American Atheists Continue Efforts to Remove Ground Zero Cross; ACLJ Criticizes Attempts to ‘Rewrite History’

Father Brian Jordan (L), a Franciscan Priest, blesses The World Trade Center Cross, made of intersecting steel beams found in the rubble of buildings destroyed in the September 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, before it is transported and lowered by a crane into an opening in the World Trade Center site below ground level where it will become part of the permanent installation exhibit in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, in New York, July 23, 2011.  (Photo: Reuters / Chip East)

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IRS tells pro-life ministry to promote abortion

Evidence suggests problem of politicization of tax collector far bigger than admitted

IRS

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The Internal Revenue Service already has confessed to targeting and trying to injure tea party, Constitution and patriot organizations, by demanding answers to arbitrary questions and delaying their applications for a tax status so they could operate.

Now WND has learned that the IRS also put an organization in its bull’s-eye that wanted to do nothing more than share its pro-life message with churches.

 Cherish Life Ministries was created to be a non-profit under the IRS 501(c)3 provision so that churches would feel comfortable working together.

Peter Shinn founded the group, because he already was working with ProlifeUnity.com, but as it did not carry the same tax code designation as a religious institution, some churches were reluctant to hear the message from its education materials.

And even more reluctant to participate, Shinn told WND.

The mission of the ProlifeUnity group is to “save the unborn and defend the defenseless, no exceptions, no compromise.”

It organizes pickets, works through email campaigns and takes “direct action” on the dispute.

So Shinn launched Cherish Life Ministries, a separate organization, to offer help to a coalition of churches that supports mothers struggling with unexpected pregnancies, promotes abstinence and advocates for an end to abortion in the community, state and nation.

“Our goal is to assist churches, organize and support a life ministry in defense of life and help function as an outreach to people struggling with unwanted pregnancies in the local community,” the site states.

Education materials are offered.

But Shinn said the IRS contacted him regarding his application for nonprofit status, and was told he didn’t qualify.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The IRS agent did not respond to a WND request for comment on the ministry’s position.

But Shinn said he was accused of setting up a political organization.

“I asked her why she said we were political organization and she said 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,” he said.

He said the woman then accused him of having links to political activity on his website, even though he said he did not.

“She told me … they were going to deny my application,” he told WND. “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. 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).”

He also told WND that the IRS had rewritten his proposed bylaws “to paint our organization as a political organization. I couldn’t believe they took it upon themselves to do that,” he told WND.

The result is that the IRS gave him 90 days “to prove that we are not involved in political issues at all.”

WND reported when the IRS story broke last week that Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., believes the IRS “confession” was made because Barack Obama wants to distract attention from the scandal of his administration’s behavior when Islamists attacked and killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Bachmann, a former tax attorney and a leader of the congressional tea party caucus, told WND, “There’s no doubt this was not a coincidence that they dumped this story today, a Friday dump day This is when they put their negative stories out.”

But she said the looming storm cloud called Benghazi is the “soft underbelly” of the Obama administration and likely will keep Hillary Clinton from fulfilling her dream of occupying the Oval Office.

That would make it logical to release an IRS story that, while embarrassing, also could be cubbyholed as another “conservative” dispute with the White House.

She was referring to the ongoing hearings on the administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack by al-Qaida-linked terrorists on a U.S. foreign service post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the ambassador.

House Republicans allege the U.S. government knew of a terrorist threat but ignored it. After the attack, critics charge, the administration blamed the deaths on reaction to an obscure anti-Muslim video, despite evidence from the beginning that it was a premeditated terrorist attack.

Locked in a tight presidential race, a deliberate assault on American assets and the murder of Americans by al-Qaida on a date as significant as 9/11 would have damaged Obama’s campaign claim that his administration had al-Qaida under control.

Bachmann said the IRS announcement of misbehavior was intended to provoke conservatives and draw their anger and attention.

“I was in that Benghazi hearing,” she told WND. “I think the Obama administration is desperate to spin Benghazi, and they can’t. I think they saved this story up for a day like today so that conservatives would focus on this admission.”

It won’t work, she insisted.

“Conservatives can handle two shocking stories at the same time,” she said. “Both are equally unconstitutional and call into question the very president.”

The IRS confirmed on Friday that it had been targeting groups with “patriot,” “Constitution” or “tea party” in their names for punishment through additional questioning and delays.

The American Center for Law and Justice under Jay Sekulow’s leadership already had been fighting the battle.

“We knew from the very start that this intimidation tactic was coordinated and focused directly on specific organizations,” said Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.

“This admission by the IRS represents a significant victory for free speech and freedom of association. There was never any doubt that these organizations complied with the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades. And for the many tax-exempt groups we represent, this is an important day – and underscores the need to stand-up and defend your constitutional freedoms.”

The ACLJ has been representing nearly 30 tea party organizations that had been the target of intimidation tactics by the IRS under the Obama administration.

Among the details the IRS demanded:

  • “Have you attempted or will you attempt to influence the outcome of specific legislation? If so, provide the following … all communications, pamphlets, advertisements, and other materials.”
  • “Have you conducted or will you conduct candidate forums? If so, provide the following details… The issues that were discussed. Copies of all handouts provided.”
  • “The names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they will spend on the event. Indicate the name and amount of compensation that will be paid to each person.”
  • “All copies of your corporate minutes from inception.”
  • “Please identify your volunteers.”
  • “The names of donors, contributors, and grantors.”
  • “Do you encourage eligible voters to educate themselves, register to vote, and vote? Explain in detail how you do this.”
  • “You were formed 12/28/10. Provide actual financial information for 2010 & 2011, and a budget for 2012. Provide details regarding each item listed.”

Bachmann told WND it’s stunning that the Obama administration used “the federal agency feared most by Americans to intimidate conservative and tea party organizations during an election year.”

Since the IRS also is the chief enforcer of Obamacare requirements, she asked whether the IRS’s admission means it “will deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.

At this point, she said, that “is a reasonable question to ask.”

Over the weekend, instead of dying, the IRS story turned white-hot.

Fox News reported the House Ways and Means Committee will be holding a hearing and the attacks began as early as 2010, only a little more than a year after Obama took office.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported officials high in the agency knew that was happening as early as 2011, and The Examiner said the IRS also singled out business owners who were critical of the Obama administration.

Politico noted some tea party organizations already have threatened to bring the misbehaving IRS officials into court.

“Given the sheer scope of malfeasance at the IRS, there may be a legal resource,” said Dan Backer, who represents conservative groups.

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Firestorm over ‘political intimidation’ by IRS

Senator: Apology ‘not enough’ for threatening constitutional freedoms

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Richard Nixon talked about doing it. And Bill Clinton took it a step further and actually attacked individuals through the processes and paperwork of the Internal Revenue Service.

Now America knows that the Obama administration did the same thing, after the IRS apologized today for inappropriately targeting and attacking conservative political groups during the 2012 election season.

The confirmation came from Lois Lerner, chief of the unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations across the country.

She blew out of the water those who charge that conservatives are “conspiracy” nuts on the issue of the IRS with her confirmation that groups that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications were put in a political bull’s-eye.

The American Center for Law and Justice under Jay Sekulow’s leadership had been fighting the battle already.

“We knew from the very start that this intimidation tactic was coordinated and focused directly on specific organizations,” said Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.

“This admission by the IRS represents a significant victory for free speech and freedom of association. There was never any doubt that these organizations complied with the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades. And for the many tax-exempt groups we represent, this is an important day – and underscores the need to stand-up and defend your constitutional freedoms.”

The ACLJ has been representing nearly 30 tea party organizations who had been the subject of intimidation tactics from the IRS under the Obama administration as they applied for various status levels under IRS regulations.

The federal government had demanded information that was outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violated the First Amendment, the ACLJ explained.

The Obama IRS hierarchy, in fact, demanded that groups reveal the internal workings of their organizations – “including the identification of members, how they are selected, who they associate with, and even what they discuss.”

And the names and contact information for their relatives.

Sekulow said it took the threat of legal action from his organization “to get the IRS to make this admission.”

“And while many of the organizations we represent have finally been granted tax-exempt status, we demand the IRS immediately approve the pending applications for the remainder of our clients,” he said.

Sekulow, who served as a trial lawyer with the office of the chief counsel for the IRS earlier in his career, said the questions included those that simply were inappropriate and fall well outside the scope of legitimate IRS inquiry.

For example, IRS agents demanded answers to questions including:

  • “Have you attempted or will you attempt to influence the outcome of specific legislation? If so, provide the following … all communications, pamphlets, advertisements, and other materials.”
  • “Have you conducted or will you conduct candidate forums? If so, provide the following details… The issues that were discussed. Copies of all handouts provided.”
  • “The names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they will spend on the event. Indicate the name and amount of compensation that will be paid to each person…”
  • “All copies of your corporate minutes from inception.”
  • “Please identify your volunteers.”
  • “The names of donors, contributors, and grantors.”
  • “Do you encourage eligible voters to educate themselves, register to vote, and vote? Explain in detail how you do this.”
  • “You were formed 12/28/10. Provide actual financial information for 2010 & 2011, and a budget for 2012. Provide details regarding each item listed.”

The ACLJ also has called for congressional hearings on the problem, and more than 50,000 Americans have joined in that call.

Nixon talked about sending the IRS after his political enemies, but in fact that activity did not develop. It was Clinton who did it.

Among Clinton’s targets was WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah.

“As someone whose organization was a victim of this kind of illegal harassment and intimidation and political retribution during the Clinton administration – and who blew the whistle on it – my question is, ‘Who is going to be fired and prosecuted as a result of this admission?’” he said.

“Apologies are nice. But they don’t excuse people of crimes. When government officials abuse their power and break laws, they need to be punished as certainly and severely as ordinary citizens. In fact, to maintain trust in government, we need to ensure they are held to a higher standard. So what happens now? Who’s going to take the rap? Which law-enforcement agency is going to investigate? It would seem that an independent prosecutor is necessary unless the Congress is willing to take the lead.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House should do a review to assure “the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told WND, the admission from the Obama administration is stunning, to have used “the federal agency feared most by Americans to intimidate conservative and tea party organizations during an election year.”

She questioned directly whether that means, since the IRS also is the chief enforcer of Obamacare requirements, whether “the IRS will deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.

At this point, she said, that “is a reasonable question to ask.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, “Although I am happy that it has finally admitted to placing politics over policy, the IRS owes conservative groups far more than a mere apology for their unfair treatment. It is crystal clear that additional safeguards are in order to prevent this obtrusive behavior in the future. This overt and excessive harassment of groups targeted for their political beliefs is despicable, and many questions remain. How were ‘low-level workers in Cincinnati’ able to initiate practices that completely undermine the IRS’s promise to treat all groups with an even hand? Even more, what were they hoping to do with the copious personal information they obtained from these groups?”

Portman last year along with Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urge the IRS to stop politics from interfering in its activities.

“It is critical that the public have confidence that federal tax compliance efforts are pursued in a fair, even-handed, and transparent manner – without regard to politics of any kind,” the senators said at the time. “It is imperative that organizations applying for tax-exempt status are able to rely on a consistent and foreseeable review structure from the IRS. Any significant changes to the IRS review process should be implemented only after appropriate notice and opportunity for comment from the public and affected parties.”

Hatch said, “While I’m glad to see the IRS apologize for unfairly targeting conservative groups, this frankly isn’t enough. We need to have ironclad guarantees from the IRS that it will adopt significant protocols to ensure this kind of harassment of groups that have a constitutional right to express their own views never happens again. ”

He continued, “There can be no tolerance for the IRS being turned into a political weapon; it has a chilling and, frankly, Nixonian effect on those who wish to speak their mind. I will be discussing this further with the head of the IRS and expect a full briefing and report as to how this happened. The American people deserve to know who at the IRS learned about this unlawful activity, when they learned about it, and what they did, or did not, do when they did learned about it.”

WND reported on the situation a year ago with the ACLJ started representing tea party organizations.

The organization said at the time the IRS was “conditioning the grant of exemptions on the extensive violation of the tea party’s fundamental First Amendment freedoms.”

Stephanie Scruggs, who works with The912Project as well as United in Action, helped coordinate the information for the ACLJ.

She said the demands for information are incredible, citing one for copies of every single post to every single organization website page, Twitter feed and Facebook feed.

Another request demanded contact information for family members of each board member. And yet another wanted the name and contact for every person who ever had attended one of the group’s meetings.

The ACLJ said the intimidating letters implicated both free speech and free association issues.

IRS officials earlier defended their demands, telling Fox, “When determining whether an organization is eligible for tax-exempt status, including 501(c)4 social welfare organizations, all the facts and circumstances of that specific organization must be considered to determine whether it is eligible. … To be tax-exempt … they must be primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare.”

The spokesman continued, “Career civil servants make all decisions on exemption applications in a fair, impartial manner and do so without regard to political party affiliation or ideology.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., had cited the possibility of political retaliation against conservations last summer.

“The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable,” he said.

The IRS said it singled out groups that referenced “tea party” or “patriot.”

Officials blamed “low-level workers in Cincinnati” for the practice and claimed it “was not motivated by political bias.” It was not explained how “low-level workers” were able to single out and target 300 groups the IRS admitted were involved.

Jenny Beth Martin, of Tea Party Patriots, wasn’t exactly buying the government’s latest story.

“It is suspicious that the activity of these ‘low-level workers’ was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred,” she told AP. “President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again.”

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