include financial assets, as well as its staff, volunteers, directors, premises and equipment.

Last year, Pawlowski successfully fought in court against being fined for using a microphone at outdoor events to raise awareness about homelessness. The letter from the CRA referenced Pawlowski's fight against the City of Calgary and noted that a petition in support of Street Church Ministries "contains elements that may also be regarded as political."

The letter also quoted from a press release that Pawlowski had written, in which he was critical of City of Calgary officials for "flying the flag of the homosexual community on masts in front of City Hall."

Pawlowski does not consider such advocacy work to be political in nature. He says he's promoting social and moral issues from God's point of view.

"This is the problem," says Pawlowski. "It depends what you define as political activism. If you speak about homosexuality, is that politics? To me, it's not. Some people confuse it as politics. I don't. I just speak from God's point of view about those issues."

Pawlowski says he does not spend any money on advocacy work.

"When I speak to politicians about different issues, and always those issues are tied to our plea for justice, there [is] no money required," he says, "I just go there and I speak."

Pawlowski has appealed the CRA's decision and is waiting for a response. He said he will take the matter to court if necessary.
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Comments

Not My Taxes!!
I stand firmly by the Canada Revenue Agency in this decision. Using our tax money to fund a religious, anti-democratic agenda is, I think, highly offensive to any Canadian. If the fundamentalists want money, they can raise it themselves (they're pretty good at that). But under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should Canadian tax dollars be given to ANY religious denomenation. It violates the policy of separation of church and state, a foundation stone of our democracy. 'Nuff said.
Fair Play
Under Canadian law, political lobbying and advocacy groups (e.g.: Egale) cannot receive charitable tax status. Yet some religious groups have been involved in big time political lobbying and advocacy and still enjoy charitable tax status. There needs to be one standard and one law for all, not special rights for religious groups. By the way, in Scripture, it is clear that churches and donors to churches should not be claiming support of the church against taxes. Jesus said to give to the government what is the government's and to God what is God's, and not to tell others what you give to God or to charity. Therefore churches are acting against commandments from Jesus.
US religious right website
This isn't directly related except that Pawlowski reminded me somewhat of this group, Calvin's 4 Conservatism, they believe that penguins are actually robots created by the UN and NASA to spread the homosexual agenda by making them act gay (read the comments too) http://calvinists4conservatism.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/even-soulless-animals-can-repent-of-homosexuality/ they also had to clarify for their readers that the website was not a joke and was for real http://calvinists4conservatism.wordpress.com/disclaimer/ and that doughnut retailers are evil and must be destroyed http://calvinists4conservatism.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/why-donut-retailers-must-be-destroyed/ they also believe in the death penalty for being gay and other not quite so funny stuff, check out their listings on homosexuality on their home page, there's some other funny topics too, but overall they are just so ridiculous and extreme to be laughable though thankfully the religious right in Canada likely isn't quite this wacky, as far as I know anyways. They're easy to laugh at especially since they aren't in our own backyard.
its fair
Its true that lots of gay groups can't get charitable status because of their political nature so its only fair that those against us have the same rules regarding applied to them.
However my suspicion is that this will become a political issue for Harper's supporters, something about Liberal appointed CRA bureaucrats attacking good god-fearing people just for trying to do god's work, or perhaps it'll go something like god's word censored by the homosexual lobby and "feminazis". Likely this won't be picked up in the main stream media so it'd be easy for Harper to intervene somehow to please his religious right supporters. I know I shouldn't be cynical but its hard not to be with Harper in gov't and the rise of religious right in Canadian politics.
Audit??
One would assume that the CRA did an audit of some kind to determine the level of political involvement that this group is involved in. But there doesn't seem to be a mention of that in the article. I'm torn in this case. It seems somewhat unfair and arbitrary, people and groups are allowed to have opinions, even if those opinions are wrong. Also, hasn't the Pride center in Edmonton, faced a similar situation where they can not achieve charity status because they are viewed as too political? Makes ya think.
Fraud
The average person would likely not be able to tell whether Pawlowski was acting in any particular instance on his own behalf, for Kings Glory, for Street Church, or for some combination of the above, because these all seem to exist for one reason, which is to promote his political views. Good for CRA for not allowing the shell-game defence to be applied here.
someone's in trouble
Maybe I'm cynical but I expect someone at CRA to either get fired or disciplined for these guys losing their charitable status once the Harper gang get involved. They've shown no hesitation to impose their political viewpoint on other agencies, arm's length or otherwise that are supposed to remain non-partisan, I can easily imagine them interfering in the CRA so that this group gets their charitable status back. It may take some time but someone at the CRA is going to pay for this decision, hopefully I'm wrong but I doubt it.
er
nice article Ms Ruddy. Nice to stay up to date on western canada's gay politics.
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