Top House Republican leaders are blasting an IRS denial of a tax exemption to a Texas prayer group as an overt attack on religious liberty and a continuation of the targeting scandal that plagued the federal tax agency during the Obama era. Democratic leaders have remained silent.
“The language of the IRS ruling suggests the return of a disturbing trend of politicized targeting at the IRS,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told The Epoch Times on June 22. “This politicization treats Americans unfairly, not only by disrupting equal application of the law, but also by undermining public trust in government.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top GOP member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told The Epoch Times that “the IRS under the Biden–Harris administration is up to no good and appears to be abusing its vast powers for political gain.”
McCarthy and Comer were referring to an IRS decision first reported June 16 by The Epoch Times in which a Texas group was denied tax-exempt status because its emphasis on prayer and Bible study allegedly mainly benefits Republicans.
“You do not qualify as an organization described in IRS Section 501(c)(3). You engage in prohibited political campaign intervention,” wrote Stephen A. Martin, director of the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements, in a May 18 letter to Christians Engaged, the Garland, Texas-based prayer group recognized by Texas officials as tax-exempt.
“You are also not operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 501 (c)(3), because you operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”
Comer isn’t buying Martin’s explanation for his decision.
“Following a massive leak of sensitive taxpayer information that targeted wealthy individuals, now the IRS is denying tax-exempt status to a religious organization because their beliefs may possibly inform their political opinions,” Comer said, referring to the recent leak of tax information on hundreds of America’s richest citizens to ProPublica, a website focusing on investigative journalism.
“This attack on religious liberty must be stopped and investigated. No federal bureaucrat should be able to wield such massive power and ignore government regulations to target an organization based on their religious beliefs.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking GOP member of the House Judiciary Committee, agreed, saying the tax agency’s actions in the Texas case continue a pattern of abusive targeting of Tea Party, conservative, and evangelical nonprofit applicants that led to the scandal involving former IRS director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner that dominated headlines in 2013.
“The Obama/Biden IRS targeted conservatives for their political beliefs. It looks like the Biden/Harris IRS is already up to no good as well. Every American should be concerned, but sadly, not surprised,” Jordan told The Epoch Times on June 22.
The Oversight committee investigated the Lerner scandal, as did the Judiciary panel. Both committees would be at the center of any new congressional investigation of the IRS decision to deny a nonprofit tax-exemption application on grounds such as those cited by Martin to Christians Engaged.
Leading House Democrats declined to respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, and Judicial Chairman Jerrod Nadler, also of New York.
McCarthy said the new IRS scandal comes as President Joe Biden plans to add 87,000 new employees at the agency and significantly boost its power.
“Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s plan to double the size of the IRS, grant it an unprecedented expansion of power to access every Americans’ bank accounts, and exempt it from congressional oversight will only subject Americans to more harassment and abuse at the hand of political operatives masquerading as public servants,” McCarthy said.
“The IRS should get no more power than it already has.”
Call for Investigation
Heritage Action for America Executive Director Jessica Anderson told The Epoch Times on June 22 that it’s time for another investigation of the tax agency.
“The IRS is wrong to inject politics into their decision to deny tax-exempt status to a Christian organization. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Anderson said.
“It is sad to see Biden’s IRS following in the footsteps of the Obama Administration, discriminating against religious organizations, and denying tax-exempt status for political reasons. The decision to deny Christians Engaged tax-exempt status must be investigated immediately.”
Other conservative activists displayed no hesitation about the IRS.
Like Comer, Americans for Tax Reform Chairman Grover Norquist noted the leak of tax records to ProPublica.
“The recent illegal ‘leak’ of tax returns out of the IRS to a left-wing organization, ProPublica, will make it less likely America will tolerate Biden’s plan to shower $80 billion and 87,000 new staffers on an unrepentant and unreformed IRS,” Norquist said.
“Why give more power to a unionized IRS bureaucracy whose union gives 97 percent of their contributions to one party: Democrats?”
Similarly, Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams told The Epoch Times: “What the IRS has done to this group is outrageous and unacceptable. From the illegal release of private tax information to this new revelation, the IRS has once again become an activist agency that cannot be trusted. Congress needs to put an end to the politicization of the IRS immediately.
“It is mind-boggling to think that it has taken the Biden administration less than six months to weaponize the IRS against conservatives, just like they did with Lois Lerner in the Obama administration.”
Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, told The Epoch Times that he wondered if the silence among political and religious progressives about the IRS decision indicates approval.
“The IRS has ruled that the inerrant Word of God is partisan and benefits Republicans. I am anxiously awaiting the outcry from the new left-wing ‘evangelicals’ in defense of the Bible,” Manning said.
“Their silence would be agreement with the IRS that Republican ideology better approximates how Jesus would vote than their own. Time for the Left to either claim the Bible or agree with the IRS that they have abandoned it.”
Less Government President Seton Motley quipped that “Democrats have a standing invitation to worship God, too; it isn’t this group’s fault that so few accept it.”
Motley also asked, “If worshiping God means ‘Republican,’ who are Democrats worshiping?”