IRS Reverses Decision; Gives Tax Exempt Status to Christian Organization

by mcardinal

Michael Cardinal, FISM News


On Wednesday, the IRS reversed its previous decision and granted tax exempt status to Christians Engaged, a non-profit organization that “educates and empowers Christians to pray for our nation and elected officials, vote, and be civically engaged.”

In May, the IRS sent a letter to the organization rejecting their request because of their religious affiliation, claiming that this made them “operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the Republican Party.”

According to Steve Martin, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, because Christians Engaged mission statement holds to biblical truth they were disqualified:

Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).

This came as a shock for an organization whose website states that they are non-partisan. The Counsel for First Liberty Institute took up the case and wrote an appeal in June stating:

By finding that Christians Engaged does not meet the operational test, Director Martin errs in three ways: 1) he invents a nonexistent requirement that exempt organizations be neutral on public policy issues; 2) he incorrectly concludes that Christians Engaged primarily serves private, nonexempt purposes rather than public, exempt purposes because he thinks its beliefs overlap with the Republican Party’s policy positions; and 3) he violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech, and Free Exercise, and Establishment clauses by engaging in both viewpoint discrimination and religious discrimination.”

The reversal by the IRS also came after fifteen members of Congress and the Senate wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, demanding that they reevaluate Christians Engaged application and “terminate the IRS staff involved in the flawed and politically motivated reason behind the determination.” The lawmakers including Chip Roy, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio said that the determination was “blantantly biased and discriminatory.”

Lea Patterson, Lead Counsel for the case, celebrated the decision, saying, “This is truly great news for our client, as well as religious organizations and churches across America. We are grateful the IRS changed course to bring its decision into line with the Constitution and its own regulations.”

Christians Engaged President Bunni Pounds added, “I am incredibly thankful to the IRS for doing the right thing, and we look forward to continuing our mission of educating more followers of Jesus to pray for our nation and to be civically engaged. When we stand up, our republic works for all Americans.”