The National Christian Foundation, the eighth-largest public charity in the U.S., has been funneling millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ hate groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.
The donations, disclosed in the foundation's tax filings, were reported today by Sludge, an investigative journalism site.
The foundation is a donor-advised fund. "Such funds offer individual accounts to their clients, allowing clients to get immediate tax breaks on donations to these accounts and to direct NCF to disperse the money to the nonprofits of their choice, mostly churches and other Christian nonprofits, at their own pace," Sludge reports. "Clients donate through donor-advised funds anonymously, so even the Internal Revenue Service won't know their identities."
Its three most recent IRS filings -- for 2015 through 2017 -- show it dispersed $56.1 million in client funds to organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to Sludge.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that represents many anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion clients, received $49.2 million over that period, $46.3 million of it in its 2016 fiscal year -- July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. ADF famously represented Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, in a case that went to the Supreme Court in 2017. A ruling in Phillips's favor came down last year, although the court did not recognize a broad right to discriminate.
The Family Research Council, whose president, Tony Perkins, has close ties to Donald Trump and has advised the Republican Party on its national platform, received more than $5.3 million during the three years covered by the report.
Those two groups "spread vicious propaganda and disinformation, othering and maligning members of the LGBTQ community, which is a key reason they are rightly considered hate groups," Chris Stroop, a journalist and former evangelical Christian, told Sludge.
"In terms of aggressively pushing an anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion, 'pro-family' agenda, it makes sense to me that [the foundation] would invest heavily in Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council," Stroop added. "Those outfits are at the very heart of the Christian right lobby; they're well-connected, well-heeled, and effective."
The amount of funding coming through the National Christian Foundation is stunning, Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, told the site. "I certainly don't know of any public disclosures of funds to hate groups at levels anywhere near this," she said. "It's pretty astounding and certainly concerning."
While the identities of donors to the foundation are not automatically made public, some are known, according to Sludge. They include David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby; major Republican funder Foster Friess; and several other foundations.
The National Christian Foundation, which is the fourth-largest donor-advised fund in the nation, has funneled donors' money to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organizations as well as anti-LGBTQ ones, Sludge reports. Most such funds have no policies concerning donations to identified hate groups, saying any nonprofit organization that has been granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the IRS is eligible.
One of the few that has a policy restricting donations is the Amalgamated Foundation, which states that it prohibits money from going to "hateful activities ... targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability."
Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, said more donor-advised funds should adopt such policies. "With the dramatic escalation of violence and intimidation by white nationalists and right-wing extremists, it's way past due for sponsors of donor-advised funds to cut off any dollars flowing to hate groups," he told Sludge. "They have every right to exercise discretion by refusing a donor's request to fund a hate group. Just as companies have come under pressure to deny those groups financial and technology platforms following Charlottesville, the Tree of Life massacre, and now New Zealand, foundations should similarly deny them philanthropic services. It's more than just a best practice, it's common decency."