This 2014 video shows Brunstad village, in Stokke local authority in Norway.
From the air, everything seems idyllic.
However, not everything may be idyllic. In Brunstad, there is the international headquarters of the controversial religious group Brunstad Christian Church; and a conference center owned by that church … and a holiday complex owned by that church …
Translated from Dutch NOS TV:
NRC daily: cultists on vacation at taxpayers’ expense
Two officials of the Ministry of Finance are helping the cult Norwegian Brethren [Brunstad Christian Church] with tax dodging. This reports the daily NRC Handelsblad, which is in possession of 200,000 emails from the brethren.
This is about a senior member of the audit department of the Finance Ministry and a coördinator of the Tax Administration, who are both members of the cult. Last weekend there was news that the cult allegedly uses child labour extensively.
The conservative Christian sect according to NRC Handelsblad widely dodges taxes through charitable foundations. In the Netherlands, the Norwegian Brethren have fifteen such foundations.
Those foundations are recognized by the tax authorities as General Benefit Institutions (ANBI). Thus, they do not pay taxes on income, and they may award tax-free transfers themselves. Also, donors can deduct their donations to the foundations.
NRC cites several examples of abuse of charitable status. Eg, Jan-Hein Staal, the leader of the brethren in the Netherlands, who resigned this week, is said have received € 1,000 a month from the foundation Christian Church in the Netherlands, though they say to the tax service that board members receive no money.
Another foundation of the brethren, Evangeliewerk Buitenland [Gospel Work Abroad] in Stadskanaal, is said to have been used to repay a million euros loan. This was done with money from donations on which no tax was paid because of the ANBI status. Also, the ‘disciples’ who donated the money could deduct that as a gift.
The loan from a Norwegian bank was used for the refurbishment of a holiday park in Brunstad, their worldwide religious center in Norway. The emails also show that the loan has been kept out of the financial documents.
The wrong hands
Also, the emails show according to NRC Handelsblad that brethren at taxpayers’ expense use holiday accommodation rentals at the park in Brunstad. They can deduct their stay as a “gift for missionary work”.
One of the advisers at the Finance department warns in an email that this information should not fall “into the wrong hands.” Otherwise the result might be that “we would be accused of tax evasion in the press, along lines of ‘people use Dutch tax money to pay their holiday homes in Norway.'”
The Norwegian Brethren [Brunstad Christian Church] are a global Christian community, which was founded in 1897 in Norway. The global center is in Brunstad, in southern Norway. The Dutch branch, which calls itself the Christian Church in the Netherlands, has 2000 members. Norwegian brethren consider themselves true believers, avoid as much as possible contact with outsiders and regard homosexuality as a sin.