The IRS isn't exactly topping conservatives' nice list this Christmas -- so the idea of handing over even more sensitive information to an agency caught leaking it doesn't exactly thrill most Americans. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the Obama administration is proposing under a little rule quietly announced this September. The IRS didn't make much noise about the idea, and considering the opposition -- it's easy to see why.
Under this "optional" new system, the agency is suggesting that 501(c)(3) organizations (like FRC) consider doing away with their written acknowledgements of gifts over $250 and consider sending all of their donors' personal information to the agency instead. Specifically, the IRS is interested in Social Security numbers, which the agency insists would make it easier for givers. Instead of processing lots of paperwork, officials are cheering the idea as a way to cut down on paperwork and streamline the filing for both sides. Google "Lois Lerner" if you think this is a good idea. Now, how many of you would knowingly share your conservative associations with an agency -- not just openly hostile to your beliefs, but with a history of punishing those beliefs with impunity? Anyone?
After years of targeting conservative groups for harassment, the IRS's relationship with nonprofits has been taxed to say the least. First, it leaked confidential donor information to gay activists to shame natural marriage supporters in 2012. Then came the even bigger revelation: that the head of the tax-exemption agency had been systematically revoking the nonprofit status of conservative and Christian organizations. That Tour d'Intimidation continued well into Lerner's resignation last year -- and, thanks to a Justice Department that refuses to pursue the lawbreakers, it may still be ongoing. To say there are trust issues between charities and the IRS would be an understatement.
But even if the climate of intimidation weren't as it is, the rule still ranks right up there with one of the worst ideas ever. In case Americans haven't noticed, the Obama administration hasn't exactly been Fort Knox on data security. Not to mention that nonprofits would now be in the business of collecting that information. And, as election law attorney Cleta Mitchell points out, "How does any donor know whether a charity is going to be able to protect that information?"
As it stands, groups like FRC don't ask for -- nor do they need -- donors' Social Security information to process gifts. If they were forced to, it would significantly raise the cost of securing that data. More importantly, it would scare away potential donors, who (naturally) doubt the government's reliability when it comes to safeguarding their personal details. And even if both sides could be trusted, the system itself is rife for abuse. "Scam artists, of which there are many, will start preying on people," warned the CEO of the National Council for Nonprofits. "They'll say they can't take your tax deductible contribution unless you give them their Social Security number." Even the Treasury Department is worried about the risks!
And while the rule would be voluntary at the outset, don't be fooled. That's the way a lot of these regulations work. The first year, the government makes them voluntary to give groups time to "get in line." By the second or third year, they simply change one word: "voluntary" to "mandatory."
If you're as concerned as we are, join the chorus of critics in opposing the rule. (Follow this link to the blue button in the upper right.) The government is driving public comments to the IRS page before the window for input closes December 16. So this Christmas, give the IRS what it deserves: a piece of your mind!
First there was no room at the inn. Now there's no room for Mary and Joseph anywhere. Just ask public universities. Most college campuses never met a party they didn't like -- until they had "Christmas" in the name. That's the latest flash point from Mississippi to Tennessee.
At James Madison University, the school's "Unity Tree" lighting didn't exactly create harmony with the students' Christian acapella group. Instead of singing, "Mary, Did You Know?" as "Into Hymn" requested, the students were told to perform a secular song -- or not at all.
That was par for the politically correct course at the University of Mississippi, where officials renamed the "Grand Ole Christmas" celebration into a "less offensive" drinking party: "Hotty Toddy Holiday." Hannah Haley was just one of the Christian students stunned by the change. Speakers kept bringing up words like "family" and "inclusion," she wrote, but went on to exclude the majority of the campus with the change. "There is diversity in even how Christians celebrate Christmas," she argued.
In Florida, the group behind the annual Capitol nativity scene surrendered before they even started. Pam Olsen, the president of the Florida Prayer Network, felt that with all of the violence in America, sponsoring the manger scene would just bring more division. This is not the year, she told reporters, "for that kind of debate in our rotunda." If Americans ever needed the hope and comfort of the manger, it's now. Instead, Floridians will have an LGBT-sponsored "Festivus Pole" (of "Seinfeld" fame) in its place.
In Indiana, the self-censoring was replaced by court-censoring, thanks to a frivolous lawsuit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The secular bullies, who refuse to pick on someone their own size, singled out a small school district in Elkhart to bah-humbug. Angry about the school's living nativity tradition (now 45 years strong), the organization sued -- and, with the help of an equally uninformed judge, won. "The living nativity scene impermissibly conveys an endorsement of religion and thus runs afoul of the Establishment Clause."
If the nativity were unconstitutional, why would close to 20 state capitols have them on display? The reality is that religious liberty exists for the exercise of all faiths -- including the Christian one. If that bothers these grinches, here's an idea: don't participate! But don't wage an all-out war to stop the rest of the world from celebrating either.
If the Paris attacks sparked U.S. officials to reexamine their refugee policy, you wouldn't know it. According to CNSNews's numbers, the Obama administration is still letting in hundreds of Syrian refugees -- just not the ones who identify as Christians. Since the November 13 terrorist tragedy in France, the U.S. has opened its doors to 236 Sunni Muslims and one (one!) Christian.
Despite making up roughly 10 percent of the Syrian population, Christians are still being blocked from the U.S. in disproportionate numbers. Of course, even more interesting is that Sunni Muslims are one of the few religious groups ISIS tolerates -- increasing the odds that a radical could slip in among them. Although not all are bad characters, the San Bernardino shooters were Sunni Muslims. And while we don't advocate closing the doors to refugees, we do believe in properly vetting the men and women resettling among us -- as Republican leaders proposed.
Christians, on the other hand, pose zero risk to American security but always seem to get the short of end of the stick in an administration whose policies are never beneficial to the faith our country was founded on. Of course, the president is never eager to put a spotlight on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East because he doesn't want to be portrayed as siding with Christian refugees over Muslim refugees. Draw from that what conclusions you may.
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways we can help the hurting without exposing ourselves to another terror attack. The U.S. can offer humanitarian support to those in refugee camps abroad. We can work with the international community to expand the safe zones so those who want to stay in their countries and begin rebuilding their lives can do so. And most importantly, we can provide military support to help defeat ISIS, so that people don't have to seek asylum in the first place.
** Will Christians in the Middle East Be Officially Recognized as Victims of Genocide? Good question -- one that FRC's Travis Weber tries to answer in his new column. Also, for more on the president's tired gun control agenda, check out Ken Blackwell's response at CNSNews.com, "Instead of Stopping Terrorists from Killing Americans, Obama Launches another Anti-Gun Campaign."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.