About a week after the Internal Revenue Service admitted to targeting tea party and other conservative organizations for tax-exempt status violations, at least two pro-life groups say they, too, were singled out for unnecessary demands by IRS agents.
In June 2009, an agent from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, asked Coalition For Life of Iowa to "send in a letter with the entire board's signatures stating that under perjury of the law we would not picket/protest or organize groups to picket/protest outside of Planned Parenthood," the pro-life group said in a statement Friday.
When the group, which was founded in 2004, asked where in the Form 1023 it stated they could not protest at Planned Parenthood, "the IRS never answered our question," said Susan Martinek, the president of the group which has organized and sponsored educational forums.
The IRS also asked for information about prayer meetings by the group's members. The group believes its participation in prayer activities outside Planned Parenthood has helped reduce the abortion numbers in the county by over 37 percent in 3 years.
"Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3)," the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm that helped Coalition For Life of Iowa, quotes a letter by the IRS as saying. "Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization."
The IRS eventually backed off, granting the group tax-exempt status a month later without its board having to sign such a statement.
Earlier this week, Cherish Life Ministries, another pro-life group, said the IRS denied it 501(c)(3) status on the basis that it is a "political organization."
"The representative was telling me I had to provide information on all aspects of abortion, I couldn't just educate the church from the pro-life perspective," founder Peter Shinn told wnd.com. "Every time I pressed her on this issue and asked her to clarify her position, she would state that it wasn't what she was saying, and then, she would repeat it almost the same way."
Asked why the group was seen as a political organization, the IRS representative told Shinn that "it was because we had said in our application that we did less than 5 percent political activity. I explained to her that this was what was stated in the application and all we were doing was acknowledging that we were doing less than 5 percent political activity," Shinn added.
"She did get nervous though in the end when I pressed her that I wanted specific information about why I had to educate from a pro-abortion perspective not just pro-life," Shinn went on to say. "I explained to her that the Pro-Life Action League even has pro-life in their title and they certainly don't teach pro-abortion topics and they are still 501(c)(3). I also told her that Planned Parenthood does not teach about pro-life issues yet they are also still a 501(c)(3)."
Lois G. Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, told reporters about a week ago that several organizations carrying the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications were singled out by IRS agents for additional reviews between 2010 and 2012.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has claimed the IRS action was not politically motivated and the Administration wasn't aware of the issue until Lerner's admission.
However, with conservative groups now speaking out, it appears the targeting was far worse than what the IRS has admitted to.
Evangelist Franklin Graham wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying the Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association he leads were also targeted by the IRS.
"In light of what the IRS admitted to on Friday, May 10, 2013, and subsequent revelations from other sources, I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year was a coincidence – or justifiable," Graham wrote. "I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it 'un-American.'"