Postal Hike for Nonprofits Eyed, Pro-Life Group Scrutinized, and More News
Postal service cutbacks may hurt nonprofits
The U.S. Postal Service could hike mailing costs for nonprofits if a proposed bill by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) passes. The bill would help cut costs and restructure management. Over six years, it would reduce the 40 percent discount nonprofits currently receive to 10 percent. Many nonprofits use the discount to solicit donations through direct mail, which accounted for 78 percent of the $300 billion donated in 2009.
Pro-life group scrutinized over deficit
A high-profile Catholic pro-life group is under scrutiny after an audit revealed a $1.4 million deficit in last year's budget. Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, said he suspended director Frank Pavone over concerns about how Priests for Life was spending the $10 million it received in donations in 2010. Pavone has appealed to the Vatican and is seeking a new diocese in which to base his activism. In spite of a decline in 2010 donations, the organization loaned $879,000 to a related ministry, Gospel of Life Ministries, which recently had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS after failing to file tax forms for three years.
Commission backs off defense of Christians
UNITED KINGDOM The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced this summer that British judges were failing to protect the freedoms of Christian employees. But it has pulled back from supporting current religious discrimination cases. The EHRC initially planned to argue on behalf of four Christians pressured to quit their jobs because of their beliefs or because they wore religious symbols on the job. They are appealing their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The EHRC had said the court should adopt a principle of reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs, but later announced it would gather public input to determine what accommodations to recommend.
Church fights tax bill
A Nashville megachurch is fighting a $425,000 property tax bill assessed after it added an activities center with a bookstore, café, fitness center, and gym in 2004. A property assessor in 2007 said the new areas operate like other businesses and could not be exempt from property taxes. Church leaders argue that the new facilities are for ministry. In 2009, a judge ruled that the gym should be taxed at 50 percent. The church's lawyer is arguing for complete exemption, saying the church's extensions should be treated like college bookstores and hospital gift shops, which do not pay property tax.
Churches compensated for seized properties
CZECH REPUBLIC After 20 years of negotiations, the Czech government agreed to return some Communist-seized property to churches, reimburse them for the rest, pay church upkeep fees for a time, and phase out state funding of clergy salaries. The state will give back 56 percent of seized property and reimburse churches $3.49 billion over 30 years for the remainder. Eighty percent of funds and property will go to the Catholic Church; the rest will go to Protestant and Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues.
Court: Church not liable for damages
Idlewild Baptist Church no longer has to pay $4.75 million in damages to a man who claimed permanent injury resulting from a youth group's ski trip in 2003. Hillsborough County Circuit judge James Arnold vacated a prior decision against the 11,000-member Florida megachurch that awarded sizable damages to the man, and ordered a retrial because of jury conflict.
Christian minorities gain, lose representation
PAKISTAN For the first time, each of the Muslim nation's four provinces will get one senate seat for a religious minority. However, a concurrent government move hurts religious minorities: assassinated minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti's position was downgraded in rank and responsibilities. The All-Pakistani Christian League, a new Christian political party, formed in late July to mixed enthusiasm, as critics remembered previous failed attempts at forming a viable Christian party.