[News] Pastors for Peace Close to Losing Tax Exempt Status Courtesy of IRS Assault

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 2 12:22:19 EDT 2016


http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/02/pastors-for-peace-close-to-losing-tax-exempt-status-courtesy-of-irs-assault/ 



  Pastors for Peace Close to Losing Tax Exempt Status Courtesy of IRS
  Assault

by W. T. Whitney <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/gaguwe/> - 
September 2, 2016

Gail Walker is the executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace with 
offices in New York City. In an interview she gave which appeared August 
29 as the lead posting on the prominent Cuban website Cubadebate.cu, 
Walker described apparent U. S. government persecution of the human- 
rights organization founded and headed by Rev. Lucius Walker, Gail 
Walker’s father, who died in 2010. In fact, the U.S. government over the 
course of five years has moved toward removing the tax-exempt and 
non-profit status Pastors for Peace and its parent organization IFCO 
have enjoyed since IFCO’s founding in 1967.

Introducing Walker, journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde noted that, “In 
spite of the many times attempts were made at the Mexican border to 
block its humanitarian cargo on the way to Cuba, Pastors for Peace has 
maintained its caravans to Cuba uninterruptedly since 1992, including 
during the darkest years of the Bush administration.”

She reported that Pastors for Peace “yellow buses” still travel the 
streets of Cuban cities and that “hospitals and schools [in Cuba] have 
benefited for years” from aid brought on those buses to Cuba. Pastors of 
Peace volunteers traveling on the buses through the United States have 
informed “people about the consequences of sanctions directed at making 
the Cuban people surrender through a lack of food and medicines.”

Bringing their humanitarian aid material to Cuba, riders on the buses 
violated U.S. rules governing the blockade. They did so purposefully as 
a matter of civil disobedience.

Elizalde pointed out that: “Until the last moment of his life, the 
Reverend Lucius Walker … dedicated a good part of his energies to 
correcting the injustice of his government. In interviews, he always 
repeated that his object was to win hearts and minds in the United 
States to the Cuban people. Just before his death in September, 2010 he 
called upon President Obama to act on his election-campaign promise to 
re-establish U. S. relations with Cuba.”

For her part, Gail Walker confessed to surprise at the assault by the 
Internal Revenue Service (IRS), especially in view of President Obama’s 
role in advancing a “process toward normalizations of relations,” his 
trip to Cuba, and his “declaration that North American policy toward the 
island had failed.” She added that. “President Obama has called for an 
end to the blockade.’”

She expected that “the President would respect the work of IFCO/Pastors 
for Peace, that for a quarter of a century has organized friendship 
caravans as an expression of love and solidarity with the [Cuban] people 
and in opposition to the blockade.”

By way of explanation, Walker observed that “inside the United States, a 
campaign still persists whose purpose is to undermine Cuba and its 
revolutionary principles. IFCO/Pastors for Peace has always embraced the 
commitment of Cuban leaders to put the welfare of their people first. 
That’s why we continue … calling upon the U. S. government to end its 
efforts towards ‘regime change.’”

In her interview, Gail Walker described IFCO/Pastors for Peace 
humanitarian caravans to Central America and the Caribbean area and the 
group’s work with minority youth in U.S. prisons, victimized 
cross-border migrants, and in preparing young community organizers.

The IFCO/Pastors for Peace website describes a five-year IRS process of 
investigation and accusations. Alerted by Representatives Brad Sherman 
(D-CA) and Sue Myrick (R-NC), the IRS in 2011 alleged that support for 
the legitimate charitable organization Viva Palestina had morphed into 
backing for the supposed terrorist group Hamas.

Pastors for Peace successfully appealed that charge, only to be accused 
of violating the U. S. “Trading with the Enemy Act” when it extended 
friendship to Cuba and brought aid material. That charge fell to an 
appeal based on the reality that the Treasury Department’s Office of 
Foreign Assets Control, responsible for enforcing the blockade, had 
never moved to prosecute Pastors for Peace.

The charge of sloppy record-keeping followed. In an e-mail September 1, 
IFCO/Pastors for Peace reported, “They denied our latest appeal. The IRS 
tried Islamophobia! Their case didn’t hold water! Then, the IRS tried 
attacking our Cuba work [and] they’ve dropped that one. SO NOW, the IRS 
is coming after us for our ‘record keeping.’” The group’s website 
displays examples of what looks like more than adequate documentation 
accompanying aid material on its way to Cuba.

Gail Walker spoke of potential damage, if the U.S. government has its 
way. Pastors for Peace will be paying taxes on donations, the group’s 
sole source of income. Donors, having lost their tax exemption, may no 
longer give, or may give less. And “the projects we fiscally sponsor 
will have to look for other sponsors whose tax free status is intact.”

“How ironic, cruel, and petty,” observed the National Network on Cuba, 
“that that the U.S. Government has focused on destroying a 
religious organization whose mission is to act in love and the spirit of 
community.” Other advocates of non-interventionist U. S. relations with 
Cuba see persecution of IFCO/Pastors for Peace as a wet blanket on 
efforts toward normalization of bi-national relations, among them Steve 
Burke. That member of the Let Cuba Live Committee of Maine is “leery of 
[President] Obama’s claim the United States wants friendship with Cuba.”

Judy Robbins, also of Maine, said that, “After years of steady progress, 
hard-earned gains, and the beginnings of something like normal, here 
comes the IRS to vindictively try to dismantle one of the most 
successful and admired efforts in this long campaign.” Robbins joins 
Gail Walker in urging that one and all sign the petition accessible here 
<https://www.change.org/p/do-not-remove-ifco-pastors-for-peace-non-profit-tax-status%3E>.

/*W.T. Whitney Jr.* is a retired pediatrician and political journalist 
living in Maine./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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