The IRS Targeting of Religious Groups Goes Back Decades

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IRS Scandal

An article on the Fox News website delineates the intimidation tactics the IRS has used to bludgeon religious organizations and religious leaders for decades. The authors point out that the IRS targets the organizations or individuals in one of two ways: either by responding to a complaint by an anti-religious group and asking the religious group or individual to justify their non-profit status, or for the IRS to carry out the wishes of upper echelon federal government officials who find the religious perspective offensive.

The article site various targets over the years:

  1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950’s who was targeted with an audit for speaking out about civil rights;
  2. An Episcopal minister from Southern California who received a multi-year audit after excoriating President Bush for invading Iraq;
  3. The legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who was hit with an audit last fall after he supported a ballot measure in his home state of North Carolina that clashed with the White House.

The authors close with a stinging condemnation of the IRS’s warning to religious people “Not to do it again.” They write:

But not do what again? Not preach about moral matters that have a political connection? That would mean that religious issues stop being religious once a politician starts talking about them. More importantly, where does the IRS get the authority to override the First Amendment?  If freedom of speech and freedom of religion are to mean anything, government bureaucrats can’t be allowed to decide what rabbis, priests, imams, and pastors  can preach. Religious people can and do disagree over whether pastors, priests, or rabbis should preach about the political issues of the day. That is their right. But surely all Americans can agree -- especially after the abuses that have come to light in the past week--that the time for the tax man to censor sermons must come to an end.


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