Canyonville Christian Academy teacher alleges discrimination in national competition

May 12, 2017 GMT

CANYONVILLE — A teacher at Canyonville Christian Academy has filed a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service alleging religious discrimination.

For the past two years, the CCA team competing in the Stock Market Game has not been invited to participate in a national investing competition called the Capitol Hill Challenge. The contest is organized by the SIFMA Foundation.

The school had competed in the CHC for six years before 2016. The coach and team members felt SIFMA excluded them because they were from a private christian school, so Roger Shaffer, the team’s coach and teacher, filed a Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) against SIFMA for discriminating against religious-based schools.

In the Capitol Hill Challenge, which began Feb. 6 and ends today, thousands of junior high and high school teams manage a hypothetical portfolio of $100,000 to invest in real stocks, mutual funds and bonds. These teams are matched up with members of the U.S. Congress during the competition.

“The Capitol Hill Challenge program is offered by invitation from the SIFMA Foundation, with priority consideration for registration given to public schools,” the SIFMA website reads.

Shaffer said since many non-public high schools are religious-based, “this means that SIFMA Foundation is now discriminating against a protected group under IRS laws covering 501(c)3 organizations.”

When reached, SIFMA Foundation spokesperson Liz Pierce told The News-Review the foundation has no comment.

After finding out the CCA team was not invited again in 2017, Shaffer and the team members contacted Peter DeFazio, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Oregon’s members to Congress. According to Shaffer, staff from DeFazio and Merkley’s offices responded by phone, indicating it would take investigations of the SIFMA Foundation to pursue the matter, which members of Congress do not have the resources to conduct.

“Based on the recommendations of DeFazio and Merkley, we sent off the IRS referral form 13909 with material outlining the alleged discrimination,” Shaffer said.

Since then, the IRS acknowledged the referral and explained to the team it can’t disclose whether it has started an investigation or the status of any investigation.

The SIFMA website lists the rankings of the total 3,939 teams competing in the CHC. Shaffer said he went through the list looking for school names that would indicate a religious basis, and found none.

“Being familiar with statistics and sampling techniques, I think it is safe to say, with a high degree of confidence, that religious schools are now being systematically excluded from the competition,” Shaffer said. “Total elimination of religious-based schools is completely different from merely giving them a secondary position in the entry line.”