The Texas Legislature needs to take a proactive approach to protecting nonprofit donors, including churches, during the upcoming legislative session.
While action has stalled in Austin, there have actually been some positive developments recently in Washington. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation to end the disclosure of donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Across the nation non-profit donors have been subjected to attacks and intimidation from opponents when lists were wrongly published on “accident.” The releases almost always relate to conservative organizations. Of course, the leaks are coming from the same IRS that illegally stonewalled nonprofit applications by conservative organizations.
Often, releases are characterized by government officials as accidents, but such “accidents” would be impossible if the donor lists were eliminated entirely.
Though the federal government decides what data nonprofits report to federal authorities, Texas lawmakers can enact laws that would make it illegal for the names of donors to nonprofits to be disclosed. The Texas Supreme Court has already ruled that donor identities are private information, but civic groups shouldn’t have to sue in order to protect their freedom of association.
However, rather than protect the free speech of citizens, the Texas Ethics Commission and its allies in the Texas House have sided with speech regulators. The TEC has called for non-profit organizations to disclose their donors. The legislature can put a swift and decisive end to this matter, and bring the wayward TEC to heal, by acting in defense of their constituents’ first amendment rights.