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Tags: FOIA | First Amendment

Defending the First Amendment Against the Obama IRS

Tom Fitton By Monday, 18 April 2016 01:19 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

It seems these days that our core freedoms, protected under the U.S. Constitution, are under attack from every direction. We have been particularly concerned for some time about the IRS’ intentions toward freedom of expression in churches.

Last week we joined with our client the Alliance Defending Freedom in moving to compel a federal court to require the IRS to reveal how it determines when to initiate “church investigations” (Alliance Defending Freedom v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00525)Case No. 1:15-cv-00525-EGS)).

Alliance Defending Freedom is a wonderful alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

We believe the agency has been stonewalling efforts to open its procedures to public scrutiny.

Back in 2014 the IRS reached a legal settlement with an atheist organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which said the IRS had “resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”

We know that the IRS has procedures for reviewing, evaluating, and determining whether to initiate church investigations, but nobody knows what those procedures are.

“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said.

“The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of [what] we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.”

In July 2015, months after we sued the agency for failing to comply with our Freedom of Information Act request, the IRS began producing documents. However, it withheld more than 10,000 of the 16,000 requested.

Thousands were completely redacted.

Obama’s IRS first ignored the FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court. The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.

In its 2014 lawsuit, the atheist group demanded that the IRS enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from making political endorsements for elected office.

It authorizes the IRS to regulate sermons and other speech to ensure churches comply with the provisions of their designations.

In July 2014, the IRS announced that, according to the terms of an agreement reached with the atheist, it had been monitoring churches and other houses of worship for electioneering and other political activity.

According to June 27, 2014, IRS letter to the Justice Department, the IRS has targeted 99 churches it said merited “high priority examination” for allegedly illegal electioneering activities. This church-targeting was determined by an IRS “Political Activities Referral Committee.”

Doesn’t the idea of this IRS “Committee” send a chill down your spine?

That’s why it is important we prevail in federal court, so our client and the American people can find out the truth about what the out-of-control Obama IRS is up to.

Stay tuned.

Tom Fitton is the president of Judicial Watch. He is a nationally recognized expert on government corruption. A former talk radio and television host and analyst, Tom is well known across the country as a national spokesperson for the conservative cause. He has been quoted in Time, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most every other major newspaper in the country. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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Last week we joined with our client the Alliance Defending Freedom in moving to compel a federal court to require the IRS to reveal how it determines when to initiate church investigations.
FOIA, First Amendment
Monday, 18 April 2016 01:19 PM
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