Two U.S. Senators are demanding answers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), after the agency improperly denied the Christian nonprofit organization Christians Engaged tax-exempt status.
As The Daily Citizen previously reported, the IRS denied Christians Engaged tax-exempt status for the strange explanation that “the Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party.”
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.” The group encourages believers to pray, vote and engage in political education.
The group first applied for tax exempt status in 2019. But on May 18, 2021, IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin denied their request, and said in a letter 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.”
Most confounding about the IRS’s rejection letter is that it censored the words “Republican” and “Word of God.”
After receiving its denial letter, Christians Engaged enlisted the help of First Liberty, who sent an appeal letter on behalf of the group. Just a few weeks later, the IRS reversed course and granted Christians Engaged the tax-exempt status it was seeking.
Now, in a letter written to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, Senators James Lankford, R-Okla., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked the inspector to review and report on the IRS’s procedures for deciding which organizations are granted tax-exempt status.
Eleven other Senators joined in sending the letter.
“Recent events surrounding the determination of tax-exempt status of Christians Engaged has focused our attention on the processes and procedures the IRS uses when determining whether a religious organization should be granted tax-exempt status, while simultaneously generating broad concern over the standard of the IRS’s neutral and respectful consideration of such applications,” the letter states.
The Senators ask the IRS to include the following in a report:
- Describe the process the IRS Exempt Organizations unit follows “when making determinations and issuing proposed adverse determination letters.”
- “Describe the training provided to IRS personnel who participate in tax-exempt status determination decisions or draft, related determination correspondence.”
- “Describe how the IRS evaluates its own review process to determine its success.”
- Explain why the quality control process the IRS has failed during the review process of Christians Engaged.
- “Make recommendations on ways the IRS can improve its processes, procedures, reviews, communication, and training regarding determinations of tax-exempt status for applicant organizations, as well as IRS correspondence with such organizations.”
The IRS’s treatment of Christians Engaged should concern every person of faith, regardless of their place on the public policy spectrum. When the government begins to single out certain religious organizations for disparate treatment, every person’s freedom to freely exercise their religion loses ground.
We can be thankful that Christians Engaged eventually got a just outcome, and hope that this letter will prevent this kind of incident in the future.
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