From the Winter 1998/1999 Watchdog Report
of Church and State Should not Separate Donors from Information
It is far too easy for a dishonest individual
to operate a religious charity that steals our money and damages
Daniel Borochoff, AIP President
Donors beware! Charities that claim a religious aspect
to their mission may not be legally required to publicly disclose
how they are spending your donations. Religious charities that distribute
solicitations that are very similar to secular charities may be
off the radar screen of governmental agencies that regulate charities.
This is why it is especially risky to send a contribution to an
unfamiliar religious charity.
The lapse of legally mandated accountability for religious
organizations is particularly unfortunate since these groups account
for $75 billion or about half of all U.S. giving in 1997, according
to Giving USA. Churches, integrated auxiliaries and related
charitable entities are not legally required to register or file
annual information with the IRS or with state charity regulators.
Freestanding religious organizations that do not fall under the
umbrella of a churchs IRS filing exemption are required to
register and file information annually with the IRS though most
state charity regulatory offices do not require them to do so.
AIP strongly believes that all nonprofit organizations
that solicit funds from the public, including religious organizations,
should disclose their governing board members and financial statements
to the public. Congress would greatly assist informed giving to
charity if it passed a law that would require all religious and
secular nonprofits with incomes over $25,000 that seek tax-deductible
contributions from the public to publicly disclose its finances
and governing board. AIP believes that such a law would not weaken
our First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion but would
help to strengthen them by improving the credibility of religious
Most major religious charities perform valuable public
services and make an effort to be accountable to the public. The
religious charities listed in your Charity Rating Guide typically
have ecumenical programs, such as international relief, human rights,
housing, etc., that you may wish to support regardless of your religious
CHECKING OUT EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
(ECFA) is an association of 900 TV and radio ministries, Christian
colleges, rescue missions, churches and other religious nonprofits.
All ECFA members are required to enunciate, maintain, and manifest
a code of financial accountability, ethics, and reporting which is
consistent with enlightened and responsible Christian faith and practice.
Before donating to an Evangelical Christian organization,
it is a good idea to find out if it is a member in good standing
with the ECFA (800-3BEWISE). Many ministries that are not members
of ECFA may also meet ECFA standards.