The IRS reversed its earlier decision to deny tax-exempt status to a Christian group, a denial that included a rejection letter claiming the “Bible’s teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidates.”
The Washington Examiner reported that Christians Engaged, described by the outlet as “a Texas-based nonprofit group that encourages religious citizens to vote and get involved in politics,” was initially denied its application to be recognized as a 501(c)(3). First Liberty Institute, which represented the organization, filed an appeal that said:
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).”
It appears the IRS’s rejection has been reversed, and Christians Engaged will receive the tax-exempt status.
“This is truly great news for our client, as well as religious organizations and churches across America,” Lea Patterson, an attorney for First Liberty, said in a statement. “We are grateful the IRS changed course to bring its decision into line with the Constitution and its own regulations.”
As the Examiner reported, in addition to the appeal, Republican lawmakers such as Reps. Kevin Brady of Texas and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania wrote a letter to the IRS demanding the agency provide congress with records relating to the IRS’s decisions to grant or not grant tax-exempt status for other groups. Sen. Ted Cruz also blasted the IRS’s decision.
“Sadly following in the footsteps of the Obama IRS, the Biden IRS was likewise politically weaponized when it indefensibly denied tax-exempt status to the Texas nonprofit organization Christians Engaged,” Cruz said in a statement this week.
“Thankfully, under public scrutiny, the Biden administration was forced to change course; today’s reversal is a victory for our religious freedoms and for Americans of faith across our country,” Cruz added. “But the initial denial stands as a warning that if we don’t stand up for our liberties and fight to hold this administration accountable, the Biden administration is more than willing to use the IRS as a political weapon.”