Several members of Congress are demanding the Treasury Department’s inspector general look into a decision by the IRS denying tax-exempt status to a religious organization on the basis that Bible teachings “are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates.”
That decision came recently from the Internal Revenue Service in the case involve Christians Engaged in Texas. The organization had sought 501(c)3 status in order to operate properly, but the IRS, in May, said it wouldn’t be allowed.
The manipulation of IRS designations for various conservative, Christian and tea party style groups dates back to the Barack Obama administration, when federal agents badgered faith organizations that wanted to operate with unreasonable requests for details, including personal information about participants.
The tactic was to simply delay, delay, delay, so they could not operate during the 2012 presidential election, during which issues of faith were at hand.
Now Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, James Comer, R-Ky., and Mike Johnson, R-La., wrote to the agency’s inspector general for tax administration demanding a review.
“On May 18, 2021, Stephen Martin, Lois Lerner’s successor as Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, denied a religious group called Christians Engaged 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code exempts from federal taxation groups that are ‘organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or education purposes’ that do not participate or intervene in a political campaign. Martin explained that ‘bible (sic) teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under [Internal Revenue Code] 501(c)(3),'” the members wrote.
“Christians Engaged is a Christian organization that seeks ‘to awaken, motivate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ to: pray for our nation regularly, vote in every election to impact our culture, [and] engage our hearts in some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation.’ The organization engages with the public on public policy issues through the lens of the Bible’s teachings and sincerely held religious beliefs,” they said.
They continued, “The IRS’s denial of tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged on the assumption that bible (sic) teaching is an activity ‘typically’ associated with Republicans is wrong and outrageous.
“We must ensure the IRS is not reverting back to its targeting of conservative tax-exempt groups. Government agencies that work for the American public should not be in the business of violating citizens’ constitutional rights. The Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction over civil liberties under House Rule X. The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the principal oversight committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and has broad authority to investigate ‘any matter’ at ‘any time’ under House Rule X. Therefore, we urge you to immediately review the IRS’s denial of tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged and whether the IRS has denied similarly situated applicants on the basis of constitutionally protected speech.”
The IRS rejection letter, in fact, claimed, “You educate Christians on what the bible (sic) says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The bible (sic) teachings are typically affiliated with the D party and candidates.”
Martin’s letter explains that when he refers to the “D” party he is referring to the Republican party.
He also criticizes the group for the fact its leaders previously were active in various Republican events, and provide leadership for other Christian organizations, such as Promise Keepers.
He charged, “You educate individuals on how to choose between imperfect candidates as well as instruct individuals that parties matter. They should look at the party they represent and the core beliefs and values of that party. They should look at what the candidate says about the issues and see if their beliefs align with the Bible. Individuals should know the bible (sic), vote the Bible and vote on values.”
First Liberty Institute is challenging the decision, explaining, “Martin’s conclusion that Christians Engaged engages in political campaign intervention relies on the mistaken assumption that an exempt organization may not engage in issue advocacy. Indeed, if exempt organizations may only articulate public policy positions on issues as to which no political party or candidate has an opinion, then the regulations recognizing that exempt organizations may advocate positions on public policy issues have no meaning.”
It continued, “Martin deems Christians Engaged’s purpose not educational because he evidently associates biblical positions on national issue with Republicans, not because of the methodology Christians Engaged employs. This directly contradicts the IRS’s procedure and regulations.”
Thus, the organization charges, Martin’s denial of the application “discriminates against its viewpoint in violation of the First Amendment. … Likewise, Director Martin’s discrimination against particular religions – here, all religions whose beliefs are grounded in the Bible – violates the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
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