(May 21, 2012) Phoenix, Ariz.—Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service this week asking for an investigation into Center for Arizona Policy’s 501(c)3 public charity tax-exempt status. SC Arizona has been looking into Center for Arizona Policy’s tax status as part of the secularist organization’s commitment to ensure that religious organizations do not receive special privilege under the law, including tax law.
Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) is a religious lobby organization that seeks to develop and influence public policy and inject fundamentalist, evangelical Christian values into legislation in the state of Arizona. Part of CAP’s original Articles of Incorporation explicitly states: “The character of business which the corporation initially intends to conduct will be to facilitate the exchange of ideas pertinent to the strengthening of families in the state of Arizona through the development of public policy.” An organization which intends to spend a substantial portion of its resources on a public policy agenda is not eligible to be designated as a 501(c)3 and should instead register, like SC Arizona, as a 501(c)4 organization, which can engage in unlimited lobbying. In contrast to a 501(c)3, donations to a 501(c)4 organization are not tax-exempt.
It is SC Arizona’s belief that CAP is abusing its public charity status and illegally using tax-exempt donations to engage in substantial lobbying activities to advance a religious agenda over and above what is allowable for a 501(c)3 organization.
“It concerns us that this religious lobby institution is able to receive tax-exempt donations, which it seems to be using almost exclusively to work on lobbying activities,” says Seráh Blain, Executive Director of Secular Coalition for Arizona. “We just want the IRS to take a look at the Center for Arizona Policy to make sure this isn’t a case of religious preference and that CAP isn’t improperly soliciting and spending tax-exempt donations in a way that violates tax law.”
Several other individuals and organizations, including No Longer Silent, a 501(c)3 organization made up of clergy speaking out on social justice issues, have also filed complaints as concern grows among Arizonans about Center for Arizona Policy’s operations as a lobby organization despite its 501(c)3 status. A new website, www.StopCAP.org, has been set up in a collaborative effort to detail CAP’s violations.
“Taxpayers are not supposed to be forced to subsidize political lobbying,” says Blain. “I’m not a tax lawyer, but it appears to us that Center for Arizona Policy is operating as a taxpayer subsidized lobbying organization—so they’re using money that should belong to all Arizonans in order to inject their narrow religious ideology into public policy. This is simply wrong, and we’re asking the IRS to check into it.”
About the Secular Coalition for Arizona
The Secular Coalition for Arizona (www.secularAZ.org) is a 501(c)4 lobby organization that represents the Arizona nontheistic community—a vibrant and growing community of Arizonans who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, Humanists and freethinkers. The Secular Coalition for Arizona mediates the relationship between the nontheistic community and elected officials, and works to ensure that the law is never biased to the detriment and interests of Arizona's nontheists. The coalition consists of 13 nontheistic and nontheistic-friendly organizations from across Arizona and is a state-affiliated organization of the Secular Coalition for America in Washington D.C. For more information, contact Executive Director Seráh Blain: serah@secularAZ.org; 602-363-8018.