Kelowna church accused of breaking charity law by supporting local school board candidate
Church in Kelowna, British Columbia, is criticized for providing a worshiper with a platform to promote her candidacy to become a local school trustee – an action that could violate the Canada Revenue Agency’s rule on organizations charities.
On June 13, New Life Church posted a post on Facebook – which has been deleted – calling for support for Joyce Brinkerhoff in a by-election for the Central Okanagan School District School Board on June 26.
“Please consider supporting Joyce Brinkerhoff in the upcoming school board election. This is a very important role in which the board is looking at many of the issues that our public schools need to implement,” the post read.
The Church of New Life was a CRA registered charity since January 2005. The agency says that Canada Income Tax Act prohibits charities from supporting or opposing any political party or candidate, although the law allows these organizations to communicate their position on certain public policies.
Brinkerhoff, 65, was the administrator of School District 23 from 2011 to 2014. She is running to replace Rolli Cacchioni, who died earlier this year.
The church also released a video of its senior pastor Matti Koopman speaking on stage with Brinkerhoff during the Sunday service on June 13. The video has since been deleted.
In the sermon, she did not directly ask other worshipers to vote for her, but appealed to their Christian faith in speaking of the election.
“If we stand up for what we believe in – family values and parental rights, and all of those things that we believe that God has called us to love our neighbors and be respectful and respected – then you have to vote”, a- she declared.
WATCH | Kelowna School Board candidate Joyce Brinkerhoff promotes church election
Pastor Koopman stood next to Brinkerhoff and gestured emphatically.
“You have the ability to decide who is going to influence our school system in the Kelowna area, and you can decide because you can vote,” he says.
School board candidate Wayne Broughton and his financial agent Wilbur Turner said Koopman violated the CRA’s ban on supporting a candidate for public office.
“It is clear that the pastor [was] actually promoting her and giving her speaking time in front of her audience and joking that it’s illegal, ”Turner told CBC’s Chris Walker.
“I’m running on a platform of integrity and I think that’s important, and I feel like the fact that they did was pretty clear that they knew they were breaking the rules. and it wasn’t a mistake, ”Broughton said.
“I’m not sure that’s a good characteristic for a school board member to have.”
The day after the Sunday service, Koopman told Walker he admitted the church promoted the election, but denied supporting any particular candidate. He said the church posted the video in error and knew it was not authorized to support any candidate.
BOW States that charities should not support a candidate seeking election to “a provincial or territorial legislature, national assembly or parliament, band council, regional or municipal government, or similar entity.”
Toronto charities lawyer Mark Blumberg said it was difficult to say whether this rule applied to candidates for school trustees, but recommended that charities stay away from politics partisan.
“We would all agree that it is probably not a good idea for a judge to wear a hat for one of the political parties when he is in court,” he said. “It’s not really about free speech if you’re the CEO of a charity, but if you really care about partisan politics, you can find another job.”
The CRA refused CBC’s request to explain its rule on charities and political activities.
Meanwhile, Brinkerhoff said she and the New Life Church had done nothing wrong.
“Maybe the perception was the same for someone who didn’t know our values of community service,” she told Walker. “I apologize for any misunderstanding that has been caused.”
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Dawn South7:28Kelowna church accused of breaking campaign rules in local by-election