The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied a tax-free status to a Texas-Christian non-profit on the grounds that "Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican party and candidates."
CBN News reports that "Christians Engaged," an organization devoted to educating and empowering Christians to pray for the country and its elected leaders was refused tax status by IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin.
"Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations," states the letter signed by Martin. "The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3)."
Based on their website, "Christians Engaged" is an educational, Christian, and non-partisan organization that promotes Christian values. The group offers nonpartisan religious and civic education, with a particular emphasis on encouraging and teaching Christians to be active citizens as a component of their faith. They were officially established in July 2019 as a Texas nonprofit group.
"Organizations that serve exempt purposes do not cease to serve public interests when they advocate positions on public policy issues or share opinions on controversial issues," reads an argument in the appeal.
It also states that by concluding that Christians Engaged does not meet the operational test, Director Martin errs by creating an unfounded requirement that exempt organizations "be neutral on public policy issues," incorrectly concluding that Christians Engaged primarily serves private agenda, and violating the First Amendment's freedom of expression as well as the Establishment Clause.
Additionally, Lea Patterson, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said that "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. The IRS violated its own regulations in denying tax exempt status because Christians Engaged teaches biblical values."
"We just want to encourage more people to vote and participate in the political process. How can anyone be against that?" comments Christians Engaged Founder and President Bunni Pounds.
Not the first time
In what seems to be an intentional move, previous reports show that the Internal Revenue Service has repeatedly done the same thing against conservative groups and Christian organizations.
For instance, in a court settlement reached in 2017, the Internal Revenue Service "expresses its sincere apology" for mistreating a conservative nonprofit named Linchpins of Liberty as well as 40 other conservative organizations in their applications for tax-exempt status, as per NPR.
Similarly, in a second case, the NorCal Tea Party Patriots and 427 other organizations that had sued the Internal Revenue Service achieved a "substantial financial settlement" with the government.
In 2013, IRS employee Lois Lerner stated that conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status had been subjected to increased scrutiny because their names included terms such as "tea party" or "patriots."