Christians Engaged is a group-based in Garland, Texas. It has a simple purpose, to engage Christians in politics to advance moral causes based upon Biblical principles.
CHRISTIANS ENGAGED exists to awaken, motivate, educate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ:
PRAY – Commit to pray for 5 minutes a week for your nation.
VOTE – Commit to vote in every election in 2021-2022.
ENGAGE – Commit to engage in some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation.
To further their goals, they applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status. This should be a no-brainer. If you visit the website, it is very clearly non-partisan in nature. That, however, was not how the IRS saw it. In a letter from IRS Office of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements Director Stephen Martin, the group was accused, without evidence, of engaging in “prohibited political campaign intervention.” This is from the letter:
Application of law
You are not as described in IRC Section 501(c)(3) because you are not operated exclusively for religious and educational purposes. Specifically, you are engaged in prohibited political campaign invention. You are also operated for substantial nonexempt purposes in contravention to Treas. Reg. Section 1.501(c)(3)- I (c)(l).
You are not described in Treas. Reg. Section 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(i) in that you spend a substantial amount of time and resources devoted to activities that are typical of an action organization. Treas. Reg. Section 1.501(c)(3)- l(c)(3)(iii) further defines an “action” organization as one that plans to participate and intervene in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office. 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 party platforms. These facts preclude you from exemption under IRC Section 50l(c)(3).
You are similar to Situation 16 in Revenue Ruling 2007-41. Certain aspects are weighed in determining campaign intervention as evidenced within the ruling. 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 party platforms.
You are not similar to Situation 19 in Revenue Ruling 2007-41. Information you present and on your website is not neutral. You instruct individuals on how Christians should use the Bible and vote the Bible.
You are like the organization described in American Campaign Academy, because you are serving the private interests of the [Republican] party more than incidentally in contravention to Treas. Reg. Section 1.50l(c)(3)- l(d)(l)(ii) as well as serving a substantial nonexempt private purpose. For example, you educate believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Specifically, you educate Christians on what the bible (sic) says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The bible (sic) teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRS Section 50I(c)(3).
You do not qualify as an organization described in IRC Section 501(c)(3). You engage in prohibited political campaign intervention. You are also not operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 50l (c)(3), because you operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.
This is exactly the same kind of nonsense the IRS engaged in under the maladministration of Obama’s goon, Lois Lerner. The IRS letter — improperly, in my view — uses the political backgrounds of the officers of the organization to declare that the whole group is just a part of the GOP. If this standard was followed with any semblance of equity, then virtually all the left-wing non-profits would be snuffed out. The Bible, yes, IRS, the word is capitalized, is not neutral on the sanctity of life. It is not neutral on homosexuality. It is not neutral on marriage. It is not neutral on justice.
Where I might depart from this group is on speech, defense, borders, and immigration having definitive Biblical teaching. These are, in my worldview, the province of a fully-formed Christian conscience. But educating willing listeners on what the Bible has to tell us about how to weigh those issues is certainly fair game. The fact that Republican candidates more closely hew to Biblical views on some policies is not grounds for disallowing non-profit status to this group. The fact that the IRS considers a Biblically formed worldview to be the exclusive province of Republicans speaks volumes for the culture within the IRS and the danger facing religious institutions.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the IRS has effectively taken a giant leap beyond the Johnson Amendment and outlawed churches speaking out on moral issues facing the country as they are in exactly the same position as Christians Engaged insofar as they are remotely concerned about morality and the Bible.
Every year, we hear the left and various VichyCons guffaw about the “war on Christmas,” as though Christianity is not under direct assault. As we saw yesterday, the US Supreme Court is unable or unwilling to take very simple steps to defend religion from a relentless assault by a hostile and secular culture despite the guarantees of the First Amendment (see The Roberts Court Punts on Religious Liberty Again and Supremes Upholds Religious Freedom 9-0 — Catholic Agency May Exclude Same-Sex Couples for Adoptions). This IRS ruling is more than just shutting down an attempt by a Texas organization to energize Christian voters, it the long run it will be seen as one of the first acts to ban Christianity from the public square.