The Internal Revenue Service has denied the request by a Texas faith-based organization to become tax-exempt, saying the group's "Bible teachings" on abortion, marriage and other issues are primarily affiliated with the Republican Party.
Christians Engaged, an organization recognized by Texas as being non-profit, had requested 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the IRS before being denied in a May letter. The group filed an appeal this month.
The organization says its purpose is to encourage Christians to pray, vote and engage the culture.
First Liberty Institute is representing Christians Engaged.
"Only a politicized IRS could see Americans who pray for their nation, vote in every election, and work to engage others in the political process as a threat," said Lea Patterson, counsel for First Liberty Institute. "The IRS violated its own regulations in denying tax-exempt status because Christians Engaged teaches biblical values."
The IRS, in a May 18 letter, charged that the organization operates "for the private interests" of the Republican Party.
"Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says on areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of [the] sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations," the IRS letter says.
"The bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates," the letter says. "This disqualifies you from exemption."
The letter was signed by Stephen A. Martin, a director within the IRS.
Christians Engaged was founded in 2019 as a Texas non-profit corporation “formed exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, or scientific purposes,” according to First Liberty.
First Liberty asserted in its appeal letter that Martin erred in three specific ways:
- "he invents a nonexistent requirement that exempt organizations be neutral on public policy issues."
- "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."
- "he violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech, and Free Exercise, and Establishment clauses by engaging in both viewpoint discrimination and religious discrimination."
Said Bunni Pounds, president of Christians Engaged, "We just want to encourage more people to vote and participate in the political process. How can anyone be against that?"
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Photography by Phillip Rubino
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.