Polygamy foes: Their registration and business license are not up to par
An outspoken anti-polygamy group has solicited public donations for years but never has legally registered in Utah as a nonprofit organization.
Tapestry Against Polygamy, whose founders claim to have helped “hundreds,” has received at least $152,000 in donations without being registered with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection. It also let its business registration with the state Department of Commerce lapse in 2003.
Vicky Prunty, who with Rowenna Erickson founded Tapestry in 1998, said Wednesday she was unaware of the state filing requirement and will “file those documents as soon as possible.”
“What we have tried to do is alert the public to the crimes that are occurring within polygamy and we’re working out of our kitchens to do it,” Prunty said. “Because we don’t have an office manager or receptionist, some of those things may not have been taken care of.”
The IRS requires nonprofits to file a 990 tax form if it collects more than $25,000. Tapestry last filed in 2001, but hasn’t reached the reporting limit since then, Prunty said.
One of Utah’s most vocal activist groups, Tapestry regularly holds news conferences at the Capitol and appears on national television shows to air stories of abuse in polygamous groups. Prunty and Erickson are both former plural wives who say they were mistreated in their polygamous relationships.
They also contend that the LDS Church has ignored polygamy in Utah and that elected officials have failed to mount prosecutions and misused funds intended to help people who say they’ve been abused in polygamous relationships.
Tapestry has been particularly critical of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the Safe Passage Program his office set up to bring social services to polygamous groups. Tapestry refused to join the program’s Safety Net Committee because it includes individuals who support the religious practice of polygamy.
Tapestry also has increasingly spoken against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accusing the faith of ignoring problems caused by polygamy. The LDS Church abandoned polygamy in 1890, partly as a condition of statehood, and excommunicates those who practice it.
Earlier this month, Tapestry sent out a press release calling polygamy a “social epidemic” and saying that, “Utah LDS state leaders are in-the-closet polygamists who through their sanctioning of polygamy for decades give a good ole’ wink-wink to its crime.”
In May, Tapestry board members claimed the Attorney General’s Office has misused funds from a $700,000 federal grant it received to provide social services to women and children from polygamous communities.
“There is not one dime they can show us that they’ve used to help women and children leaving,” Andrea Moore-Emmett, a Tapestry board member, said in an Associated Press report.
The Safe Passage Program, however, has reported spending $43,624 to help nearly 170 women and children as of December.
According to its IRS filings, Tapestry received $81,191 in donations between 1999 and 2001 and spent $2,336 on “refugee support” in 2000-2001. Prunty said Tapestry received another $71,000 from 2002 to the present and about $9,235 of that was spent on “refugee support,” adding that she couldn’t not account for other expenditures on short notice.
Most of the assistance the group offers is putting people in touch with social service providers and attorneys. It has on occasion given cash assistance, but “we don’t generally give people money,” Prunty said.
As with most charities, much of Tapestry’s money has gone for such things as office expenses, accounting fees and travel. Prunty, Tapestry’s executive director, received $8,330 over 2000-2001, according to the filings.
Tapestry also took on Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch in May, saying in a press release that it wanted “an accounting of the federal grant money that Senator Hatch has supported.”
“We would also like a federal investigation of the dereliction of duty of the Utah State and national representatives who have shirked their responsibilities at the cost of women and children,” Tapestry said.
Francine Giani, director of the Division of Consumer Protection, said such accountability is exactly why the state requires any one who solicits public funds to register and make ongoing financial reports.
“The purpose is to provide information to the public so they can make an informed choice about where they want to donate money,” Giani said. “Consumers need to really take some time, do your homework, to make sure the dollar you are giving is getting to the use you want.”
In Utah, any person or group that solicits public donations is required to file an application with the state and, if approved, submit financial reports quarterly during its first year and then annually in subsequent years. On June 23, the consumer division wrote a letter giving Tapestry 10 days to comply with the law, Giani said. Tapestry no longer uses its former business address, and Prunty said she had not seen the letter.
On its Web site, Tapestry describes itself as a nonprofit and states that donations are tax deductible. It provides a link for online credit card donations and says “a $100 donation will keep our work continuing for one day.” The group claims to have 500,000 supporters worldwide.
Two authors – Moore-Emmett, whose book God’s Brothel came out in 2004, and John R. Llewellyn, whose book Polygamy’s Rape of Rachael Strong debuted this year – have pledged a portion of their proceeds to Tapestry.
In the foreword to his book, Llewellyn states that, “The only advocate devoted specifically to helping physically and emotionally damaged women leaving polygamy is non-profit Tapestry Against Polygamy.”
There are at least two other groups in Utah – The HOPE Organization in St. George and the Diversity Foundation in Sandy – dedicated to a similar purpose; both are properly registered with the state.
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