IRS Caught Targeting Christians as the ACLJ and Senators Demand Answers


Jay Sekulow

August 18, 2021

History is repeating itself in unfortunate ways right now.

Even after we fought and won against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a new Administration has come into office and the IRS is ignoring a federal court consent decree that they themselves entered into. As we told you, the IRS initially denied the tax-exempt status for a religious organization called Christians Engaged for reasons they listed in their rejection letter, including because of “Bible teachings.” It was blatant targeting and religious discrimination. Eventually, Christians Engaged did end up getting their tax-exempt status after our friends at First Liberty Institute were able to step in and reverse the denial.

For the ACLJ, this situation is a flashback to when we represented 41 conservative organizations who were being harassed by the Obama-Biden IRS after submitting applications for tax-exempt status. As a result of this political targeting, the IRS issued an apology and consented to a court order in our lawsuit that would prohibit this behavior from ever happening again.

Let’s never forget what Lois Lerner, the former Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS under President Obama, said when she testified in Congress for the same behavior the IRS is still engaging in by targeting religious organizations:

I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. And while I would very much like to answer the committees’ questions today, I have been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.

The government cannot get away with this. We’re taking action, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of the Biden IRS to get to the bottom of this. The IRS’s deadline to respond is Monday, and we’ll be ready to file a lawsuit if they don’t comply.

Now, 13 U.S. Senators have joined us in the fight demanding to know all of the details behind why the IRS is doing this again.

ACLJ Director of Government Affairs Thann Bennett explained why the Senate is taking action:

The reason the U.S. Senate is involved now is because back in 2018, in addition to the consent decree . . .  Congress actually told the IRS in a statute that they cannot engage in this targeting again. They said things like the ‘Be On the Lookout’ list was outlawed. . . . It was passed as part of the appropriations process. They are statutorily prohibited from doing what they have now done again. What we have today is a letter sent from the U.S. Senate that is led by Senator Lankford, Senator Sasse, and 11 other Senators, basically demanding answers and demanding to know why the IRS apparently violated the law and who is responsible for this. We see this a lot. A lot of times it takes a dual track. It takes a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) effort from the outside on our part to get the information on how this happened, and it takes an inside effort inside the U.S. Congress. That effort is underway now thanks to these 13 Senators. The bottom line is the IRS is again violating the law and targeting Christians, and it has to stop.

ACLJ Senior Military Analyst and former Chaplain in the Army Wes Smith described the absurd reasoning in the letter the IRS gave for denying Christians Engaged tax-exempt status:

It is shocking. I read the signature block at the end. I wonder if Steven Martin still has his job with the IRS – the Director of [tax] exemptions of the IRS. He actually criticized Christians Engaged and denied their tax-exempt status because they talk about the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, laws versus lawlessness, freedom of speech, religious liberty, those things, and because of that – your requests are denied. There is a bias in a lot of federal bureaucracies and certainly in the IRS against Christians and conservatives. It is sobering, but in actuality – one has to be on guard against their own government if you are a Christian or a conservative, which of course is part of ACLJ’s purpose, to stand as a guardian of constitutional rights. Because they are not only violating the consent decree that we set up and violating the law, but they are also violating the Constitution of the United States.

We are glad Christians Engaged got their exemption, but it should have never been this way in the first place. It started off as one group back in 2016, then more and more groups called us for the same exact issue, and it led to 40 organizations. So even though this group is safe for now, we need to know how many other groups got a letter like Christians Engaged. We filed a FOIA request to get to the bottom of this, and the IRS has to respond on Monday. If we do not get an adequate response, we will be filing a lawsuit.

Today’s full Sekulow broadcast is complete with even more analysis of the IRS caught targeting Christians once again.

Watch the full broadcast below.