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Members of Congress demand IRS reverse decision denying tax exemption to Christian group    

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A security camera hangs near a corner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, May 27, 2015. Tax return information for about 100,000 U.S. taxpayers was illegally accessed by cyber criminals over the past four months, U.S. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of data thefts that have alarmed American consumers. |

A group of Republican members of Congress have urged the Internal Revenue Service to change their stance on denying a Texas-based Christian nonprofit tax-exempt status because the government body had deemed it too political.

In May, the IRS denied a request by Christians Engaged to be given an exemption under Section 501(c)(3), which would label the group a charitable organization and receive benefits such as tax-deductible contributions.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig last Friday, urging him to change their position on Christians Engaged and to remove all IRS employees who were responsible for that decision.

“The IRS must objectively analyze applications for tax-exempt status and cannot allow political biases to creep into its decisions,” read the letter in part.

“We urge you to immediately review Christians Engaged’s application for 501(c)(3) status personally, and terminate the IRS staff involved in the flawed and politically motivated reasoning behind the determination.”

Other signatories of the letter included Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, and Reps. Burgess Owens of Utah, Bob Good of Virginia, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

In a statement last Friday, Roy argued that the denial of the exemption for Christians Engaged “further exposed the corruption and liberal bias running rampant at the IRS.”

“This discriminatory action against a Christian nonprofit is an overt attack on religious liberty by a tyrannical federal government,” Roy added.

“Moreover, this decision comes at a time when members of both parties are trying to increase the ability of the IRS to harass individual Americans, businesses, and organizations.”

Based in Garland, Texas, Christians Engaged is led by Bunni Pounds, a political consultant and conservative activist who ran for Congress in 2018 but lost in the Republican primary.  

The religious organization filed for nonprofit status in 2019 and received a notice of denial from IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin on May 18.

“You engage in prohibited political campaign intervention,” argued Martin. “You are also not operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3), because you operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”

Martin also contended that the group could not receive a tax-exempt status because it worked to instruct people on what the Bible says about issues like the sanctity of life and marriage, which "generally distinguish candidates and are associated with political party platforms."

Christians Engaged has appealed the decision, with the First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal nonprofit that often handles religious freedom litigation, overseeing the appeal.

“Only a politicized IRS could see Americans who pray for their nation, vote in every election, and work to engage others in the political process as a threat,” said First Liberty Counsel Lea Patterson in a statement earlier this month.

“The IRS violated its own regulations in denying tax-exempt status because Christians Engaged teaches biblical values.”

Patterson also noted that the IRS granted a tax exemption to former first lady Michelle Obama and her activist group called When We All Vote. 

In 2013, the IRS garnered national outrage when the agency admitted to having targeted conservative groups' tax-exempt applications that had the terms “Tea Party” or “Patriot” during the 2012 presidential election season.

Lois Lerner, then director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, apologized for the attacks, stating at the time that it was “absolutely inappropriate and not the way we should do things.”

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