Home > Current Events > why aren’t ministries more transparent?

why aren’t ministries more transparent?

I’m short on time today, so I will just share this little nugget I discovered while looking into another issue. Joy Junction is an important charity in the Albuquerque area; they’re a homeless shelter with religious affiliations, and they provide emergency housing, some of it long-term, and they make the news every winter when there’s a nasty cold snap here in the high desert by rounding up at-risk homeless people. They do real yeoman’s work, as far as I can tell.

Here’s a quote from their website [link] regarding financial transparency:

Joy Junction is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a (501) (C) (3) church organization. As a result, salaries do not have to be made public, according Joy Junction business and operations manager Frank Tercero. Release of such information would be a violation of policy as set by the board of directors, he said.

So there you go; the body of the article is official Joy Junction flak, about how they’re a dedicated, hard-working charitable organization with a small budget they stretch to do important, difficult work, and how their executive management are all poor, poorly-paid people themselves. And yet they bring up the subject of executive compensation and explicitly say that it is not their policy to disclose compensation, as if that were an appropriate answer.

I’m at a loss here; if I were looking for a homeless shelter to give money to, Joy Junction would be one of the first I’d look at. But if I were listing warning signs of financial misdealing this would be one of the most important. “Why aren’t we transparent? Because we don’t have to, legally, and it isn’t our policy.”

I don’t know what to make of this attitude. I’m always saddened and surprised when I see it; my reading of the rest of the article suggests that Joy Junction’s primary audience for the article is their occasional patron who thinks they’re handling lots of money, shortchange their patrons on food, etc. Still from my perspective it sounds like a straw man argument, and like transparency isn’t really one of Joy Junction’s core values.

I don’t know what to do with the “if I answer your questions you’ll just ask more questions” mindset, and this seems to be a pretty good example.

 

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  1. Rob
    April 9, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Request a copy of their Form 990.

  2. Rob
    April 11, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Organizations/churches which apply for and receive 501c3 status from the IRS, as a not-for-profit religious/educational organization, are required to file Form 990. There are some guidelines under which they must operate. For instance, tax exempt money can not be used for inurement (private benefit) of the founder’s family.

    For this reason, some organizations have chosen not to apply for this tax exempt status and instead choose to list themselves as churches. As 501c3’s they would still be non-profit with tax exemptions, but would have to follow certain guidelines as mentioned above, and would also have to file Form 990, which among other things lists not only income but also salaries for highest paid employees.

    Churches which have received 510c3 status from the IRS do file a Form 990. Churches which have not received 501c3 status do not file a Form 990.

    So, some groups taking in millions of dollars (TV evangelists) choose to incorporate as churches, do not seek IRS 510c3 status, and operate tax free, yet without any accountability back to the American people about how those tax exempt dollars are being used.

    If Joy Junction is a 510c3 they should be filing a Form 990. Form 990’s are public documents and organizations are required to provide copies upon request.

    • April 11, 2011 at 8:25 am

      Rob —

      Understood. Here is the language from the Joy Junction website:

      Joy Junction is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a (501) (C) (3) church organization. As a result, salaries do not have to be made public, according Joy Junction business and operations manager Frank Tercero. Release of such information would be a violation of policy as set by the board of directors, he said.

      It can be found here: http://www.joyjunction.org/leadershipteam_readmore_1.asp

      Also please note at the link I posted earlier that Joy Junction is considered a church for tax purposes. According to the NCCS they were ruled a church in 1996 and have not filed the Form 990 since then.

      Yes you’re right: this part of the tax code is open to what has historically been fairly liberal interpretation; it would appear to me that Joy Junction is taking advantage of it just like the groups you characterize above.

      I really have no idea how widespread this is; Joy Junction is definitely a religious charity, they have men who have been ordained as pastors on staff, and as far as I know they conduct religious services on site. Whether or not it is appropriate for them to claim to be a church I’m not sure I’m qualified to judge.

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