New allegations claim the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) not only delayed the applications of new conservative groups, but also targeted a Christian group, Family Talk Action, and a well-established group, the Leadership Institute.
In September 2011, well-known family advocate Dr. James Dobson's newest Christian ministry, Family Talk Action Corporation, filed a Form 1024 with the IRS requesting 501(c)(4) status. The attorney in charge had 26 years experience of filing these forms.
"The Family Talk application was every bit as compliant as the ones he'd filled out in the past," said Alex McFarland, the group's Director of Apologetics. McFarland told The Christian Post that, after waiting a year, "the attorney called in December 2012, then several times in January and February" of this year.
The attorney could not leave a message on the full voicemail until March 6, 2013. On March 19, the reviewing agent, R. Medley, finally returned his call. Medley informed him that the form would likely be denied due to its political views.
Family Talk Action, she explained, is "not educational," because it does not present all views. She also called it a "partisan right-wing group," insisting "you're political" because Dr. Dobson "criticized President Obama, who was a candidate."
"This is profiling of people based on their political views and conservative stances," McFarland said.
"In my own experience, it takes 6 months" to receive 501(c)(4) status, he said. "We have heard of other groups with names like 'Progressive' whose applications were turned around in a matter of weeks. Certainly not two years."
When the legal counsel asked Ms. Medley to issue her ruling, the IRS granted the request nine days later.
"Christian ministries and other supporting the family must not be silenced or intimidated by the IRS or other branches of the government," Dobson said, in a statement issued Thursday.
McFarland issued a similar complaint: "This is a matter of religious freedom. The goals of Family Talk Action are well within the bounds of classical Christian orthodoxy, and what Christians know as Christ's great commission," he said, citing Mark 16:15 (Preach the good news to every creature) and Matthew 28 (make disciples of all nations).
"When Christians are not free to share their faith without political repercussion, this is a very dark day in an otherwise democratic America," he said.
McFarland connected the issue to alleged religious persecution in the implementation of President Obama's healthcare law. He urged elected officials "to take this opportunity to rein in if not completely roll back Obamacare, which clearly is one arm of a very draconian era we seem to be entering into." He noted laws that would force "churches, charities, organizations" to "compromise their convictions by providing abortion care or same-sex spousal benefits."
While McFarland mentioned "other Christian groups" also treated unfairly by the IRS, he would not give their names. He did, however, connect the trouble Family Talk Action faced with that faced by "Tea Party groups and the Leadership Institute."
The Leadership Institute (LI), a non-profit dedicated to political training, also claimed unfair treatment from the IRS in a statement issued Thursday. David Fenner, LI's Vice President for Programs, told CP that an audit conducted in June 2011 cost the organization "more than $50,000 in legal fees" and required "23,430 pages of documents."
"That is something that we could bear," Fenner said. "But what about your working mom who is running a tea party group? It's impossible for them to withstand that kind of scrutiny and it would encourage them to give up."
He noted that this audit occurred at the same time as other audits of tea party groups. Strangely, when auditing the Hawaiian tea party, the IRS "specifically asked about their relationship with the Leadership Institute."
"The amount of harassment and the scope of an IRS audit is enough to remove groups from the public policy process altogether," he said, calling the audit "a weapon against organizations."
Fenner defended the idea of audits, but said "the facts speak for themselves" as to whether or not there are two standards for liberal and conservative groups.
"It intimidates, it demotivates, and it's wrong," he concluded.
LI's President, Morton Blackwell, stood in solidarity with Dobson and Family Talk Action. "We have the utmost respect for Doctor James Dobson. He has dedicated his life to his ministries and to educating the American public," he said.
"He is certainly a voice the Obama Administration would like to see silenced."