In a recent oped at Fox News, Daniel Blomberg and Eric Rassbach argued that IRS has a long history of targeting that has focused mainly on houses of worship. It uses ‘the crushing power to deny or revoke the non-profit status of a synagogue, church, or mosque if it says something the IRS decides is too “political.”‘
There are two ways the targeting works. One way is for an outside group, often one that is anti-religion, to file a complaint asking the IRS to investigate a church they don’t like. The IRS responds to the complaint by opening an investigation and asking the church often hundreds of questions about its activities, with the threat of revocation of non-profit status. This is what lawyers call “selective enforcement” and it is unconstitutional. No one should be singled out in this way, especially because of collusion between the IRS and outside groups with an ax to grind.
The second way the censorship starts is for IRS officials to take their lead from high government officials, including the President, to decide which groups to target for disfavor.
This is apparently what happened to the “tea party” groups, but religious groups have also been targeted in this way.
Don’t believe it? Just ask Billy Graham. Last fall, the famed Christian evangelist publicly advocated on behalf of a ballot measure in his home state of North Carolina, taking a position that the President and other high government officials publicly opposed. The tax man was knocking at the door almost immediately. And while the expensive, time-consuming audit eventually ended without any finding of wrongdoing by Graham, a message was sent to every other religious group that might oppose government policy: the IRS can use its audit powers to harass you or shut you down simply for saying what you believe. That kind of intimidation is wrong–and unconstitutional.
While some Christian churches and organizations were targeted by the Obama administration for audits because of their alleged political activities, others were actually encouraged to to engage in political speech in church. Encouraged by members of the Obama administration.
Last June, during the Obama campaign’s election year push to mobilize black churches in support of his reelection, Michelle Obama, herself made an appeal to black churchgoers to get informed about politics. At a religious conference in Nashville, she said that there is no better place than church to talk about political issues.
“To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better – no place better,” Obama told the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s 49th general conference, held in in Nashville, Tenn.
“Because ultimately, these are not just political issues – they are moral issues,” she said. “They’re issues that have to do with human dignity and human potential, and the future we want for our kids and our grandkids.”
“We will have representatives from nine denominations who actually pastor somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 million people,” he said, “and we’re going to first of all equip them with the information they need to know about what they can say and what they cannot say in the church that would violate their 501c3 status with the IRS.” [Emphasis added]
While they won’t specifically tell people whom to vote for, the respected speakers will discuss “draconian” (hint) voter identification laws, and the Congressional Black Caucus expects the move will only help the Obama’s campaign.
That same month Holder gave a speech before the Council of Black Churches reminding the audience of its history fighting for equal voting right for minorities.
The attorney general told them his office is “aggressively” taking on the task of protecting that right, including challenging several state lawsuits that would overturn key provisions of the Voting Rights Act involving redistricting in Southern states and strict new voter ID laws that strips away the guarantee of equal access to the ballot box in the 2012 election.
Valerie Jarrett traveled to Atlanta, GA to speak at MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in January of 2012.
On the Sunday before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett visited Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to give a political speech, in support of her boss (Barack Obama) and congressional Democrats:
“Teachers, and firefighters, and policemen, whose jobs are now in jeopardy because Congress–well let me be specific–because the Republicans in Congress,” Jarrett told the crowd. According to the CBS affiliate in Atlanta, at this point, “Before she could finish her sentence, people in the congregation were laughing, and applauding.”
I think it’s very safe to assume that the Ebenezer Baptist Church was not audited as a result of that politicking.