OTTAWA – An official from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) said King’s Glory Fellowship of Calgary lost its charitable status for failing to file its annual financial report.
Its controversial lay pastor Artur Pawlowski admitted he did miss the deadline. He believes, however, King’s Glory Fellowship’s charitable status has not been restored because of his vocal defence of Christian teaching.
(See Calgary bishop comes to defence of lay pastor ) Last October, King’s Glory Fellowship received a letter from CRA’s Dian Prodenov expressing concerns that “members of the board of directors espouse strong negative views about sensitive and controversial issues, which may also be viewed as political, such as abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc.”
CRA spokesman Philippe Brideau would not confirm or deny the letter or its contents, saying he was bound by law not to discuss confidential tax status matters. But he said the revocation of charitable status was public knowledge and posted on the CRA web site last year.
Pawlowski runs Street Church Ministries. It feeds the hungry and ministers to the homeless in downtown Calgary and ran afoul of city bylaws for its barbecues on the sidewalks and loudspeakers amplifying the gospel message. In December an Alberta judge declared the by-laws unconstitutional.
Pawlowski said King’s Glory Fellowship had grown so fast that it began to house a number of other ministries under its roof, including Street Church Ministries and some overseas outreaches to orphans and the disabled. He and his accountant wanted to know if all four should file separately or together.
“If you’ve ever dealt with the government, it takes forever to get an answer,” he said. After a year and a half of effort, they missed the deadline, though Pawlowski said they were assured the process was just a formality.
Brideau explained that an entity can reapply for charitable status and if CRA needs further clarification they may send “an administrative fairness letter” that is intended to “begin a process of dialogue.”
If Prodenov’s letter was supposed to launch a dialogue, it did not come across like that to the pastor.
“The letter is very clear,” said Pawlowski. “It’s not a dialogue. It’s plain and simple: you do not quality to be a charitable organization because of your views and political activities.”
The tax act allows for up to 10 per cent of a charity’s resources to go to political activities, but Pawlowski said no investigation was ever done.
“What started out as a simple issue of how we were to properly file the year-end report because of the rapid growth of the ministry turned out to be an inquisition of my personal beliefs,” he said. “They have no right to tell me what I can preach about or not preach about as long as it is not under the hate crimes legislation.”
Calgary Bishop Fred Henry said the CRA explanation reminded him of a variation of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying: denial; then obfuscation; then hiding behind confidentiality; then attacking the person.
“The simplest thing would be for Revenue Canada to say a mistake was made,” Henry said following a Jan. 29 meeting with Pawlowski in Calgary.
Henry said CRA’s actions should send a message to every religious person in the country about the “enshrinement of political correctness.”
Written by Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News,