Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ Have Charity Status, Chronicle Study Finds:
The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as "hate groups," including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.
The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent. Complicating matters, the IRS is already under fire from critics who say the agency has discriminated against conservative political organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a list of nearly 900 so-called hate groups, most of them on the far right (although the roster also includes radical Islamists, black separatists, and other fringe groups) and many with deceptively innocuous-sounding names. The Chronicle analysis found that 55 of those organizations are registered as charities and eight are 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups, which also enjoy tax exemptions.
Many groups on the list vehemently dispute the "hate" designation and say the Southern Poverty Law Center — known as SPLC and itself a tax-exempt organization — is a left-wing attack group. And most of the groups on the list are relatively small, with less than $500,000 in annual revenue.
Still, some experts say organizations are increasingly pushing the boundaries of how far they can go and still meet the standard for tax exemption. "We want to be careful about what we’re requiring the public to subsidize through tax exemption and at the same time we want not to inhibit speech too much," said Eric Gorovitz, a lawyer with Adler & Colvin, a firm specializing in nonprofit law. "That’s just hard to do."