Thursday, July 9, 2009
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life nonprofit organization, is claiming that the IRS is imposing unlawful conditions on its request for tax exempt status:
After inquiring about the “educational” nature of the Coalition for Life of Iowa’s activities, the IRS stated that it would not grant a tax exemption unless the Coalition agreed to limit its “picketing” and “protesting” of a local Planned Parenthood. Compliance with this request would result in a restriction of the speech of the Coalition for Life, as well as a breach of its First Amendment rights. While other non-profits have had no trouble attaining tax-exempt status from the IRS, this unwarranted ultimatum reveals prejudice toward a Pro-Life organization and, by extension, the Pro-Life movement. Such demands should never arise in the IRS’s decision-making process to grant tax-exempt status for any applicant non-profit organization.
According to the organization's press release, the IRS demanded that Thomas More not engage in any issue advocacy:
"The IRS not only erroneously forbade the Coalition for Life of Iowa from engaging in 'advocacy' as a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; they also never gave any explanation as to why their request was relevant," said Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society. "The Coalition has clearly and truthfully stated that all its activities fall in line with IRS guidelines. The IRS is protecting Parenthood and harassing the Coalition for Life of Iowa."
Advocacy, as opposed to campaign intervention of course, is not categorically off limits to 501(c)(3) organizations. Its just that they cannot be so engaged in advocacy as to make advocacy its primary purpose, and even that is a questionable proposition IMHO. Although the official correspondence between the IRS and Thomas More do not suport the accusation that the IRS seeks to categorically forbid advocacy (though the IRS request for information asks about efforts to influence legislation), this letter from organization's attorney claims that an IRS examiner requested that Thomas More's directors each "sign a statement that the Coalition will not "picket" or "protest" outside of Planned Parenthood or similar organizations and will not "organize" others to do so.
The IRS needs to respond to that letter, in my opinion, else that unanswered accusation will become part of a record which will eventually result in a beat down for the Service. Give them their determination letter already!