The IRS abused its power in targeting conservatives for harassment and probably leaking information to liberal groups during the presidential election cycle.
But the IRS’s actions crossed a line from merely corrupt into sinister when it grilled an Iowa pro-life group about its religious views. During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Friday, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., asked outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller about it.
“Their question,” Schock said, “specifically asked from the IRS to the Coalition for Life of Iowa: ‘Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers.’ Would that be an inappropriate question to a 501 c3 applicant? The content of one’s prayers?’
Miller tried to avoid answering the question, claiming to have no knowledge of the case, but finally said it would “surprise me” if such a question was asked.
The Thomas More Society presented the Ways and Means Committee with evidence in three cases involving its clients being harassed by the IRS. The information indicates that at least two other pro-life organizations were targeted and that the actions extended beyond the IRS’s Cincinnati office, which has been at the center of many of the past week’s revelations, and began before 2010, the date that has come up frequently in other cases of IRS harassment.
According to TMS, in 2011, the El Monte, California, office of the IRS began harassing Christian Voices for Life of Fort Bend County, Texas. In a statement, TMS wrote: “In a series of questions penned by Exempt Organization Specialist Tyrone Thomas from the California office, the IRS asked a series of unwarranted questions ordering Christian Voices for Life without any foundation, to explain its content, message, and prayers as if they were engaging in highly offensive or criminal behavior.”
The Coalition for Life found itself under IRS scrutiny when it applied for nonprofit status in October 2008, during the closing months of the Bush Administration. Nearly a year of interrogation included an illegal demand from the IRS’s Cincinnati office that coalition board members sign a pledge not to picket Planned Parenthood. Other demands of the group included information about the “content of the group’s prayer meetings, educational seminars, and signs their members hold outside Planned Parenthood.”
Daniel and Angela Michael of Small Victories, a pro-life organization, were singled out by an IRS agent in Chicago who called them every two to three weeks with demands for a year.
During the testimony and numerous stories that have come out this week, it was also revealed that the IRS has been targeting conservative Jewish groups for similar treatment, especially pressuring them about support for Israel, while groups perceived as supporting liberal causes and the Administration have sailed through the IRS review process.
The Thomas More Society also represents clients who are suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the Obama Administration’s demand that religious groups provide health insurance to employees that funds contraception and abortions in violation of religious conscience.
Almost since Day One of the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security has issued reports warning of the dangers posed by conservative groups and military veterans, conflating Christians and Orthodox Jews with Left-wing-inspired groups such as the KKK and neo-Nazis.
More recently, the Air Force and Pentagon have moved toward a policy of cracking down on Christians who evangelize by sharing their faith with other enlisted personnel. The planned policy change has raised alarm among conservative groups because it seems to be driven by the zealously anti-Christian Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Taken altogether, and viewed against President Obama’s self-professed preference for Muslims, the Administration’s targeting of Christians and Jews is chilling. Still the Administration pretends as if nothing unusual has gone on.
These are the roots of tyranny, which we are watching grow deeper before our very eyes.