Culture

House Republicans Demand Treasury Watchdog Investigate IRS Denial of Faith Group's Exempt Application

(IRS)

Well, that didn’t take long! Three key House Republicans are demanding that J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA), investigate the recent IRS decision to deny a faith group’s tax-exemption application because prayer allegedly helps Republicans.

As this column previously reported — “Lois Lerner is BAACCCKKK!!!” — Stephen Martin, who succeeded Lerner as chief of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, denied the application of Christians Engaged because prayer and Bible study benefit the GOP:

“You do not qualify as an organization described in IRS Section 501(c)(3). You engage in prohibited political campaign intervention … You are also not operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 50l (c)(3), because you operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the D party …

“… you educate believers on  national  issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. 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 the D party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under lRC Section 50I(c)(3).”

As I said before, I am not making this up. Martin really did say that. So now Rep. Jim Jordan, the fiery Ohio Republican who is the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, is demanding an investigation by TIGTA.

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Joining Jordan in the demand are Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the top GOPer on the oversight panel’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

With the odds favoring a Republican takeover of the House in November 2022, Martin may well get as many opportunities to testify before Congress and explain his decision as Lerner did in 2013.

As tough as it was on Lerner, who obnoxiously and repeatedly denied something as obvious as the sneer so often seen on her face when she addressed Jordan and other Republicans, Martin is likely to have an even rougher time of it.

Why? Because Martin overtly put in writing for all the world to see in 2021 the same hateful anti-Christian, anti-conservative bigotry that could only be inferred from Lerner’s actions in targeting Tea Party, conservative, and evangelical exemption applicants.

Where Lerner and colleagues simply subjected such applicants to incessant bureaucratic questions and document production demands as a means of delaying the process past the 2010 and 2012 elections, Martin just came right out and stated the outrageous and unconstitutional claim that prayer and Bible study activities are somehow partisan.

Then he stamped a great big red “DENIED” on the Christians Engaged application.

Jordan, Comer, and Johnson aren’t standing idly by while the tax agency resumes kicking around tax-exemption applicants with political and spiritual views the bureaucrats cannot abide.

“Over 10 years after the IRS began targeting Tea Party groups, it seems the IRS could be up to its old tricks. We ask that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) immediately review this matter,” the trio of Republicans said in a June 30 letter to George.

“The IRS’s denial of tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged on the assumption that Bible teaching is an activity ‘typically’ associated with Republicans is wrong and outrageous,” the signers wrote.

“Federal law allows a religious group to obtain tax-exempt status. IRS regulations permit a tax-exempt organization to ‘take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office.’

“Christians Engaged is not affiliated with a specific political party or candidate. The group’s religious teachings and educational material do not amount to support for a specific political party or candidate.”

In addition, the signers pointed out, “the IRS’s ruling violates fundamental First Amendment rights of citizens affiliated with Christians Engaged. The IRS granted former First Lady Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote organization 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. This group encourages its ‘supporters and volunteers to take action through voting, advocating for their rights, and holding their elected officials accountable.’

“The IRS’s denial of tax-exempt status to Christians Engaged while granting exempt status to another organization that ‘encourage[s] civic engagement from different viewpoints’ demonstrates the IRS’s impermissible viewpoint discrimination.’”

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Christians Engaged is appealing Martin’s decision and is represented in the process by the First Liberty Institute, the Plano, Texas-based public interest law firm that specializes in First Amendment religious liberty litigation.

Don’t be surprised if Martin delays consideration of the appeal and cites the TIGTA investigation as the justification for doing so. But that could backfire because it freezes the current situation in place, which could be a significant assist to George.

And speaking of George, Martin isn’t the only federal employee on the spot in this new IRS scandal. If there is even a hint of TIGTA stalling or playing the bureaucratic buddy system game, Jordan, Comer and Johnson won’t stand idly by on that, either.