Watchdog groups defend persecuted Christians.
Several government watchdog groups have filed a motion on 4/8 in federal court to force the IRS to reveal information on “church investigations” after asserting that the tax-collecting agency stymied efforts to declassify its procedures.
The Alliance Defending Freedom and Judicial Watch both filed the motion in a response to a legal settlement agreed upon in 2014 in which the IRS said it had “resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”
“The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a press release.
Watchdogs groups argued that the “procedures” designed to enable church investigations were unclear.
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said in a press release. “The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of [what] we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to Freedom From Religion Foundation.”
The IRS began to declassify documents in July months after a suit lead by the ADF and Judicial Watch that came after the agency failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.
However, 10,000 of the 16,000 have since been redacted and withheld.
“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press release. “The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”
In its 2014 lawsuit the atheist group demanded that the IRS enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from making political endorsements for elected office. It authorizes the IRS to regulate sermons and other speech to ensure churches comply with the provisions of their designations.
Legal scholars have speculated that the tax-exempt status of churches and other religious groups may be vulnerable in light of the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state laws banning same-sex marriage.
During oral arguments, Associate Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. whether religious entities that subscribe to the traditional view of marriage would be at risk of losing their tax-exempt status should the laws banning same-sex marriage be struck down.
“It’s certainly going to be an issue,” Mr. Verrilli said. “I don’t deny that.” Source
The war on Christianity isn’t just being fought in the Middle East – it’s undoubtedly being waged on domestic soil as well.