Republicans called on the head of the IRS Friday to remove a top official who denied a Texas-based Christian group tax exemption status for promoting bible-related “topics” that are “affiliated with distinct candidates and specific political party platforms.”
In a letter to Commissioner Charles Rettig, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy and 14 other congressional Republicans called the decision “blatantly biased, discriminatory, and flawed,” and requested the IRS head personally review the case.
Stephen Martin, IRS director of exempt organizations, said in a May letter to Christians Engaged, that the group did not qualify for the federal tax exemption status because it “engaged in prohibited political campaign intervention.”
“While you educate voters on what the bible says about issues, your educational activities are not neutral,” Martin wrote to the group. “The topics typically are affiliated with distinct candidates and specific political party platforms.”
The IRS director pointed to the group’s work in teaching followers about “the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, laws vs. lawlessness, freedom of speech, religious liberty, government and business ethics, human trafficking, fiscal responsibility in government budgeting, defense, borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations.”
But Republicans on the Hill argued these topics did align with Christian dogma.
“These issues have always been at the core of Christian belief and classifying them as inherently political is patently absurd,” the group of lawmakers wrote in the Friday letter. “If the IRS applied this interpretation broadly, it would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of thousands of Christian churches across the country.”
Nonprofit organizations eligible for the tax exemption status are not permitted to participate or intervene in political campaigns, according to the IRS.
In his explanation, Martin pointed to references allegedly made by Christian Engaged regarding “candidates that aligned” with the group’s religious affiliation and claimed the group created “voter guides” dependent on candidate values.
But according to the GOP lawmakers, Christian Engaged has denied creating the alleged voter guides.
“We ask that the IRS substantiate this claim and its determination that any such documents are in violation of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code,” the lawmakers said.
The added: “We urge you to immediately review Christians Engaged’s application for 501(c)(3) status personally, and terminate the IRS staff involved in the flawed and politically motivated reasoning behind the determination.”