IRS Orders Christians to Hide Their Light Under a Bushel

Anti-abortion group Pro-Life Revolution was recently told by the IRS that they had to cut out all the Jesus talk if they wanted to keep their tax-exempt status. As someone correctly pointed out, news that religious proselytizing would disqualify you from tax-exempt status would come as a big surprise to every church in America.

 Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews the lawyer for Pro-Life Revolution, Erik Stanley, about how the IRS position seems unusual for a country that doesn’t have “People’s Republic” in its name:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “You have to know your boundaries,” an IRS agent told Ania Joseph of Pro-Life Revolution. How did you interpret that when you first heard it? What are the boundaries of a pro-life group like theirs? 

ERIK STANLEY: I interpreted the IRS agent’s statement as attempting to impose an unconstitutional standard for granting tax exemption. The agent had told Pro-Life Revolution on numerous occasions that it could not “confront” other people with the views of the organization and that it had to remain “neutral” on the issue of abortion. 

Well, if there’s one thing we can’t have, it’s organizations that confront people with their views. Unless it involved peeing on a police car or the words “pride parade.”

LOPEZ: What was most worrisome about what Pro-Life Revolution was told by an IRS agent? 

STANLEY: What was most worrisome was that the IRS was imposing an unconstitutional standard on Pro-Life Revolution. It attempted to say that Pro-Life Revolution could not be considered educational for exemption purposes unless it met the “full and fair exposition” standard that requires an exempt organization to present a “full and fair exposition” of the facts to allow a person to make up their own mind on the issue. This standard was held to be unconstitutional by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1980. The D.C. Circuit said the standard was unconstitutionally vague and could mask viewpoint discrimination. It was very troubling in this case that the agent in charge of granting or denying the exemption request was using a standard held to be unconstitutional over thirty years ago.

LOPEZ: Could it be that this was just a mislead agent doing what she understood to be her job? 

STANLEY: No, I don’t think that could be the case because I pointed out to her in a letter that her standard was unconstitutional. In response to my letter, she doubled down on the standard and even made up an additional standard that is found nowhere in the case law or the IRS regulations. This agent seemed ideologically opposed to the pro-life position and was intent on ensuring that Pro-Life Revolution not be able to advocate its viewpoint on the issue of abortion.

I remember many times sitting in Sunday School classes where we discussed the oppression of Christians around the world. I remember other people in the classes expressing feelings of guilt that, living in America, they hadn’t been oppressed like other Christians had. And I remember thinking, “Just wait.”

Leave a Reply