The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has denied a Christian group tax-exempt status because “the Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party.”
The group, Christians Engaged, is a nonprofit organization “that exists to educate and empower Christians to pray for our nation and elected officials, vote, and be civically engaged.”
According to its website, the group encourages believers to:
- “PRAY for our nation and elected officials regularly.”
- “VOTE in every election to impact our culture.”
- “ENGAGE our hearts in some form of POLITICAL EDUCATION OR ACTIVISM for the furtherance of our nation.”
Christians Engaged applied for tax exempt status in late 2019. Yet, the IRS denied its request on May 18, 2021. IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin, who denied the application, said that the group “engage[s] in prohibited political campaign intervention” and “operate[s] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”
In one of the strangest twists, in the IRS’ denial letter to Christians Engaged, the agency seems to have censored specific words, and then provided a “Legend” for it.
For example, the letter states on the second page, “You also educate believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant M.”
The “inerrant M”?
According to the legend provided on page one, the letter “M” is substituted for “Word of God.”
Additionally, the letter states on page four, “The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the D party and candidates.”
With “D party”?
The legend states that “D” is substituted for “Republican.”
First Liberty, the nations’ largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty, sent the IRS an appeal letter on behalf of Christians Engaged.
“The letter is just bizarre,” First Liberty Counsel Lea Patterson told The Daily Citizen. “Beyond the tortured legal arguments, it seems the IRS could barely bring themselves to actually say the phrase ‘Word of God,’ instead using a strange legend of letters that one really has to read to believe.”
“At the end of the day, however, the IRS is simply wrong on the law and contradicts its own regulations by denying Christians Engaged tax exempt status,” Patterson added.
“Director Martin wrongly concludes that Christians Engaged is ineligible for tax exempt status,” First Liberty wrote in its appeal letter. “Accordingly, Christians Engaged respectfully requests that the Office of Independent Appeals rescind the Proposed Denial Letter and issue a favorable determination letter.”
You can read the IRS denial letter here.
First Liberty’s appeal letter is available here.
This case may be reminiscent of the 2013 IRS scandal when the agency singled out conservative groups applying for tax exempt status for heightened scrutiny.
Former President Barack Obama had called the IRS’ actions “outrageous” and said those responsible at the agency had “to be held fully accountable.”
However, Lois Lerner, who was at the heart of the scandal and served as director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, the same unit now headed by Director Martin, faced no disciplinary action and later retired with a full pension.
Time will tell whether the IRS reverses course and grants Christians Engaged the tax-exempt status it seeks or whether this battle will end up in the court system.
Either way, Christians can be thankful that groups like First Liberty work tirelessly to defend religious liberty.
You can follow this author on Parler @ZachryMettler
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