IRS agent warns pro-life group against acting on 'blind, emotional feelings'
by Alissa Robertson
Posted 6/11/13, 02:15 pm
Pro-Life Revolution waited nearly two-and-a-half years for tax-exempt approval, a process that can take as little as three months. During the wait, the organization’s president, Ania Joseph, recorded a disturbing phone conversation in which an IRS agent “inaccurately explains that the group must remain neutral on issues such as abortion.” On Monday, Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) made the audio clips public. (Read a transcript of the call.)
Pro-Life Revolution is a non-profit, faith-based organization providing support to women in abusive pregnancy situations. It works closely with local pregnancy resource centers, churches, and other pro-life groups.
During the 10 minute conversation, the agent told Joseph that her organization could not reach out to women and could only educate them. She also told Joseph that Pro-Life Revolution had to remain neutral on issues such as abortion, and that “you cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on someone else.” But when Joseph asked the agent if handing a brochure to someone was forcing them to do something they did not want to do, the agent said, “no.”
The agent focused on the educational mission of the non-profit, telling Joseph not to “put something on a website and ask people to take action against an abortion clinic,” because that isn’t educational. She added, “Your action is based on more blind, emotional feelings.” Joseph thanked the agent and said she would have to seek legal counsel.
ADF helped Pro-Life Revolution obtain its tax exemption in May. The IRS told ADF in one letter that the organization’s activities might not be educational if they were designed to influence public opinion in favor of its advocated position. ADF pointed out that the IRS statement was contrary to Treasury Regulation 1.501(c)(3)-1(d)(3), which states the exact opposite.
Joseph said honest citizens and pro-life Christians are being targeted by the IRS: “Our freedom of speech is being taken away. Pro-Life Revolution was told … that we are not supposed to be confrontational, that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves. We are being told what to do. We are being told that we aren’t supposed to stand up and speak up for our faith.”
ADF attorney Erik Stanley said, “The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech-and-belief police.”