NEWS & ANALYSIS

PENNIES & PERSECUTION: IRS Denies Religious Group Tax Exempt Status


First Liberty Institute appealed an IRS determination denying tax exempt status to Christians Engaged, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers Christians to vote and pray. 

In a May letter, the IRS argued that Christians Engaged was not eligible for 501(c)(3) status because “[B]ible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates.” 

Since when does religion have to do with political beliefs? 

“The IRS states in an official letter that Biblical values are exclusively Republican. That might be news to President Biden, who is often described as basing his political ideology on his religious beliefs,” Lea Patterson, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said. “Only a politicized IRS could see Americans who pray for their nation, vote in every election, and work to engage others in the political process as a threat. The IRS violated its own regulations in denying tax exempt status because Christians Engaged teaches biblical values.” 

The organization’s president Bunni Pounds said: “We just want to encourage more people to vote and participate in the political process. How can anyone be against that?”

Located in Texas, Christians Engaged “formed exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, or scientific purposes.” It provides nonpartisan religious and civic education, focusing on encouraging and educating Christians to be engaged as part of their religious practice, the Morning Star reports

In the administrative appeal letter, First Liberty wrote: “By finding that Christians Engaged does not meet the operational test, Director Martin errs in three ways: 1) he invents a nonexistent requirement that exempt organizations be neutral on public policy issues; 2) he incorrectly concludes that Christians Engaged primarily serves private, nonexempt purposes rather than public, exempt purposes because he thinks its beliefs overlap with the Republican Party’s policy positions; and 3) he violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise, and Establishment clauses by engaging in both viewpoint discrimination and religious discrimination.”