In shades of the IRS targeting conservative groups during the tenure of former President Obama, inhibiting their attempts to gain non-profit status, the IRS recently denied a Christian non-profit organization tax-exempt status, stating that the “Bible’s teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidates.”
Last week, First Liberty, representing the non-profit group Christians Engaged, filed an appeal. They wrote:
Christians Engaged’s mission statement articulates three goals: “to awaken, motivate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ to: pray for our nation regularly, vote in every election to impact our culture, [and] engage our hearts in some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation.” To accomplish the first, Christians Engaged provides a weekly Bible study, sends out weekly prayer alerts, and organizes statewide and area prayer gatherings. …
Second, Christians Engaged educates the public on the importance of voting in every election and provides tools to enable them to do so. … Christians Engaged invites individuals to pledge to pray regularly for the nation, vote in every election, and “commit to some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation.” It also follows up with election reminders, but it does not produce voter guides or otherwise suggest that recipients should vote for or against any particular candidate or candidates.
Finally, Christians Engaged empowers ordinary Christians who are generally unfamiliar with civic and public policy processes and issues to become actively involved by 1) “educat[ing] believers on the national issues that are central to our belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God,” and 2) providing training, resources, and mentorships that help them navigate the political process in order to “promote [their] values or get involved with [their] passion.”
On May 18, 2021, Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin denied the application, contending that Christians Engaged “engage[s] in prohibited political campaign intervention” and “operate[s] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the D [Republican] party.” This conclusion pointed specifically to Christians Engaged’s education of “believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant M [Word of God]” : namely, “the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and [sic] borders and immigration, [and] U.S. and Israel relations.”
Because Director Martin believes that “bible [sic] teachings are typically affiliated with the D [Republican] party and candidates,” the Proposed Determination Letter found that “[t]his disqualifies [Christians Engaged] from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).”
“Under federal law, to receive tax-exempt status as a religious organization, an organization must operate exclusively for charitable or educational purposes and must ‘not attempt to influence legislation’ or ‘participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates,’” The Blaze noted.
First Liberty Institute Counsel Lea Patterson said the claims “that Biblical values are exclusively Republican … might be news to President Biden, who is often described as basing his political ideology on his religious beliefs.” Patterson added: “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.”