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Nov 16 2012

FFRF files suit against IRS

The Washington Post reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the IRS for selectively failing to enforce laws against political advocacy by non-profit organizations.

The lawsuit argues that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering. Not enforcing it is a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends.

Interestingly, a number of Christian activists have been pushing for churches to deliberately violate the law in hopes of provoking just such a confrontation in court. This isn’t a bunch of unbelievers launching a mere nuisance lawsuit, this is the other side responding to taunts of “bring it on” from certain believers who want all such restrictions removed. Well, removed from believers anyway. I’m sure they see these restrictions as perfectly reasonable when applied to, say, the FRFF.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    nedchamplain

    Where do I sign on.

    1. 1.1
      hexidecima

      join the FFRF: http://ffrf.org/ I’ve been a happy member for a fair number of years now.

      1. BinaAssault

        Well, I completely agree with this one. However, there are quite a few instances where the FFRF would go after nativity scenes and other such religious displays on government property, but in states that are really far away from Wisconsin. Is this just because of the ‘type’ of issues that they go after? Or is it because they aren’t made aware of any local issues that they can take on? Because I happen to be a resident who lives about an hour away from Madison, and there is a huge mural on the wall of a Government Probs classroom at the high school here that says “In God We Trust”. I always wondered if anyone was going to do something about it. Would this be something that they might at least check out?

  2. 2
    busterggi

    If only the court could find the guts to rule in their favor. They’ll more likely get some judge who tells them to read the bible .

    1. 2.1
      unbound

      More likely that the court will rule that FFRF doesn’t have any standing. It is a complex discussion to demonstrate that they have been harmed.

      1. dustinarand

        I think you are probably right unbound. What if FFRF was prosecuted under the law and used Equal Protection as a defense? Could it point to evidence that some religious organizations weren’t prosecuted? My gut says no, since the Court would likely just say, “look, you can’t expect the government to enforce all laws perfectly, and if they choose to use their limited resources to go after some offenders, you can’t say you’re immune from prosecution just because they didn’t go after everyone, unless you can show systematic discrimination.” And I don’t think they would be able to show that, since there are cases of some particularly egregious violations of the law by so-called churches being prosecuted.

      2. wholething

        Not enforcing it is a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends.

        I would think they would only have to show that they have been prevented from partisan political activity by the requirements of maintaining non-profit status while churches are held to a different standard. A church is not a special category under the law. Their tax-exempt status is simply because they’re just another non-profit organization.

      3. Midnight Rambler

        This could actually get interesting. It seems to me that the argument against FFRF having standing is that they have not actually been sued for politicking. So if they’re turned down in this case, they or some other secular group may try to do the same provocation as the churches in order to bring about a lawsuit from the IRS. If it does, it will bring some kind of resolution to this issue. But if the IRS holds off on them out of continued fear of confronting the religious groups, it could result in a complete free-for-all among nonprofits and a breakdown of the law.

      4. steve84

        Yeah, the standing thing is tricky. But FFRF is a non-profit itself (which they go to great lengths to point out). It seems like they’re arguing that they have to follow rules that churches don’t and thus churches have an unfair advantage over them.

  3. 3
    wholething

    @ #1 nedchamplain

    You can join FFRF here.

    Jerry Coyne had a write up on it yesterday here: We get revenge: the FFRF sues the IRS for failure to enforce tax laws on churches. I have intended to join FFRF for a while but this drove me to finally do it.

  4. 4
    grumpyoldfart

    There will never be a US Government courageous enough to tax Christian churches in the USA.

    1. 4.1
      sawells

      Nor will there ever be a black president…

      Things do change. Slowly.

  5. 5
    Psychopomp Gecko

    I hope this works. I mean, the fact that more than 1500 preachers are participating in some sort of thing where they record themselves endorsing a candidate from the pulpit and send it to the IRS in the hopes the IRS will come after them and somehow get the entire rule thrown out in court is a great advantage to us.

    Not only are they breaking the law, they’re recording themselves doing it and sending the evidence to the people for the express purpose of being caught.

    1. 5.1
      Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

      And their god works in mysterious ways, obviously.

      Ahem.

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