The Honorable Perry E. Thurston, Jr.
State Senator, District # 33
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
This letter is written in regard to Senate Bill 288: Relief of the Justice-2-Jesus Charitable Trust by the State of Florida.
The Justice-2-Jesus website these self descriptions are used:
• “Justice-2-Jesus is a non-denominational evangelical Christ-Centered New Testament “Free Church”, based in Saint Petersburg, Florida, engaging in Judeo-Christian practices and principles.”
• “Justice-2-Jesus is a non-partisan political committee and charitable trust in the state of Florida engaging in political and civic advocacy in government.”
Per Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organization, Justice-2-Jesus would be considered a religious organization, since they are non-denominational. This same booklet says: “Unlike churches, religious organizations that wish to be tax exempt generally must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status unless their gross receipts do not normally exceed $5,000 annually.”
The bill states that Justice-2-Jesus is a nonprofit organization under s.501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Yet there is no record of this organization in the IRS Database in any of these categories: “eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions; Automatically revoked, or Have filed Form 990-N.” Please note, that when we searched the IRS database, we did not limit the geographical criteria to St. Petersburg, but for any organization with Justice in its name in the state of Florida.
The Justice-2-Jesus website states:
Justice-2-Jesus is an unincorporated church and charitable trust as expressed by or in Florida statutes 692.101, 736.0405 and 736.0407.
• 692.101 – Conveyances to or by trustees of unincorporated churches.
• 736.0405 – Charitable purposes; enforcement
• 736.0407 – Evidence of oral trust.
Consequently, it appears the Justice-2-Jesus is using its status as a Church/Religious Organization for its proof of the non-profit status of the charitable trust. Since the trust and the church have the same name, are operated by the same person, at the same address, it is difficult to ascertain when or whether they are representing themselves as a church/Religious Organization or as a charitable trust. In either case, however, there are serious flaws in the claim.
All these circumstances give rise to the proposition that the legislative body should carefully weigh the appropriateness of this bill. As Article I, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution states: “…No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
We ask that you consider withdrawing this bill, since it would appear to be in direct conflict with the Constitution of the State of Florida.
As you can see, this letter is also being sent to Senator Dana Young, Steve Bousquet, the Tampa Bay Times’ Tallahassee bureau chief, and Michael Auslen, who covers state government and politics in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau.
Yours in reason,
President, Atheists of Florida