Washington, D.C. — Several pro-life and Christian groups have come forward with allegations that they were among the numerous organizations that were unlawfully targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
As previously reported, approximately 75 groups were reportedly subjected to strict scrutiny during the 2012 presidential election simply because of certain key words in their applications, and were sent tedious questionnaires to dig further into their operations. In some cases, the IRS also requested lists of all donors and members’ names.
“It was an error in judgment, and it was not appropriate, but that’s what they did,” said Lois Lerner, department head for tax exempt organizations. “I think they were insensitive, or less sensitive than they should have been.”
But new developments indicate that questionable activity even predated the election.
Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family says that when his ministry submitted an application in 2011 for a new organization called Family Talk Action, he never received a response from the IRS. In January through March of this year, Dobson’s legal counsel attempted to contact agent R. Medley to inquire about the application, but could not reach the representative.
On March 19th, Medley returned the phone call, advising the attorney that the application would not likely be approved because the organization is “not educational” and rather appears to be a “partisan right-wing group.” According to reports, Medley also explained that the application presented concerns because the group was considered “political” since Dobson “criticized President Obama, who was a candidate.”
Franklin Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), states this his organization was also scrutinized last year after it ran newspaper ads in April supporting Biblical marriage.
“I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us,” Graham wrote to Barack Obama last week. “This is morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it ‘unAmerican.’ ”
He states that the organization had to spend an exorbitant amount of time and funds “servicing the IRS agents in our offices” over the issue.
The Thomas More Society in Illinois also states that the Coalition for Life in Iowa was inappropriately questioned by the government agency. In June 2009, the organization received a letter from the IRS questioning them about their pro-life activities outside of Planned Parenthood.
“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” it read. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”
As a result of the mounting number of organizations that have claimed to have been targeted by the IRS, a nationally-recognized Christian legal organization plans to file a lawsuit this week against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other entities over accusations that conservative, pro-life and Christian groups were purposefully targeted by the U.S. government.
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) states that he will be representing 27 Tea Party organizations who claim that they were unlawfully targeted by the IRS in regard to their request to obtain non-profit status.
“The IRS has refused to respond to our demand letter and has failed to approve the tax-exempt status of 10 of our clients, which are still being targeted and investigated even after the IRS admitted to the corrupt conduct,” he explained. “One of our clients received a follow-up IRS questionnaire seeking more intrusive information just days ago.”