Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catholics, Mormons, and Money: Churches and Pastoral Priorities

In my posting yesterday about Californians Against Hate’s charge that the Catholic diocese of Portland, Maine, is engaging in money-laundering in its battle to roll back the right of same-sex marriage in Maine, I noted that the California group also names the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) as one of the groups laundering money in the Maine battle.

I also noted that Californians Against Hate has accused NOM of being a front-group for the Mormon Church, through which LDS church funds are funneled into the battle against gay marriage. What I didn’t mention in yesterday’s posting—and this deserves attention—is that NOM is doing everything in its power to keep its financial records from public scrutiny. Even to the extent of flaunting IRS regulations for non-profits about public disclosure of 990 records.

As Right Wing Watch reported several days ago, the Washington Blade has requested copies of NOM’s latest 990 filings, and has apparently not received those copies. Californians Against Hate has also sent staff to the NOM office in Princeton, NJ, to request NOM’s 990 forms. Those staff were sent away empty-handed.

The group then sent two certified letters to NOM on 18 March asking again for copies of NOM’s latest 990 returns. NOM has not provided copies. Californians Against Hate believes that NOM operates two non-profits, a 501(c)4 called the National Organization for Marriage and a 501(c)3 called the National Organization for Marriage Educational Fund.

On 15 May, NOM asked for a three-month extension to the IRS filing deadline this year, and it is believed that NOM filed its current 990 report on 14 August—and so, as a non-profit, NOM was legally required to provide copies when the Washington Blade asked for them after that date. NOM can be fined by IRS for skirting federal regulations governing disclosure of donor information to non-profits.

As Right Wing Watch concludes, “NOM's finances are a complete mystery, and the group seems intent on keeping it that way for as long as possible.”

The refusal to disclose funding streams supporting this national organization combating gay rights is interesting, to say the least—particularly as NOM mounts high-profile (and highly-funded) media campaigns in both Maine and Iowa this summer. On the reasons that Californians Against Hate believes the Mormons are a major NOM funding group whose identity NOM wishes to keep secret for as long as possible, see the posting from that group to which I link above.

And re: the story of the Maine Catholic diocese’s choice to help fund the battle to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens of that state, check out this posting at Pam’s House Blend. As Pam notes, the cartoon by Mike Ritter of Southern Voice about the strange pastoral responsibilities of the Maine diocese is brilliant.

And there’s more news in the unfolding story of another Catholic diocese of the Northeast in which gay persons have been targeted as money flows around behind the scenes to pay off cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors. This is the Bridgeport, Connecticut, diocese, about which I have posted a number of times in the past (see here and click the Connecticut label for previous postings).

As the posting to which I’ve just linked notes, on 19 July the Bridgeport diocese appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as it continues to try to keep its files on clergy sex abuse cases sealed. On Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg denied (h/t Clerical Whispers) the diocese’s request.

The diocese wants to keep sealed more than 12,600 pages of depositions, exhibits, and legal arguments from 23 lawsuits against priests from the Bridgeport diocese. Most of these suits were filed in the mid-1990s, and were settled by the diocese in 2001 for undisclosed amounts of money.

The diocese’s preference is to keep these documents sealed forever, but several media outlets have filed suit to have the files opened. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that twice that the documents should be unsealed.

And so back to Mike Ritter's cartoon, which shows two bishops deliberating over a diocesan budget. As the cartoon notes, in hard economic times, we need to prioritize.

And so it shows us the bishops' list: keep churches open; feed the poor; attend to the needs of those sexually abused by clerics. All of those items are crossed out.

The priority item is to fund gay-bashing campaigns. And if that's Jesus's priority, and if churches that make this a priority while people go hungry (my aunt's church's food pantry is handing out record baskets of food these days) and without medical treatment, I'll eat my hat--or any miter a bishop wants to send me to chew on.