Victory for Freedom for Ministries and Tax Exempt Organizations
March 2, 2010
NEWARK, Texas, (christiansunite.com) -- During the last week of February 2010 the Tarrant County Appraisal District (TAD) in Fort Worth, Texas, settled a dispute in favor of Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM). Last year TAD denied a request from Kenneth Copeland Ministries for religious exemption from certain property taxes mainly related to aircraft belonging to KCM. Part of the requirement for this exemption was a request for the names, positions and salaries of each of the ministry's employees (nearly 600 persons) even though the director of the Appraisal District stated publicly that this requirement was not law and that he and his staff never read the documentation.
Because Kenneth Copeland Ministries believes in the right to privacy afforded by the First Amendment as well as the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, KCM took a stand for religious freedom and determined it was not appropriate to surrender salary information of individual employees and invade their right to privacy. Originally TAD had requested a summary of the total compensation for employees, or a statement from an auditor that the Church or ministry's finances were in proper order, which KCM was willing to provide. However, after a recent change in TAD personnel, a hard line was taken requiring complete and individual disclosure of salaries and employee positions. Because of that change in policy from TAD, KCM had to change their position.
KCM filed suit over this issue for two specific reasons: to protect the right to privacy for all of its employees and to stand up for the general privacy rights for all Churches. Kenneth Copeland Ministries believes that the salary information of Church or ministry employees should not be public record just as an individual taxpayers salary is not of public record. In addition, it is our position that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the only governmental agency with the authority to inquire and request this type of information from non-profit organizations, and of course the IRS has strict rules of confidentiality not afforded by other governmental entities.
The decision and settlement from TAD is a victory for Church freedom, the preservation of religious constitutional protections and the privacy rights of Church employees throughout the State of Texas. We appreciate our KCM partners and friends and the Believers Stand United internet response team for their prayers, vocal support and involvement in standing up for freedom and justice for all people of faith.