Commission Overview

The Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations analyzed input from a variety of sources and, after careful deliberation, issued a report to Senator Charles Grassley addressing key issues emanating from the Senator’s staff report dated January 6, 2011. The Commission operated under the authority of the ECFA board of directors.

The framework of the Commission’s work can best be described in terms of inputs and outputs. The inputs received came from a variety of sources including the Senator and his staff, Treasury Department (IRS) officials, legal experts, religious sector representatives, nonprofit sector representatives, and the general public. The outputs included periodic reports and accountability to ECFA’s board of directors, periodic updates to the public and to Senator Grassley, and the Commission’s reports to the Senator.

Three formal panels – the Panel of Legal Experts, the Panel of Religious Sector Representatives, and the Panel of Nonprofit Sector Representatives – were convened to discuss the issues and provide input to the Commission. Members of each panel were requested to submit position papers addressing the key issues. The position papers conformed to specific format criteria, including a requirement that the basis for positions espoused be clearly articulated and, where applicable, supported by citations of reference. The position paper submission process for the Panel of Legal Experts was more robust. After position papers were submitted, other members of the Panel of Legal Experts were encouraged to submit rebuttal papers in response to position papers with which they disagreed. After rebuttal papers were submitted, the authors of the original position papers were provided an opportunity to respond to the rebuttals.

The Panel of Religious Sector Representatives included individuals who represented various religious faiths including, but not necessarily limited to, Protestant Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism, and Islam. Special emphasis was placed on engaging leaders who represent large segments of their respective faith groups.

The Commission obtained input from the general public on the issues informally and by hosting an electronic Town Hall Meeting in February 2012.

Position papers (including related submissions in connection with papers submitted by members of the Panel of Legal Experts) that conformed to the requirements for submission were published by the Commission on its website ( Positions espoused in the papers were analyzed by ECFA staff and the Commission’s legal counsel and presented to the Commission for consideration.

The Commission issued Part I of its report late in 2012 and issued Part II of its report in 2013.

As host and sponsor of the Commission, ECFA was responsible for the costs of the logistics of the Commission’s work.