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Evangelical Groups Claim IRS Practicing ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’

Memo Pad Politics

Evangelical Groups Claim IRS Practicing ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’


Even before the ink was dry on the Treasury Department Inspector General’s report on the IRS, Franklin Graham, son of evangelical icon Billy Graham, wrote a letter to President Obama, demanding that the president “take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America’s history—repressive government rule.”

Graham contended he was in possession of proof of this dire scenario: Last year, he says, the IRS conducted an audit of two tax-exempt organizations he runs, Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. To Graham, this is no coincidence. “[P]rofiling by the IRS,” he lectured the president, “was not limited to conservative organizations; indeed, it extended to religious charities—Jewish and Christian—as well.”

Since Graham’s letter hit the pages of Politico on Tuesday, a number of religious right organizations and individuals have claimed that the IRS targeted them for audits, held up their tax-exempt applications, or subjected them to intrusive questioning, all of which they claim amounts to orchestrated anti-Christian bias.

In Graham’s case, though, the IRS was doing exactly what it is supposed to do. His ministries, both 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, are barred from attempting to influence the outcome of elections, the precise activity for which Graham admits the agency audited them.

Graham’s situation is “quite a different kettle of fish” than the IRS review of the Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications, said Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Unlike 501(c)(4) organizations, which are allowed to devote less than 50% of their activities to influencing political campaigns, there is an absolute ban on electoral campaign activity by 501(c)(3) organizations.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, for example, has advised its followers to support only “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” That, along with the elder Graham’s promise to Mitt Romney to “do all I can to help you,” were attempts to influence the outcome of the election, said Boston.

Boston said he was actually “surprised” to read Graham’s claim that the IRS had audited his ministries “because we have reported a number of houses of worship for clearer cases of politicking,” with no apparent action by the IRS.

If a 501(c)(3) organization engages in politicking, said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy and Program at People for the American Way, “it is incumbent upon the IRS to do these investigations.” It has to “ask these questions,” but it “can’t single out a particular group because of their political views, ideology, or religious beliefs.” Any audit of the Graham group alone “doesn’t prove anything” about IRS bias against conservative groups, said Baker.

Observers on both sides of church-state separation issues say such investigations stalled after a 2009 federal court ruling ordering the agency to promulgate regulations under a statute that requires audits of churches be authorized by an “appropriate high-level Treasury official.” The IRS reportedly suspended all church audits until the adoption of rules to comply with the court ruling.

Opponents of the rule against church electioneering hope to provoke the IRS into conducting audits in order to generate a case to mount a Constitutional challenge to the rule.

Greg Scott, Senior Director of Media Relations at the Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious-right group that organizes Pulpit Freedom Sunday, during which pastors flaunt the rule in their pulpits, said that one church, Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minnesota, “was investigated briefly, but [the] file was closed due to what the IRS called a ‘procedural issue.’”

“Otherwise,” Scott said, “crickets.”

That would suggest that, contrary to claims that the IRS is “targeting” Christian groups, it has been hamstrung from investigating cases due to a bureaucratic failure to promulgate a rule required by the court ruling.

Graham, said Boston, seems to be “deliberately trying to confuse the issue to get play in the media.”

A number of religious-right organizations have jumped on the Graham bandwagon, claiming anti-Christian repression. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family who, after his retirement, launched a new radio program, maintains that the IRS asked inappropriate questions of his Family Talk Action as it applied for 501(c)(4) status. In a statement, Dobson claimed that an IRS employee told his lawyer she didn’t think the exemption would be granted because the group is “not educational”; it presented only one view, sounded like a “partisan right-wing group,” and was “political” because it “criticized President Obama, who was a candidate.” Dobson claims this is “viewpoint discrimination.”


  1. Dominick Vila May 20, 2013

    Viewpoint discrimination? What happened to separation of Church and State? No religious denomination has divine powers or provides a measurable service deserving of not paying taxes like the rest of us do. Should psychiatrists or counselors that give advice to troubled persons be exempt from paying taxes? Should government officials who spend their lives teaching children and helping the needy be exempt from paying taxes. Why are the cynical opportunists that take advantage of our innermost fears be exempt from paying taxes? The problem is not the IRS, but the legislation that allows materialistic organizations, such as churches, to take advantage of our society while a parent struggles to pay the bills and feed his/her family. Religion is a business and should be treated accordingly.

    1. JDavidS May 20, 2013

      Dominick… the idea of separation of church and state has been being chipped away at since the time of that fat fool Jerry Falwell. Clowns like Pat “God talks to me” Robertson, et al, continue their drive to insert religion and hard right dogma into our governance…unless, of course, it’s to their benefit not to do so. These idiots seem to read the Constitution just a tad differently than the rest of us. Leaving people like you and me and our ilk shaking our heads and wondering why.

      1. stcroixcarp May 20, 2013

        Didn’t Pat Robertson warn you about the evil spirits that might attach themselves to clothing bought at Goodwill Stores? How can you infer that this isn’t a benefit to you? Clearly these folks deserve a tax exempt status! (or a comfortable place in the county home)

    2. lana ward May 20, 2013

      Sambos’ IRS targeted all conseratives! I can’t believe you are communist enough to believe that is alright!! Sambo is a dictator, and the more he does the more it is proven. WTF is wrong with you that you approve. That BAST**D stole the election with the help of the IRS. And he is snooping on the AP and he lied about Fast and Furious and Benghazi. Something has to be done with this obnoxious, pompous, traitor jerk. I sure hope the Republicans follow this through, the communist monster dictator in MY WH has to go . WhatTF is he going to do next????

  2. Eleanore Whitaker May 20, 2013

    Just another attempt by the right to ram their religion down our throats. All that morality goes out the window when a playboy from SC and a 4 time adulterer from GA manage to squeak themselves back into politics. But let Clinton make one wrong move along the moral lines and it’s crucifixion for him. How hypocritical does the right plan to get?

    1. FredAppell May 20, 2013

      Actually, it happened a few times but I agree with your point. The important thing is that Clinton didn’t build his entire image and presidency on sexual
      morality the way the right wing does.

    2. lana ward May 20, 2013

      You dumb cu*t

  3. Ray Bowler May 20, 2013

    It is interesting to me that after Senator Obama (not yet a candidate for Pres.)It’s spoke at the Synad Of the United Church of Christ there was an immediate audit of the organization as having a political speech. This is a very liberal church organization but the IRS sure about after it over a simple matter of who the keynote speaker was. It isn’t just the evangelicals who get audited.

    Ray Bowler.

    1. Fern Woodfork May 20, 2013

      Where Was The Out Rage When They Target The NAACP??? Mitch The Bitch McConnelly Caught On Tape Wanting Investigations On Liberal Group Back In 1086!! But Now He Said He Was Wrong!!! What A Pile Of Crap!!

      1. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh May 20, 2013

        WOW! Back in 1086? I knew McConnell was old and decrepit, but not that old and decrepit!

        1. lana ward May 21, 2013

          Joe Biden is older than McConnell, is that what you think of him??

      2. lana ward May 20, 2013

        Your Sambo has now proven he is a dictator. Heil Sambo!!!

      3. howa4x May 20, 2013

        What about Acorn?

      4. lana ward May 21, 2013

        The NAACP are nothing but a bunch of terrorists. They’re against everything that has made America great. And if you leave their plantation, you are a racist

        1. Fern Woodfork May 21, 2013

          Your Low Life Butt Is Nothing But Pond Scum!! Plus You Like Eating Cat Do Do And Drink Cat Piss From All Those 33 Cats You Hoarding! A Whole New Meaning Of Growing Your Own Food Huh??

    2. FredAppell May 20, 2013

      Their just the one that bitch about it.

  4. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh May 20, 2013

    Here’s the Deal – if you are part of a 501(c)(3) – no politicking PERIOD! If you are part of a 501(c)(4) – politicking is allowed. What part of this don’t these right-wing, evangelical groups get?

  5. FredAppell May 20, 2013

    I knew this would happen, this story won’t die down because the right wing keep piling on the bull crap.

  6. rafibaby May 20, 2013

    I have news for Brother Graham and all others who agree with this view. We are already under repressive government rule. It’s being led by Rep John Boehner and all those republicans who follow this rule. It’s being financed by people like the Kock brothers and republican political action committees. The repression comes in the form of sabotaging our economy, small businesses, job programs, assistance for the needy, and anything the administration does to help people in need.

  7. JanNH May 20, 2013

    Frankin Graham’s Social Welfare Cause? Discrimination and Inequality for Some Americans.

    He got free postage and cheap radio and TV ads to spread Hatred thoroughout America. NOTE that they did NOT use Franklin’s photo — but instead USED his dad’s photo.

    1. lana ward May 20, 2013

      You are SATAN+ + + +

  8. Madelaine Ayers Henne May 20, 2013

    They are going to be crawling out of the woodwork now! If they want to be outraged then take away their tax exempt status and then they can “outrage” all they want!!

  9. roguerunners May 20, 2013

    Am I the only one who just can’t wrap my brain around “Non Profit” when in nearly all of these organizations there are a few at the top who live high on the hog?

    1. tdm3624 May 20, 2013

      What saddens me is that there are some great Christian organizations that really do their best to help the poor and needy. The Dobson type groups give the legitimate ones a bad name.

  10. David Turrentine May 20, 2013

    Churches which actively involve themselves in politics need to be audited. Pastors who do so must also expect to have their own actions audited. The pulpit is no place for politicking.

    1. Barbara Morgan May 20, 2013

      And no place for hatred to be preached like some so called preachers,priests and ect do each Sunday against the President. If a place of worship is going to preach hate against anyone or group, they should not be tax exempt and should be considered to be promoting hate and discord and less their tax exemption even for their Church and the land it stands on.

  11. Budjob May 20, 2013

    Fuck a bunch of religions.Tax the shit out of the religious assholes.Religion is nothing more than a lot of hocus pocus,mumbo jumbo,voodoo bullshit !!!

  12. Siegfried Heydrich May 20, 2013

    501.c groups should not be involved with any kind of political activity, period, end of story. I don’t care if it’s OFA or Crossroads GPS. That’s what 527s are for. I’m in several 501.c clubs (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary), and we don’t get involved in ANY politics of ANY kind EVER. If we did, we would quite properly get our tax exemption yanked in a heartbeat. I have no use for cheats, and political groups masquerading as ‘Social Welfare’ organizations are engaging in tax fraud, pure and simple.

  13. Jim Hyder May 20, 2013

    I believe Franklin Graham is out of line using his father’s image in any statements he makes. Billy Graham is an honorable man and is far and away above his son in integrity and, for sure, honesty.
    Most churches are deep into politics now and should pay their fair share of tax as should all of the pacs the have political advertising.

  14. charleo1 May 20, 2013

    You know, it’s really a shame. The Church, and that included most all of them,
    enjoyed a high degree of respect from nearly every corner of America. Not all
    that long ago. It was an institution with an accepted role in American Society.
    Albeit an unofficially, assigned one. One political leaders knew not to cross
    too far outside of those boundaries made clear by Pastors, Rabbi, and Priest
    alike. Now these were not political boundaries. But moral ones. Christians,
    heeded what they seen as an admonition from Christ, to give unto Caesar,
    that, which is Caesar’s. A warning for His Church to stay out of the politics of
    a sinful, and temporary world. This is the Protestant Church. America, 1950’s.
    Not, of course, the Holy Roman Catholic Church of Medieval Europe. Which,
    to the, American Protestant, was still seen as most likely headed for Hell.
    But, tolerated, nonetheless. The Churches were the vessels that contained the morality for a very religiously aware Society. One that took great pride, by the
    way, in our tradition of religious tolerance. That tolerance however, did not
    extend nearly so broadly into racial, and inter-racial matters. Having to do with
    social norms such as mixed race, marriage, and the economic, inequality,
    suffered by Blacks in America. Especially in the South. And, perhaps it is here,
    on that fault-line, that we Americans seem to keep finding over, and again.
    The Black Southern Baptist preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. was catapulted
    into, and became an indelible figure in the struggle of America’s other war.
    A struggle for equal Civil Rights, yes. But also the other war. A war we have been fighting, before winning independence. And one, even today, that is still being fought. Around State’s Rights, Abortion, and a secular Federal Gov’t.

  15. Bert Bowers May 20, 2013

    If Graham Intends to influence our politics and he has, his organizations should not be entitled to tax free status.

  16. RobertCHastings May 20, 2013

    From a father who was the confidante of practically every president that most ofus can recall from living memory, to a son whose conservative credentials put him on a par with Michelle Bachman. How low the mighty have fallen.
    Franklin Graham fully understood why his organizations were being audited, and why they were being asked such questions. In order to make political hay out of a paper-tiger scandal, he attempted to throw chaff into the radar, and possibly rescue others in his position. He has become as well known as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for promoting a conservative political and religious agenda under the guise of charity. If he had kept his mouth shut, he might have escaped further scrutiny but, unlike his father, he simply doesn’t have the sense.

  17. howa4x May 20, 2013

    It is the IRS’s job to screen all applicants to assure they are not violating the tax code with their applications . If a large number of tea party related organization put in apps then they will be looked at 1st. This is not a conspiracy but the agency going it’s job

  18. I Zheet M'Drawz May 21, 2013

    Remove tax exempt status for ALL religious organizations.
    There, that takes care of that, next problem please.

  19. docb May 21, 2013

    This is just the bigoted franklin using his dad to push his idiot agenda! He is another ‘riding off the coattails son’ with none of the integrity or finesse of the father!

  20. I Zheet M'Drawz June 2, 2013

    They went after the most disgusting of the tax exempt fraudsters, the TaliBenvangilists.
    Had to start somewhere so they started where they’d get the most bang for the buck.
    The effort, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, is to remove tax exempt status from all churches & religious organizations.
    Looky here, the taxes that aren’t paid by these organizations do get paid but they get paid by everyone else.
    I do not happen to think that giving orgaziztions of people that subscribe to idiotic ideas of super beings, flying donkeys & gods are a bonafide charitable organization do you?
    Do you fear the knowledge that you are not immortal? Is that what all this religious garbage is all about?
    Ge a grip people…and enjoy this dedication to everyones favorite religious ICON:

  21. kfreed March 1, 2014

    Speaking of pulpit electioneering, here’s Ted “government shutdown” Cruz and his dominionist pastor father encouraging just that sort of thing (referencing the conservative “Christian” notion of “the Black Robe Regiment”), deliberately spitting in the face of IRS regulations [VIDEO]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7q3fyBC4HFo

    I for one would like to see their tax exemptions revoked for this.

    Wonder who they think they’ll help elect next?

    Hint: [VIDEO] “Cruz’ Father Suggests Ted Cruz ‘Anointed’ to ‘Bring The Spoils Of War To The Priests'”


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