The IRS has cleared one of the nation's leading pro-family conservatives of accusations that he endangered his organization's nonprofit status by endorsing Republican candidates in 2004.
After a nearly 12-month audit on Focus on the Family and its founder and chairman, Dr. James C. Dobson, the IRS affirmed that the Colo.-based organization committed no wrongdoing, CitizenLink reported Monday. CitizenLink is a publication of Focus on the Family.
"Our examination revealed that Dr. Dobson's reported remarks did not occur in publications of Focus on the Family, did not occur at functions of Focus on the Family and did not involve Dr. Dobson's suggestion that he was speaking as a representative of Focus on the Family," the IRS stated in a letter received last week, according to Dobson. "As such, we are closing our examination without any change to our recognition of Focus on the Family as [a tax-exempt organization]."
At least two liberal watchdog groups – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Colorado Springs-based Citizens Project – had filed complaints with the IRS in 2005 against Dobson, calling on it to conduct a "full-scale investigation" and to revoke Focus' tax-exempt status, levy fines and pursue "civil and criminal penalties."
The complaints alleged that Dobson improperly used Focus on the Family resources to support candidates, which is nonprofit organizations are not allowed to do.
While 501(c)(3) nonprofits such as Focus on the Family can speak out about issues and do a limited amount of lobbying, they can't get involved in races involving candidates under IRS rules.
After the audit, however, as Dobson noted, there were: "No dings. No criticisms. Not a single allegation was found to have substance."
"And the reason we are ['squeaky clean'] is because we believe in the rule of law," he said on his national radio broadcast Monday. "We believe in following, to the letter, IRS regulations and every other aspect of the law. We're called by Scripture to do that. And we live within it."
According to The Associated Press, a CREW spokeswoman said Monday the group has requested a copy of the IRS letter from Focus on the Family and would not respond until it has reviewed it. The IRS does not release audit findings, but audited organizations are free to do so.
Barb Van Hoy, the executive director of Citizens Project, meanwhile, said: "Certainly, we believe Focus on the Family and Dobson have the right of free speech as individuals to espouse their political views, and I'm very pleased to hear the IRS found they were not violating any of the rules.
"We'll keep watching them because they seem willing to push to the very edge," she added, according to AP.
On his radio broadcast Monday, Dobson said the challenge to Focus on the Family's tax-exempt status was an attack meant to muzzle the group and conservative pastors nationwide from speaking out about social and moral issues, including marriage, homosexuality and the sanctity of life.
"The purpose for this was not only to see if they could damage us and take us out," he said, "but to scare every pastor and every nonprofit that's out there."
Focus on the Family is one of the many Christian groups currently opposed to the protesting the hate crimes bill in Congress that is attempting add sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to the existing list of hate crimes protected under law. Dobson has warned that the true intent of the bill is "to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality."
"Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution," he noted.
In Europe and Canada, pastors have already been charged and even threatened with imprisonment for preaching against homosexuality under these countries' hate crimes laws.