IRS Harassment of Pro-Lifers

Monday, I’ll probably be publishing a potpourri of interesting clippings from Sunday afternoon reading. But I didn’t want this one to get lost, since it’s a legitimate outrage of exactly the sort I’ve come to expect from the fanatically pro-abortion despiser of religious freedom at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: The IRS targeting, and methodically harassing, pro-life groups.

According to a World Magazine report, Susan Martinek, the founder of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, attempted to expand the pro-life movement in Cedar Rapids, Iowa by coordinating the resources of the churches and other pro-life organizations. She sought tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service in October, 2008. In April, 2009, the IRS requested additional information—including “advertisements, schedules, syllabi, handouts, and summaries of the speeches given by those in the Coalition.” After complying with the IRS request for the records, Martinek called the IRS on June 6, 2009, and was advised by an IRS agent that in order to be approved for tax- exempt status, she and her board had to pledge—in writing and under the threat of perjury—that they would not organize groups to picket or protest at any Planned Parenthood office or clinic.
Christian Voices for Life in Sugar Land, Texas faced similar demands for additional documentation from the IRS when they applied in 2010. An IRS letter dated March 31, 2011, asked Marie McCoy, the founder of the pro-life group, whether she provided education on both sides of the issue of abortion. This request was a clear violation of IRS guidelines. In 1980, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that groups did not have to present both sides of an issue to qualify for tax-exempt status. According to IRS guidelines, organizations have to be charitable, educational, religious, or some combination of the three in order to qualify for tax-exempt status. But Christian Voices (like Coalition for Life of Iowa) was required to meet a much more restrictive requirement—one that went far beyond what the law required. In the denial of their IRS application for tax-exempt status, the IRS questioned their involvement with “40 Days for Life” and the “Life Chain” events.

Alliance Defending Freedom has released audio clips of a telephone conversation on March 8, 2013, in which IRS Exempt Organization Specialist Sherry Wan told Ania Joseph, president of Pro-Life Revolution, that in order to obtain a tax exemption, “you cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else . . . .You have to know your boundaries, you have to know your limits.” The IRS has approved applications for tax exemptions for pro-abortion groups including Planned Parenthood and Life and Liberty for Women, yet it demands neutrality on abortion from Pro-Life Revolution.
Pro-Life Revolution is a faith-based organization providing support to pregnant women. Working closely with local pregnancy resource centers, churches, and other pro-life groups, the organization sought tax-exempt status in order to expand their educational activities. But during the recorded phone conversation, the IRS agent is heard advising Joseph that “your action is based on more blind, emotional feelings,” concluding that “you cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on someone else.” When Joseph protested that her organization was distributing educational brochures and not forcing anyone to do something they did not want to do, the agent disagreed, claiming that “asking people to take action against an abortion clinic is not educational.
Similar experiences were reported by Peter Shinn, founder of Cherish Life Ministries, a pro-life coalition of churches that “support mothers struggling with unexpected pregnancies, promotes abstinence and advocates for an end to abortion in the community, state and nation.”10 In an interview published at WorldNetDaily, Shinn disclosed that his application for tax-exempt status by the IRS was declined: “The representative was telling me I had to provide information on all aspects of abortion. I could not just educate the churches from the pro-life perspective .. . . Every time I pressed her on this issue and asked her to clarify her position, she would state that it wasn’t what she was saying, and then, she would repeat it almost the same way.” Shinn claimed that the IRS was accusing him of setting up a political organization: “I asked her why she said we were a political organization and she said it was because we had said in our application that we did less than 5 percent political activity. I explained to her that this was what was stated in the application and all we were doing was acknowledging that we were doing less than 5 percent political activity.” Shinn also said that the IRS agent accused him of having links to political activity on his website, even though he said he did not.

If this has Obama’s fingerprints on it, he ought to be toasted much toastier than Chris Christie, whose “traffic study,” even assuming he was involved, was not a trampling of constitutional rights by a former professor of constitutional law.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.