IRS Sued for Refusing to Release Secret ‘Church Investigations’ Procedures

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Nobody knows what the ‘procedures’ are for conducting ‘church investigations’.

Bradford Richardson reports: Government watchdog groups have filed a motion in federal court to compel the IRS to reveal how it determines when to initiate “church investigations” after accusing the tax-collecting agency of “stonewalling” efforts to bring to light its procedures.

“Our country has a long history of religious leaders speaking freely on matters of public discourse. Whether it is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the charge against segregation, or preachers opposed to the Vietnam War, Americans expect their religious leaders to be able to speak freely to their flock without government oversight.”

— From a 2014 letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, signed by nine members of Congress

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The motion, filed jointly Friday by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Judicial Watch, came in response to a legal settlement struck in 2014 with an atheist organization, which said the IRS had “resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”

“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists.”

— ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb

“The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a press release.

But nobody knows what those “procedures” are for conducting “church investigations,” the watchdog groups said.

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The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court. The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”

— Judicial Watch President Tom Litton, in a press release

“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said in a press release. “The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of [what] we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to Freedom From Religion Foundation.”

Shulman, Lerner and Wolin take their seats to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on targeting of political groups seeking tax-exempt status from by the IRS, on Capitol Hill in Washington

The IRS began producing documents in July, months after the ADF and Judicial Watch had sued the agency for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. But even then the agency withheld more than 10,000 of the 16,000 requested documents, and thousands of the released documents were completely redacted, according to the ADF.

[Read the full story here, at Washington Times]

“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press release. “The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”

The IRS could not be reached for comment by press time. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Christian Printer Who Was Punished By the Government for Refusing to Print Gay Pride T-Shirts Just Scored a Major Victory

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 reports: A Christian printer who was previously found guilty of discrimination for refusing to print T-shirts for a gay pride parade won big on Monday after a court ruled that he can decline to print messages that run in opposition to his religious views.

“In America, we don’t force people to express messages that are contrary to their convictions. America should not be a place where people who identify as homosexual are forced to promote groups like theWestboro Baptists and where printers with sincere religious convictions are forced to promote the message of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization.”

— Adamson‘s co-counsel Bryan Beauman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC

The Fayette County Circuit Court’s ruling overturned a previous decision by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, finding that Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, a printing company in Lexington, Kentucky, was within his rights when he declined to make shirts for the Lexington Pride Parade, according to a press release from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm.

“The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs, and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way.” 

— Jim Campbell, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom

The court found that Adamson did not violate the law in citing his religious convictions as the reason for the refusal, and that his decision was based on his personal freedom not to be forced or coerced to print messages that contradict his views.

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“The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs, and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way,” Jim Campbell, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.

He added, “In short, [Hands On Originals’] declination to print the shirts was based upon the message of [Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington] and the Pride Festival and not on the sexual orientation of its representatives or members.”

As TheBlaze previously reported, Adamson’s case began when he refused service to the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington and the organization subsequently filed a complaint against Hands on Originals in March 2012, alleging that he had discriminated based on sexual orientation.

But Adamson and his attorneys consistently argued that Hands on Originals is a Christian business and that the views presented on the T-shirts — which advertised a gay pride festival — violated his religious beliefs; these arguments were initially dismissed. Read the rest of this entry »


Billboard War in Times Square: Atheists vs. Christians

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Sweeney is the author of Letting Go of God, a play about a young women’s loss of faith.

In a statement, the foundation called this a “lighthearted message.”

“A fifth of the U.S. population identifies as nonbelievers,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, one of FFRF’s co-founders. “We don’t thank a nonexistent god, we put faith in each other and human ingenuity. We believe in deeds, not creeds. We believe the only afterlife that ought to concern us is leaving our descendants a secure and pleasant future.”

It’s the organization’s third Times Square billboard. Atheist and evangelical groups have a history of publicly bickering with each other in New York City, especially around Christmas.

[h/t Blaze, NYT] [Image via FFRF, Salon, Blaze] Mediaite