The IRS scandal keeps growing by the hour. When the lid first blew off, it seemed it was merely the targeting of organizations requesting non-profit status with Tea Party or Patriot in their names. Then it was hundreds of other conservative groups. Next we heard about a number of wealthy Republican donors being targeted with untimely audits.
Now prepare for another twist to the ever increasing IRS scandal. The Thomas More Society has announced that some of their pro-life clients were also targeted by the IRS. Although the Thomas More Society isn’t using the terms blackmail or coercion, what the IRS did to at least two pro-life groups amounts to the same things by definition.
In June 2009, leaders from the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a phone call from an IRS agent who identified herself as Ms. Richards. She told the leaders that if they had all of their board members sign a letter agreeing to never picket or protest outside a Planned Parenthood office that their application for non-profit status would be granted. The board complied and sent the signed letter. They were told by Ms. Richards that not only were they not allowed to protest or picket outside a Planned Parenthood office, but they were not allowed to organize others to do so either. By signing the letter, any violations would be treated as perjury under the law.
However, before their application was granted, the IRS requested more invasive information. Finally, Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel with the Thomas More Society sent a letter to the IRS demanding that their application be approved immediately. She fears that other organizations that lack proper legal access are being effectively silenced and blackmailed or coerced out of their constitutional rights and freedoms. Speaking on the case, Wagenmaker said:
“The IRS’s role should only be to determine whether organizations fit the section 501(c)(3) test for ‘charitable, religious, or educational’ qualification, not to inquire about the content of prayers, protests, and petitions. It’s high time that the IRS be called to account for its workers’ potential to trample on our constitutional rights, through such ostensibly innocuous means…what the Ways and Means committee will discuss may only be the tip of the iceberg of IRS abuses.”
Another one of TMS’s clients is the pro-life group Christian Voices for Life out of Fort Bend, Texas. While they weren’t blackmailed or coerced into giving up their rights to protest outside any Planned Parenthood office, they endured a prolonged process of one request after another for all kinds of information that was totally irrelevant to their non-profit status application. The IRS sought information regarding the organization’s viewpoint and content of their educational communications, volunteer prayer vigils and other activities to which the IRS had no right to request.
Wagenmaker commented on this case as well, saying:
“The application of Christian Voices for Life clearly indicated that the organization qualified as a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3). The IRS seemed to be intent on denying or delaying tax-exempt status based upon the organization’s pro-life message, rather than any legitimate exemption concern, through its exhaustive, cumbersome questioning. The implication that Christian Voices for Life somehow intended to engage in illegal activity was insulting.”
I hope and pray that Ms. Richards can be identified and held accountable for her illegal actions in blackmailing or coercing the board members of the Coalition for Life of Iowa. Not only should these IRS agents and supervisors lose their jobs over this, but they also need to be charged with the crimes they committed and thrown in jail. For way too long the IRS has acted like it was above the law and it’s about time that someone shows them that they’re not above the law and will be held accountable for their illegal actions.