The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) reportedly rejected the tax-exempt application for a Christian non-profit group in Texas in part because their teachings of the Bible and educational efforts are “typically affiliated” with the Republican Party.
The group – Christians Engaged – posted a copy of the rejection letter on the First Liberty website. First Liberty is a legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty.
In the letter, the IRS accuses Christians Engaged of campaign intervention – a no-no for non-profit organization of their type – stating that the groups spends a “substantial amount of time and resources devoted to activities that are typical of an action organization.”
Stephen Martin, the Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS, proceeds to outline some of those values in the rejection letter.
Critics have noted the wording in the rejection letter seems to imply that the very message of the Bible is “Republican,” therefore teaching it amounts to campaign activity:
“Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible 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 teachings are typically affiliated with Republican party and its candidates.”
The IRS rejection of tax-exempt status for the group focuses on their alleged political activism.
The website for Christians Engaged encourages members to vote and pray for elected officials, but they also seek to “engage our hearts in some form of POLITICAL EDUCATION OR ACTIVISM for the furtherance of our nation.”
That political activism is mentioned throughout the IRS letter, as well as references to the group leadership being associated with the Republican Party.
“You operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the Republican Party,” Martin writes.
Federal law specifically states that religious organizations seeking tax-exempt status “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
The IRS letter argues that Christians Engaged is “engaged in prohibited political campaign invention” and is “not operated exclusively for religious and educational purposes.”
Still, it’s remarkable to hear the IRS argue that they take exception to the fact that the Bible leans right.
Interestingly, the Black Lives Matter Foundation in Santa Clarita, California has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, according to ProPublica.
Trepidation toward the IRS may continue to grip conservatives due to the scandal under former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden in which the department was used to target their political opponents.
The Department of Justice reviewed the scandal in which Tea Party organizations were targeted by the Obama IRS for more rigorous tax-exempt scrutiny. They were discovered to have used terms such as “Tea Party” or “Patriots” to delay applications.
The DOJ announced in October of 2017 that a settlement with those groups had been reached.
Senator Elizabeth Warren just last month introduced legislation that would nearly triple the budget of the IRS.
In addition to the massive budget increase, Warren’s bill would expand the reporting requirements for banks to disclose information on their clients.
The legislation proposes increased tax penalties for underpayment on those earning over $2 million and adds additional charges for those having misstatements on their returns.
First Liberty Institute Counsel Lea Patterson argued against the IRS decision, accusing the IRS of denying tax-exempt status based on the Bible being more closely associated with Republicans.
“Only a politicized IRS could see Americans who pray for their nation, vote in every election, and work to engage others in the political process as a threat,” she said.
First Liberty has filed an appeal on behalf of Christians Engaged.
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