Friday, June 18, 2021

Christian Organization Appeals IRS Denial of Non-Profit Status

In a determination letter (full text) issued May 18, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service preliminarily concluded that it should deny a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit exemption to Christians Engaged because the religious organization "plans to participate ... in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office." The letter continues:

You instruct individuals on issues that are prominent in political campaigns and instruct them in what the Bible says about the issue and how they should vote. These issues include the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and biblical justice. These issues generally distinguish candidates and are associated with political platforms. These facts preclude you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).

... While you educate voters on what the bible says about issues, your educational activities are not neutral. The topics typically are affiliated with distinct candidates and specific political platforms.

First Liberty, on behalf of Christians Engaged, has filed an appeal with the IRS. (Full text of letter dated June 16, 2021). It contends:

... [B]y finding that Christians Engaged does not meet the operational test, Director Martin errs in three ways: 1) he invents a nonexistent requirement that exempt organizations be neutral on public policy issues; 2) he incorrectly concludes that Christians Engaged primarily serves private, nonexempt purposes rather than public, exempt purposes because he thinks its beliefs overlap with the Republican Party’s policy positions; and 3) he violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech, and Free Exercise, and Establishment clauses by engaging in both viewpoint discrimination and religious discrimination.

UPDATE: On July 7, First Liberty announced that the IRS had granted Christians Engaged tax exempt status.