IRS Tells Ministry: You Can’t Talk About That

Hear federal agent say ‘You have to know your boundaries’


A new tape recording has been released that reveals an Internal Revenue Service agent stumbling and hesitating her way through a telephone call with a non-profit organization with the basic message that its officials are not allowed to spread their pro-life message.

Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom said the situation developed while an application for tax status was pending for a nonprofit organization that provides support to women in abusive pregnancy situations.

The recorded conversation reveals the IRS agent, Sherry Wan, telling Ania Joseph of Pro-Life Revolution, “You cannot, you know, use your religious belief to tell other people you don’t have a belief, so I don’t believe you need the right to do this, start confrontation, protesting, uh, prot, uh, protest. .. You don’t apply for tax exemption.”

The ADF reported the organization did not get its tax-exempt status until last week – nearly two and a half years after requesting the designation.

“The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech and belief police,” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The current scandal isn’t new but has merely exposed the abuse of power that characterizes this agency and threatens our fundamental freedoms.”

Pro-Life Revolution operates from Texas for religious, education and charitable purposes, and in January 2011 asked for the tax status designation.

The ADF said four months later, the group got a letter from the IRS demanding that officers assure the federal government “that the information you distribute or present to the public are (sic) NOT representing biased and unsupported opinions; [and] that the information presented or distributed are (sic) with sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts as to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion.”

“In general, prolife or abortion is a matter of public concern and there are different opinions on this issue. An organization may advocate the adoption of objective (sic) that are controversial. However, it’s (sic) activities may serve educational purpose (sic) if the activities are nevertheless designed to increase the knowledge and understanding of the public on its viewpoint,” the IRS said.

The letter, also from Wan, said, “From the provisions in Article II, item 2.3 of your bylaws, and from the information presented in your website, it appears that some of your activities, conducted or plan to conduct, may be neither educational nor charitable in nature no matter how sincere of (sic) your religious belief or how important of (sic) your viewpoint.”

Joseph responded with answers, then in March 2012 got a call from Wan, who told her that in order to get a tax exemption, “You cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else…. You have to know your boundaries. You have to know your limits. You have to respect other people’s beliefs.”

This even though the IRS has approved applications for tax exemptions for pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and Life and Liberty for Women.

The ADF reported in February of this year, the IRS requested additional information in another letter and attempted to apply a standard for tax exemption to Pro-Life Revolution that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held to be unconstitutional in 1980.

When the ADF pointed that out to the IRS, the tax exemption finally was granted.

“The power to tax is the power to destroy,” added Stanley. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We cannot allow the IRS to ruthlessly dictate against legitimate non-profits simply because it does not approve of the organization’s mission. It must be held accountable.”

Among Wan’s other statements:

  • “Yeah, you have the religious freedom; the freedom of speech. And other people also have the civil rights; human rights.”
  • “You have no right to (sic), against, other people’s beliefs.”
  • “You reach out to woman, you can’t do that. … You cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else.”
  • “You can’t take all kinds of confrontation activities and also put something on a website and ask people to take action against the abortion clinic. That’s not, that’s not really educational.”
  • “We want you to be aware that, you know, when you conduct religious activities, meanwhile you have to respect other people’s beliefs, other people’s religion. You cannot use any kind of, you know, confrontation way, or to, or against other groups or devalue other groups, other people’s beliefs.”

While much of the coverage of the IRS’s attacks on conservative groups has focused on groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, WND also has reported several times on IRS attacks on Christian and prolife organizations as well as those groups that advocate for the future of Israel.