Can non-profits discriminate against children? - Mothering Forums
Talk Amongst Ourselves > Can non-profits discriminate against children?
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:02 PM 05-19-2008
I live very close to a non-profit intentional community and even lived there before I had children. There was a devastating fire over a decade ago and the community has been rebuilding since. This has placed a huge emphasis on building and there has not been much space for children. Various people living up there have put forth the effort to make it more child-friendly but they are all gone now. I won't go into all the details but there are many instances where I have been made to feel unwelcome because of my children. I have also been welcomed, it's a tricky thing to explain.

Anyhow, I was up there a few weeks ago and was looking at the notes from their spring business meetings and saw something where children are only allowed to spend the night 13 nights this summer. It feels like discrimination to me and I certainly am having my issues around it. Does anyone know if a non-profit can decide things like this or is it illegal? It is a spiritual facility and I know churches are exempt from breastfeeding laws so I am curious if this place can do this based on that fact.

Just to acknowledge the obvious (to me at least), let me say that it is very ironic that a spiritual center not welcoming children because those living there can't handle it is a bit off to me. It's like the meditator leaving the town because it is too loud to meditate then finding the birds too loud in the forest.


sugarlumpkin's Avatar sugarlumpkin 07:13 PM 05-19-2008
Private communities, like retirement homes, 50+ planned communities, et cetera, can dictate who can live there, yes.
Ruthla's Avatar Ruthla 07:18 PM 05-19-2008
Yup, they have the right to do this... and you have the right to not go there anymore.
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:22 PM 05-19-2008
Just to clarify, this is an intentional community that is open in the summer to guests, stewards, possible full time residents, etc. It isn't private as in being owned or anything like that.
What they are doing is saying children cannot stay nights even if their parents are there paying for a camp/workshop/retreat.

It seems like non-profits have strict rules to follow so I ought to be able to find out more.
shayinme's Avatar shayinme 07:30 PM 05-19-2008
I am a non-profit consultant and grant-writer and have been in the non-profit sector for over a decade and have never heard of any prohibitions about discriminating against kids. I would say that it depends on the organization's mission, I have worked at facilities that for obvious reasons would not allow kids (men's shelter that houses sex offenders).

While I can see why you are upset there is nothing they are doing that based off what you stated that strikes me as odd. Also some non-profits are privately funded in that they don't take government funding, I think you are confusing them being a non-profit presumably a 501c3 with taking government funds. Not all 501c3's take government funding.

shayinme's Avatar shayinme 07:31 PM 05-19-2008
Originally Posted by stretchmark View Post
It seems like non-profits have strict rules to follow so I ought to be able to find out more.
Specifically you can find out if they are a 501c3 and then go to the IRS website, to find out how they are funded you would need to look up their 990 tax return and you can access that via

stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:37 PM 05-19-2008
Wow, thanks. I thought they were a 501c3 but am not sure. They do operate entirely on donations, sales of books/ goods they make, and "tuition" which is paid from those living there (full time residents only) to have lifetime membership.

I will look into it but if any of the above clarifies their status for you, please respond.
notneb's Avatar notneb 07:40 PM 05-19-2008
From my experience living in and serving as a board member of a non-profit housing cooperative:

They're almost certainly within their rights to make and enforce rules about who they will accept as residents and guests as long as they followed the procedures set out in their by-laws to create or amend community rules. There should also be a process laid out in the by-laws for you to express your disapproval of the new rule.
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:40 PM 05-19-2008
Oh, and the mission is to serve the awakening of consciousness and be sustainable (forget the actual wording).
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:44 PM 05-19-2008
OK, they are a 501c3 public charity.
Thanks for that info.
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:46 PM 05-19-2008
What info am I looking for on the 990?
Ruthla's Avatar Ruthla 07:51 PM 05-19-2008
Originally Posted by stretchmark View Post
Oh, and the mission is to serve the awakening of consciousness and be sustainable (forget the actual wording).
It's not too much of a stretch for them to say that their intent is for adults to meditate and whatnot, and child visitors can be a distraction from that.

By allowing kids to stay up to 13 nights overnight, they ARE making some accomodations for parents to be there with their kids.
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 07:55 PM 05-19-2008
The only problem is that there is nothing saying anything about adults meditating. It's a totally open spiritual place honoring all paths. The founders had 4 children and children have lived there many years. It seems to have gotten worse over the years only having one child or none and now seeinmg rules about how little they are welcome is kind of harsh.
sapphire_chan's Avatar sapphire_chan 08:06 PM 05-19-2008
I'd be more concerned about the change in attitude. I don't think that an outsider could do much, but people who regularly use the facility and contribute could attend the meetings and bring up questions about the new direction.
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 09:42 PM 05-19-2008
Good point sapphire_chan. They have asked me to be a continuing member and maybe that is where I should start. I do pay tuition, volunteer time, and take one workshop a year. It's a hard thing because this community started in 1968 and was started by people who did acid with Tim Leary and Ram Dass and were obviously hippies. The community had lots of kids back in the day but I guess it has evolved now into what it currently is. Everyone around here says you can't change the place. Everyone that comes up the mountain has their own idea/agenda for the place and that it is what it is.

It's hard too because the resident body changes every year with a few core people staying several years (there is a cap on 7 years) so the feel/rules/ change so often.