Church group utilizes funds for politics

May Khin

According to the Internal Revenue Service file, a conservative Christian group called Focus on the Family declared itself a church, although it does not have a congregation. It does not host weddings or funerals, and it does not hold services. Questions have begun to arise about what Focus on the Family actually does.

It has a nearly $90 million annual budget and uses the money to lobby against state legislators who support bills that prevent discrimination against the LGBTQ community as well as other minorities. It propagates radio and other programming to approximately 38 million listeners and is often politically motivated. These actions by Focus on the Family are unethical, since it is clearly not a church and violate the freedoms that people in the United States hold sacred.

Europe has seen a bloodbath for centuries in an attempt to separate church and state. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson mentioned the “wall of separation between the church and the state” in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Recently, former President Barack Obama supported legalization to allow for same sex marriage in 2015.

The United States has come this far and has experienced both ends of the spectrum. The First Amendment serves to protect freedom of religion, especially religious minorities from overreach by the state. Religious groups are allowed to share their views on many topics, but influencing the public through political campaigns is ethically wrong. Religious groups should not campaign against the LGBTQ community and gay activism in public schools.

Churches can raise tax-deductible contributions more easily and with fewer restrictions than nonprofit organizations. There are property tax exemptions for clergy members. Churches do not have to reveal from whom or where they get their funds. Therefore, Focus on the Family declared itself as a church for tax-related purposes.

Its employee guidelines prohibit “homosexual acts” according to its “moral behavior standards.” Religious groups in the United States are exempt from tax and reporting burdens, but, political groups are not under the current law.

Focus on the Family is using its power as a church to influence political decisions. The real issue is about money and transparency. Focus on the Family needs to decide whether it is a religious group or a political group. There should be a clear ethical line that Focus on the Family should not cross. Campaigning against gay activism in public schools and LGBTQ rights should not be accepted. It is absolutely unethical and the group should stop.