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IRS ATTACKS RELIGIOUS GROUPS FOR EXERCISING FREE SPEECH CHALLENGED IN COURT

 

By NWV News Writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
October 28, 2011
2011 NewsWithViews.com

A Christian organization that espouses conservative values and morality charged the Internal Revenue Service with silencing the groups First Amendment rights utilizing "legal gymnastics" to tax nonprofits' free speech. When the group challenged the IRS' actions it prevented a court challenge through stonewalling and deception.

The nonprofit Catholic Answers is just one victim of this tactic. In 2008, when its president, Karl Keating, posted a discussion on the organization's website arguing that, according to church rules, presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry(D-MA), should not be allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist in any Catholic Church due to his support for legalized abortion, even partial-birth abortion.

In what they termed 'retaliation' by the government tax collectors, IRS agents ordered Catholic Answers to pay an excise tax for engaging in alleged "political speech" against then-presidential primary candidate John Kerry. Catholic Answers paid the tax but complained about being singled out by a politicized government agency.

"In many churches, especially black churches, politicians and civil rights leaders regularly make political statements during church services. President Obama's own pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, uttered vitriolic messages that were extremely political," said political strategist and attorney Mike Baker.

"In fact, Wright and others, such as Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, often make speeches that contain what's arguably hate speech, such as when Wright repeatedly -- and loudly -- said 'God damn, America!'" said Baker.

When Catholic Answers first brought their case to federal court, IRS officials quickly refunded the tax. However, the agency failed to revise its allegation that Catholic Answers' speech was taxable political intervention in an election.

From then on, courts have denied any course of legal action against IRS officials by Catholic Answers.

Then Catholic Answers brought its case to the public-interest organization the James Madison Center for Free Speech, whose legal advisors urging the U.S. Supreme Court take up the case, claiming the IRS strategy allows the them to arbitrarily punish churches with de facto fines in the form of excise taxes.

The James Madison Center attorneys believe this IRS tactic frightens charities and religious activists into silence. If the group decides to fight back in a court battle, the IRS can return the tax money to the group thereby avoiding any legal consequences or adverse publicity.

"Not only did the federal courts in this case distort Supreme Court law, they have allowed the IRS to engage in trickery by penalizing non-profits who exercise their free speech rights, only to return the money at the last possible second," explained James Madison Center's lead counsel James Bopp Jr.

"As long as the federal tax collectors are permitted to use such tactics, non-profits organizations and churches such as Catholic Answers will hesitate to exercise their First Amendment rights especially when speaking about individuals who are political candidates," said Mike Baker.

"And these groups are being denied court mandated justice and freedom from government harassment."

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Yet both the California federal district court and the federal appeals court held that because Catholic Answers got its money back, the issue was resolved, and there was nothing for the courts to do.

"These types of cases allow IRS officials the unregulated ability to penalize non-profit organizations that discuss public officials who are also running for office while leaving those non-profits without any legal recourse," officials from James Madison Center said in a statement.

"The IRS can simply return the money at the last minute and never be sued for taxing protected speech that shouldn't be taxed in the first place."

2011 NWV - All Rights Reserved

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"In many churches, especially black churches, politicians and civil rights leaders regularly make political statements during church services....