ACLJ Takes Biden IRS to Court Over Withholding Documents on Unlawfully Targeting of Christian Organizations
Religious liberty is the cornerstone of the United States. The Constitution protects our rights to live out our faith – any faith – without fear of reprisal from . . . of all places . . . our own government.
But under President Joe Biden, the Deep State IRS is now targeting Christians for discrimination. We recently told you how the IRS initially refused tax-exempt status to a religious organization – Christians Engaged – because, among other absurd reasons, they encourage prayer for our leaders.
The IRS actually listed the organization’s beliefs in prayer and Biblical values among the reasons in their letter for rejecting Christians Engaged from tax-exempt status. This egregious decision is a clear example of the Deep State’s unveiled targeting of conservatives, all over again. As we told you at the time: “Thankfully after significant backlash in this case and the work of our friends at First Liberty Institute, the IRS ended up granting Christians Engaged its tax-exempt status. [But it’s] clear the IRS only changed course because it was caught, this time.”
This is entirely unacceptable. As we reported, the ACLJ took swift action, filing a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. We demanded all records pertaining to the decision to deny the request; but as is becoming typical of the Biden Administration, our FOIA request was ignored.
So with no other recourse, we’ve just filed a MAJOR lawsuit against the Biden Administration – our EIGHTH to date – over the Biden IRS’s blatant targeting of Christians. If this Administration will not cooperate with us, and explain their indefensible decision, we will urge a federal court to demand it.
As stated in our lawsuit, the Biden Administration has doubled down in its targeting, causing direct harm to another Christian nonprofit organization by refusing to comply with FOIA which demands the IRS turn over these documents to us. The IRS won’t be able to get away with this. As we told the court:
Plaintiff [ACLJ] is being irreparably harmed by reason of the Defendant’s [IRS’s] unlawful withholding of requested records, and Plaintiff will continue to be irreparably harmed unless the Defendant is compelled to conform its conduct to the requirements of the law.
The FOIA imposes no limits on courts’ equitable powers in enforcing its terms, and this Court should exercise its equitable powers to compel the Defendant to comply with the clear requirements of the FOIA.
Our lawsuit also asks the court to rule in favor of, among other requests, the following:
- An Order that the Defendant conduct a diligent, expedited search for any and all records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request and demonstrate that it employed reasonable search methods most technologically likely to lead to the discovery of records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request, selected from among those methods available to Defendant;
- An Order that the Defendant produce, by a date certain, any and all non-exempt records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request and a Vaughn index of any responsive records withheld under claim of exemption;
- An Order enjoining the Defendant from continuing to withhold any and all non-exempt records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request;
- A declaration that the Defendant’s actions violated Plaintiff’s statutory rights under 5 U.S.C. § 552.
This is not the first time the ACLJ has directly taken on the Deep State IRS over its targeting of conservatives and Christians. As we’ve told you, we were forced to take legal action against the IRS under President Barack Obama – President Biden’s former boss – when it was discovered to be discriminating against conservative groups like the Tea Party.
As we told you then:
[F]rom April 2010 to May of 2013, our clients received 117 targeting letters from IRS officials. These obtrusive questionnaires demanded that our clients set aside their constitutional rights at the request of government bureaucracy. Eighteen of those letters, of course, were signed by Lois Lerner, herself. Lois Lerner is the former Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service under President Obama. Forty-two letters were sent to 28 of our clients after May of 2012, when the IRS claims their discriminatory heightened scrutiny had ended. So they were still doing it.
The IRS asked about things like the contents of prayers. They also asked for donor lists and text of speeches. These were both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) groups. Some groups, just because they had the word “liberty” in their title, got caught up in this targeting scheme by top officials at President Obama’s IRS as well.
Sound familiar? We not only defeated the Deep State IRS then, but former IRS official Lerner was forced to issue a public apology to those whom the IRS had targeted – a lesson you’d think the current IRS leadership would remember and be hesitant to repeat. In fact, we obtained a consent decree in federal court prohibiting the IRS from ever targeting these Americans for their beliefs again – a court order that is still enforceable to this day. And yet, here we are again. Different President, same tactics.
We’ve beaten the Deep State IRS in court for this unjust targeting of conservatives and Christians before, and we will do it again. WE WILL WIN.
We will continue to keep you updated on this case. We are hopeful our legal action will inspire the Biden IRS to produce the documents requested in our FOIA and, better yet, will convince it to change course on its current strategy of targeting Christians.