Citing the Internal Revenue Service’s investigation of 99 churches for potential violation of laws restricting political speech, GOP and faith leaders held a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday to announce the introduction of a bill to restore free speech rights to all non-profits.
But when CNSNews.com asked for details about the churches and potential violations, the answer was that the IRS has not revealed that information despite a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom and a federal lawsuit filed on their behalf by Judicial Watch.
“The IRS has chosen to operate basically behind a veil of secrecy,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for ADF, said at the press conference. “It has told atheist organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation that it has initiated investigations of 99 churches but has refused to inform us or the public or even the churches themselves who is being investigated and under what circumstances and for what potential violation.”
Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), a pastor for 30 years now serving his first term in the House, introduced the Free Speech Fairness Act of 2016 (H.R. 6195).
“From my personal experience the threat of the IRS to potentially take away tax exempt status is enough in and of itself to cause pastors and non-profits to self-censor themselves right out of the game,” said Hice. “And that’s what’s taking place.”