Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Episcopal Church: Undermining the USA from Within

In my previous post, I detailed the sordid story by which the Episcopal Church (USA) has gotten into the debt collection business. Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.

It's a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church's coffers, to help with its bottom line.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually.

Now thanks to our good friend and frequent commenter El Gringo Viejo, your Curmudgeon has been pointed to this illuminating video message, which tells "the rest of the story," so to speak. It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria. Listen to Ann Corcoran as she explains what she discovered:





As you see (at 1:29 and following), EMM is one of nine major Government contractors engaged in making money to bring in refugees from these war-torn countries, in which the United States has militarily intervened. Five others, along with EMM, operate under the aegis of major American religious denominations: the Church World Service (an umbrella organization), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the evangelically connected World Relief Corporation.

So let us draw the big picture: civil war breaks out in Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria; the United States intervenes militarily; havoc and destruction generate innumerable refugees, most of whom (but by no means all) are Sunni or Shiite Muslims; well-meaning Christians and liberals in the United States want to resettle them in our country, and so partner with the U.S. Government in bringing them here.

The only criterion for their migration to the United States appears to be that they cannot remain in their own war-torn country -- either because it does not want them, or because the situation is so unstable that no one can vouch for their safety or protection.

[UPDATE 05/15/2015: The one criterion of the State Department for refusing to include them in the refugee program is if they happen to be Christians:
Also inappropriate, it seems, is the resettling of the most vulnerable Assyrian Christians in the United States. Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse. But the State Department – while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars, told Dobbs that they “would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States.”

The United States government has made it clear that there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation, even though it is exactly that – their religious affiliation – that makes them candidates for asylum based on a credible fear of persecution from ISIS. The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment. Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters.
So now we have evidence that the "inclusive" liberals at 815 Second Avenue will not extend their sympathy to brother Christians, but only to Muslims and terrorists -- because the Government will not fund the rescuing of Christians.]

But those same well-meaning Christians and liberals, who elected a President to bring the troops home before the invaded countries were stable, also did so on their strongly held belief that the people of those countries could never become a democracy, even with our aid and support. One has to ask: what change in character justifies those now assisting the Muslim refugees in thinking that once brought here,  they will fit in to our democracy? And would be preferable to, say, Assyrian Christians?

The communities to which the refugees are relocated have little or nothing to say about the process. Is it any surprise that a good number of the Muslim immigrants remain in enclaves of their own, and assimilate only to the degree necessary to qualify for jobs and welfare? And is it any surprise that some of them might harbor little good will for the country whose intervention they see as having uprooted them in the first place, and nurture the seeds for domestic terrorism?

It is not that Christians do not owe others a duty to provide refuge, assistance and support -- they do. But who is monitoring the overall process, and its effects upon our country? The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees? The State Department? The various liberal Church groups who use Government funds to help balance their books, and who leave the refugees to their own devices after they have been handsomely paid to settle them here? Give me a break. (Again, if there is any ongoing support of the displaced persons, it comes from local churches in the community, and not from the big denominations -- they do only that for which the Government reimburses them.)

It is the little people, like Ann Corcoran above, who have the most concern for the integrity of their towns and communities that are impacted most severely by these unsupervised migration activities. Her blog, Refugee Resettlement Watch, is the place to get the most detailed and up-to-date information about what is going on. The stories there are all well-documented, and some are eye-popping (be sure to take note of this disclaimer). A good place to start is this Resettlement Fact Sheet. You would do well to keep yourself informed.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Is a Church Not a Church? When It's a Debt Collector

The Episcopal Church (USA) has two primary sources of income: according to its latest audited financial statements for the calendar year 2013, it received a little over $27 million from its member dioceses, and it received half as much again, or $13.8 million, from the federal government. (Its total income for 2013 from invested funds was $8 million.)

The money ECUSA received from the federal government was in connection with the services provided by Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), an office within the Church organization at 815 Second Avenue in New York that assists the State Department in relocating refugees throughout the United States.

As I noted in this earlier post, the Church is very dependent upon Government reimbursements for its EMM expenditures in order to balance its books. For calendar 2014, for example, ECUSA reported a supposed operating surplus of $2.4 million, but that claim ignored the fact that as of the end of 2014, ECUSA had spent nearly $3.5 million more through EMM than it had yet received back from the Government.

So we have a national Church that depends for approximately one-third of its annual budget on money from the U.S. Government. Nevertheless, this still does not tell the full tale. Buried in a Note (#13, at page 27) to the audited financial statements is this remarkable statistic (with my bold added, for emphasis):
In connection with its cooperative agreements with the United States Government for refugee resettlement, the Society acts as the collection agent for travel loans made to refugees by the International Organization for Migration. In return for these services, the Society retains 25% of all loan collections as a recovery of its administrative costs incurred. As of December 31, 2013 and 2012 , there were $11,339 and $9,961, respectively, of refugee loans outstanding. Such amounts are not reflected on the accompanying consolidated financial statements, and the Society does not guarantee the loans.
Those two numbers ($11,339 and $9,961) need to have three more zeros tacked onto them, because the audited statements' numbers are all expressed as thousands. So let me make it plain:

As of the end of calendar 2013, ECUSA had undertaken to collect for the U.S. Government a total of $11,339,000 in loans made by the Government to refugees for their expenses in being brought to the United States for relocation.  Given that EMM assists approximately 5,000 such refugees each year, and assuming that the loans are outstanding for an average of three to four years before they are fully repaid,  that would work out to about $1,500 per refugee if they all received travel loans (and I have no way of knowing if they did or not; the loan amount per refugee would be higher if some of them paid their own way here).

And -- most significant of all -- ECUSA will retain 25% of everything it collects from the refugees to pay for its "administrative costs", or (if all loans outstanding at the end of 2013 are collected) a total of $ 2,835,000 to its bottom line -- a figure, however, which is not reported in the audited statements.

Not all of that $2.8 million for loan collection will come into ECUSA's coffers in the space of a year -- the loans are paid back over a number of years. To find out just how much ECUSA earns each year from this unusual source, we have to go to the triennial budgets, with their figures for what was actually earned.

From the Presiding Bishop's annotated budget proposal for the 2013-2015 triennium, we learn (p. 2, line 13) that the Church earned a total of $2,163,008 from its debt collection efforts during the 2010-2012 triennium, and incurred collection costs for that same period (p. 5, line 87) of just $983,442. As a debt collector from 2010 through 2012, therefore, the Church added a total of $1,179,566 to its bottom line, or approximately $393,189 of pure profit per year.

And from the latest year-end statement of operations for calendar 2014, we learn (line 13, column 4) that in just its most recent year, ECUSA took in a total of $933,218 from the refugees it assisted -- some $223,218 over budget, and attributed in the note at the far right to "Exceptional performance by the Refugee Loan Collections staff." At the same time, its loan collection expenses for 2014 (first page, fourth line from the bottom) were just $548,343, for a net surplus from debt collecting of  $384,875 -- so the profitability of refugee loans continues at almost the same pace, thanks to the staff's extraordinary efforts.

Does that claim of a "$2.4 million surplus" in 2014 still look the same to you? Was it achieved, in part, on the backs of the refugees whom the Government paid ECUSA to assist?

What in the world is a church doing in the debt collection business, and pocketing more than twice its actual costs of collection while doing so? Would that not be considered excessive, even for a loan shark?

And remember -- the money the Government lets the Church keep for its troubles reduces what the Government is repaid on its loans, so that the Church in reality is profiting handsomely at the taxpayers' expense -- to say nothing of the refugees whom the Church so efficiently cajoles into making payments.
 
A search of the Church's digital archives for resolutions authorizing debt collection activities by EMM turned up nothing as far back as 1976, which is long before the current State Department relocation programs were in place. All I could find was this Resolution 1997-D081, which stated:
Resolved, That the 72nd General Convention of the Episcopal Church charge Episcopal Migration Ministries with the responsibility for developing and implementing an advocacy agenda which reflects the concern of the Episcopal Church that the U.S. Government uphold a generous program of refugee admissions in response to the worldwide refugee crisis, maintain a just system of asylum for persecuted persons seeking safety in the United States, and ensure that needy immigrants are not unfairly denied access to essential services and benefits.
Is EMM actually carrying out this charge? ECUSA needs to be more up-front with its members about how much it takes in from its EMM operations, and justify why those revenues (and related expenses, which -- apart from debt collection -- are always projected to balance exactly, since they are 100% reimbursed by the Government) are needed by the Church, per se.

ECUSA already operates a separate non-profit organization, Episcopal Relief and Development, with which it furnishes disaster relief and help to those abroad, and through which it strives to meet its Millennium Development Goals. Perhaps that is where it should transfer its loan collection activities, as well -- if indeed, it seems appropriate at all for a non-profit organization to be in the debt collection business (pace, Archbishop Welby).





Thursday, April 16, 2015

Legal News from South Carolina and San Joaquin

Late yesterday the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a brief order transferring to itself the jurisdiction over the appeal filed by ECUSA and its rump group (ECSC) from the February 3, 2015 judgment and order against them entered by Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein. ECUSA and ECSC had themselves requested the transfer of the case in order to expedite a final decision in the case by the State's highest court, without having to wait for any intermediate decision from the Court of Appeals.

The Court's order declined further to expedite the case's briefing schedule, set oral argument in the case for September 23, 2015, and then added: "No further extensions of time will be granted." In view of the great number of parties to the case (Bishop Lawrence's Episcopal Diocese and thirty-six of its member parishes are all respondents in the appeal, represented each by their own attorneys), the Court's order relaxes some of the filing and service requirements, and urges the attorneys to compress the multi-volume record on appeal to just the documents necessary for meaningful review of the decision below.

This order will enable a written, final decision in the case to be rendered before the end of the current calendar year, and should be welcome news to those on both sides who want to put this litigation behind them, and get on with the real work of the Church.

Also, in the federal case in South Carolina, Bishop Mark Lawrence has asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to grant a rehearing, either by the three-judge panel that decided the case a few weeks ago, or else by all the judges of the Circuit Court sitting en banc (as a group). The petition is based largely on technical distinctions between the panel's recent decision and earlier cases, both reported and unreported, from the Fourth Circuit which Bishop Lawrence's attorneys maintain are inconsistent with that decision. Whether or not the petition is granted, the underlying federal case should be dead in the water pending the outcome of the case in the South Carolina Supreme Court, for the reasons discussed in this earlier post.

Finally, in the San Joaquin case (which is currently also on appeal), ECUSA and its rump diocese had filed a motion with the trial court in Fresno that sought to have all of the real and personal property transferred into their possession immediately, without waiting for the outcome of the current appeal. But the trial court yesterday issued a tentative ruling denying that motion, explaining that it lacked the authority to do what the plaintiffs asked. Since plaintiffs did not request oral argument after the issuance of the ruling, that tentative decision now becomes the final ruling of the court on the plaintiff's motion, and the status of all the property pending the appeal will not change.

The entities that hold the bare legal title to that property (in trust for the Anglican Diocese and its member parishes) have filed their opening brief in that appeal. The ECUSA parties' brief is due to be filed by June 1, after which I shall have more to say about the appeal.