In the last 24 hours, my colleagues at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) have been in contact with literally dozens of tea party organizations that have received intrusive information demands from the IRS, demands that seriously implicate their First Amendment rights. These information demands follow Tea Party requests for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status and include questions like the following:
Do you directly or indirectly communicate with members of legislative bodies? If so, provide copies of the written communications and contents of other forms of communications.
Please describe the associate group members and their role with your organization in further detail. (a) How does your organization solicit members? (b) What are the questions asked of potential members? (c) What are the selection criteria for approval? (d) Do you limit membership to other organizations exempt under 501(c)(4) of the Code? (e) Provide the name, employer identification number, and address of the organizations.
Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party? If so describe fully the nature of that relationship.
The quoted requests are merely the tip of the iceberg. We're still reviewing the IRS letters and will have more information as we complete our review. Each of these questions -- in their content, breadth, and vagueness -- implicate the free speech rights of the affected Tea Party groups. Moreover, such intrusive membership requests also run afoul of NAACP v. Alabama and implicate their rights to freedom of association.
Critically, the demands we've seen are made not in response to complaints of wrongdoing but instead in response to applications for exemption. In other words, the IRS appears to be conditioning the grant of exemptions on the extensive violation of the Tea Party's fundamental First Amendment freedoms.
As I said, our review is ongoing, but the early indications are the IRS is using the routine process of seeking and granting tax exemptions to undertake a sweeping, top-down review of the internal workings of the Tea Party movement in the United States. Such a review is far beyond its mission and directly implicates the First Amendment rights of all citizens.
This article is crossposted at National Review Online.
When one thinks of those who prevent women from learning the truth about abortion, one generally thinks about Planned Parenthood, not the police. Yet, that is what’s happening in Fort Myers, Florida, prompting the filing of a lawsuit by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ). This week the...
The ACLJ has just filed a friend of the court brief in the seemingly endless battle to halt discrimination against churches in New York City. The case is Bronx Household of Faith v. The Board of Education of the City of New York . Our brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in the case...
One of the many important things we do at the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) is to ensure that people can spread the Gospel without unconstitutional interference by the government. This past week we filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey federal court on behalf of Joseph Paolella against the...
The fight for justice is never the easy road, and it doesn’t always win the first round. Yesterday a federal district court dismissed two lawsuits (at least a majority of the claims) brought on behalf of conservative groups who were targeted by the IRS. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling is based on...