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The IRS’ New Anti-Speech Regulations

By ACLJ.org1393454194000

Last Friday, the ACLJ launched the next phase of its opposition to the IRS targeting scheme by filing a formal objection to the IRS’s unconstitutional proposed regulations of 501(c)(4) organizations.

The IRS’s proposed regulations represent merely the latest effort to unlawfully restrict the free speech of conservative and Christian groups and indeed fits the longstanding pattern of Obama Administration lawlessness: Overreach, retreat, and try again.

The ACLJ first sounded the alarm against the Obama Administration’s unlawful targeting of grassroots conservative groups in the spring of 2012. While the mainstream media gave the Administration the benefit of the doubt and ignored if not completely dismissed all of facts as nothing more than political stunt from the “angry,” vindication of these groups finally came with Lois Lerner’s apology in May of 2013 made it clear that the bureaucratic targeting was widespread, it was systemic, and it was focused on conservatives.

In a pending lawsuit, the ACLJ represents 41 such conservative, grassroots organizations whose applications for tax-exempt determinations were improperly and unconstitutionally handled based upon their political viewpoints. We argue in this lawsuit that the IRS and its employees deprived our clients of their rights to freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment and the equal protection of the laws under the Fifth Amendment. 

Under fire, what has the IRS done? Has it turned from its unlawful ways? Hardly. It’s seeking to dismiss the ACLJ’s suit, it’s stonewalling Congressional investigators, and it’s proposing new regulations to restrict free speech.

There is clear evidence that these regulations were initially formulated not to undo the damage from IRS political targeting, but to render targeting unnecessary by stripping the free speech rights of nonprofits. These regulations were never an afterthought. They were instead drafted as part of a calculated and systematic attempt to silence the Administration’s critics.

Conservative leaders are correct when they state that these new IRS regulations “would redefine political activity so broadly that grass-roots groups all across the country will likely be forced to shut down simply for engaging in the kind of non-partisan educational/issue based activities the 501(c)(4) designation was designed to support."

The ACLJ is acting. ACLJ opposes the proposed regulations in their entirety. To read our official comments that we filed to stop these unconstitutional and burdensome regulations, click here.

This article is written by ACLJ Attorney Miles Terry.

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