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NRB President & CEO Responds to IRS Targeting Reports

IRS BuildingIn light of the Internal Revenue Service's admission to "inappropriate" scrutiny of conservative groups, NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright has encouraged House Speaker John Boehner and other Congressional leaders to stand up for churches and non-profit religious organizations.

In letters to Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Dr. Wright conveyed his concern over the targeting of organizations by the IRS.

"As Congress investigates these incidents at the IRS, and others that may surface in the days ahead, I ask that you emphasize the First Amendment rights of non-profit religious organizations and churches, which gives them constitutional authority to operate free from government entanglement," Dr. Wright expressed.

"Pernicious targeting of faith-based organizations by any state actor must not be tolerated," he added.

Earlier this year, the NRB Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution urging Congress to be wary of “IRS rules that would negatively impact religious non-profit organizations, or which would create entangling, or oppressive oversight from the government, or that would impair the constitutional autonomy of religious organizations or churches.” 

"These IRS cases before the nation today appear to be just such entangling, oppressive, and constitutionally unsound situations that must be protected against," remarked Dr. Wright.

Notably, while a report from the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration detailed how IRS agents "used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention," there have been reported incidents that suggest the profiling by the IRS was not limited to conservative political organizations.

Earlier this week, Franklin Graham, President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan's Purse, sent a letter to President Obama alleging that his organizations were targeted in a way that was “morally wrong,” “unethical,” and, as some would call it, “un-American.”

Last year, less than two months before the 2012 Elections, both Charlotte, NC-based BGEA and Boone, NC-based Samaritan's Purse were audited by IRS agents.

"In light of what the IRS admitted to on Friday, May 10, 2013, and subsequent revelations from other sources, I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence - or justifiable," Graham wrote.

More recently, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Action Corporation revealed how their request for 501(c)(4) status had been handled over the past year and a half. Although the request was filed on September 2, 2011, it wasn’t until March 19, 2013, that they heard back – and only after multiple attempts to reach the IRS reviewing agent.

According to the organization, the agent said she didn’t think their request for exemption would be granted because Family Talk Action is “not educational” because they do not present all views.

Furthermore, the agent reportedly said Family Talk Actions sounded like a “partisan right-wing group" because, according to her, it only presents conservative viewpoints. She then reportedly added, "you're political" because you "criticized President Obama, who was a candidate."

"The American people deserve better treatment from its government than this,” remarked Dr. Dobson. “Christian ministries and others supporting the family must not be silenced or intimidated by the IRS or other branches of the government."

In defense of BGEA, Samaritan's Purse, and Family Talk Action – all three of which are members of NRB – Dr. Wright noted how the organizations "have stood as shining examples for many years, serving the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of people near and abroad."

In his letter, Graham urged the President to "take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America's history" – one marked by "repressive government rule."

He also chided the IRS for wasting not only taxpayer money but the money of donors to his organizations, which were spent servicing IRS agents instead of for ministry purposes.

 

Published: May 16, 2013

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