The Faith & Freedom Coalition demanded Monday the release of a secret legal agreement between the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice and atheist organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation charging that it is likely to censor churches by "potentially infringing upon their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association".
The agreement was reached on July 17 in federal court to settle a lawsuit filed by the FFRF in 2012. The group celebrated it as a victory last month.
"We're proud that FFRF's litigation should ensure that the IRS will now resume enforcing the law, and go after churches which abuse their tax-exempt privilege by attempting to illegally influence the outcome of elections," noted FFRF Co-President Dan Barker in a release last month.
"Otherwise, churches will become unaccountable PACs, congregations could turn into political wards, and donations to the collection box could be used for political purposes. FFRF's litigation will help safeguard our democratic election process," said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
On Monday however, the Faith & Freedom Coalition highlighted in a statement that the July 17 agreement has not been released to the public and the IRS has not "stated what protocols or provisions it agreed to in order to enhance its tax enforcement of churches."
"Given the history of the IRS in harassing, persecuting and infringing on the First Amendment rights of Christians and other people of faith, this is a deeply disturbing development," said Ralph Reed, chairman of Faith & Freedom Coalition. "For the Christian community to be targeted for increased enforcement power and the threat of loss of tax-exempt status by this scandal-plagued agency defies logic, common sense, and any sound legal basis."
Lois G. Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, triggered lawsuits and a congressional investigation in May 2013 when she revealed that applications for groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their name were singled out for extra scrutiny.
The Faith & Freedom Coalition noted that last week, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent letters to the IRS and the DOJ seeking copies of the legal agreement, correspondence between the government and the FFRF and other related internal documents.