IRS to Churches: Be Audit You Can Be

IRS to Churches: Be Audit You Can Be

Most of us would love to get the IRS to go to church -- but not to censor what's being said there! Unfortunately, that seems to be the next stop on the agency's intimidation tour, thanks to a new settlement between the President's favorite tax bullies and the extremists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

In late July, the government persuaded the Freedom From Religion Foundation to drop its lawsuit by striking a deal with the atheist group. They had sued the IRS to get it to do what it already does: harass religious Americans. Apparently, the radicals at the Foundation felt like churches were being left out of the administration's conservative targeting party and took the IRS to court for refusing to crackdown on churches that spoke freely about moral or political issues from the pulpit. According to FFRF, the IRS promised to rewrite its policies and take a harder line against pastors exercising their First Amendment rights.

And, not surprisingly, the agency, whose secret-keeping is already at expert status, is keeping any details from Americans. After its latest scandals, bullying churches shouldn't be a great leap after intimidating everyday conservatives, which the IRS's Lois Lerner did to the tune of dozens of political and religious groups. Now, the government wants to control the soundboard at church -- turning off the mics of pastors who fulfill the church's primary purpose: teaching biblical values.

Nevermind that churches have the freedom to preach the truth -- and nevermind that not a single church has ever lost its tax exempt status for doing so, FFRF believes the government -- not pastors -- should decide what's said in the pulpit. Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who for years have encouraged churches to challenge the notion that free speech doesn't apply to pastors, aren't just disturbed that the IRS is rewriting the rules -- but refusing to publicize them.

"Churches have a right to know how they will be treated by the IRS," said ADF's Erik Stanley. "And the IRS, as a public agency, cannot enact new policies in secrecy." Their attorneys have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, demanding the IRS lift the curtain on its shady deal. "Every American should fear an IRS that uses its vast power to target, threaten, and punish political opponents."

If the IRS can't be trusted with emails, why should it be trusted to protect our constitutional right to free speech? That's a question Oklahoma's Attorney General, Scott Pruitt (R), hopes to get to the bottom of. In letters to Justice Department chief Eric Holder and beleaguered IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Pruitt calls for full disclosure on any effort to monitor sermons and investigate churches.

On last night's "Kelly File" on Fox News, Pruitt outlined the dangers of the government's plan. "There is a concern that this has now reached content -- that, if a pastor engages in scriptural teaching around the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage, that this organization believes that that is considered electioneering or politicking under the IRS code and has referred it to enforcement to the IRS. If this settlement reaches that level, that is a wholly new level of enforcement and we need to know about that because that shouldn't be something done in secret." Like us, he thinks it's time to take the club out of the IRS's hands and end this one-sided slippery slope of religious profiling.

Courts Get a Sixth Sense on Marriage

Cincinnati is famous for its chili, sports teams, and riverfront views, but conservatives are hoping it won't be known for something else: a bad decision on marriage. Today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing a chain of same-sex "marriage" cases in the first multiple-state hearing on the issue since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last summer.

All eyes were on the Buckeye state this afternoon as attorneys argued six suits from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee in another showdown over an issue that the courts seem to be earmarking for the Supreme Court: state sovereignty on marriage. After 19 straight defeats in lower courts, voters are hoping this case will finally be the one to break the activist string striking down marriage amendments in other states.

But unfortunately, conservatives aren't just fighting the courts for their right to decide the issue -- they're also fighting a massive PR push from deep-pocketed activists who are desperate to normalize same-sex "marriage." Their campaign is hitting a fever pitch in places like Missouri, where groups like Show Me Marriage are doing their best to bring voters' beliefs in line with the courts'. Despite what the media would have you believe, the public opinion battle has been a bigger one than the Left argued for -- with most Americans' opinions barely budging on the institution these judges are so anxious to redefine. Rasmussen, Fox, and even Politico polling has shown opposition to same-sex "marriage" holding steady, despite (or perhaps because of) the barrage from the courts.

For liberals, their position is even tougher to defend after the government's new report that only 2.3% of the U.S. population is homosexual. I think we can all agree that 3% percent of the country shouldn't be redefining 100% of democracy. Let's hope the 6th Circuit Court agrees. For more on the case and its significance, don't miss Ken Blackwell's interview on MSNBC (video below).

Petition Partition: Houston Mayor Tries to Sink Referendum

Marriage isn't the only issue liberals are afraid to decide democratically. In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker is so concerned that her new genderless bathroom ordinance won't fly that she's trying to flush the referendum that would get the bill on the ballot. After submitting more than 50,000 signatures (30,000 more than our side needed), the Mayor and her team are systematically disqualifying the petitions, hoping to avoid the public blowback sure to undo her radical law.

Conveniently, Mayor Parker (an open lesbian who has called this ordinance "personal") asked the Houston City Attorney, not the Council Secretary, to verify the petitions -- something our friends at Texas Values say is highly unusual. The City Council approved the measure in May, ordering local businesses, employers, and contractors to give special preference to gays and lesbians in their decisions -- along with a highly controversial section that gives adults permission to use whichever public restroom, shower, and locker room they choose, regardless of their biological sex. After the Council approved it, a coalition of local pastors and other concerned citizens promised to take the issue to voters -- something liberals are desperately trying to avoid.

Left with no other option, conservatives are suing the city for applying stricter rules to the repeal petition than others. Dave Welch, part of the Houston Area Pastors Council, blasted the Mayor's abuse of political power. "We were well aware we were dealing with an administration that's willing to bend the rules," he said. "Frankly, there was no respect for the rights of voters in this process."

** For more on the judicial hot potato of marriage, check out the new Daily Caller op-ed from Peter Sprigg, "Appeals Court Should Correct Judge Friedman's Botched Social Science" and Ken Blackwell's debate on MSNBC (below).

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Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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