IRS To Conservative Group: Please Tell Us About The Content Of Your Prayers
Among the more bizarre things to come out of today’s House Ways & Means Committee questioning of outgoing Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and Treasury Department Inspector General J. Russell George, was the revelation that one Christian group that applied for 501(c)(4) status was asked to document the contents of its prayers:
While applying with the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status in 2009, an Iowa-based anti-abortion group was asked to provide information about its members’ prayer meetings, show documents sent by an IRS official to the organization.
On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”
“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”
The IRS is currently under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups that applied for non-profit status in recent years. In response, two IRS officials have stepped down, including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.
Copies of the relevant parts of the IRS letter are at the link, and here’s video of the exchange between Congressman Aaron Schock:
What ever one might say about the complexities that IRS employees were faced with in trying to judge the eligibility of groups for 501(c)(4) status, I can’t think of a single justification for asking a question like this. It guts right against the grain of the 1st Amendment, it’s designed to be intimidating, and, for me at least, it puts the lie to the argument that these inquiries were not, in some sense, motivated by politics.