The conservative organization Judicial Watch has sued the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in an attempt to obtain documents regarding the IRS’ decision to reassess the criteria for whether or not churches and other nonprofits can claim tax-exempt status.
Judicial Watch filed the suit on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after the IRS failed to release documents requested by the ADF at an earlier time.
Judicial Watch wants the IRS to turn over documents related to a settlement it made with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist church/state watchdog nonprofit. FFRF had sued the IRS in 2012, alleging that the IRS had failed to address its complains concerning the political activity of churches, such as promoting political candidates, issues and proposed legislation.
In July 2014, the IRS wrote a letter to the Justice Department in which it said that it would monitor churches and other houses of worship it believed merited “high priority examination” for political activity such as electioneering. According to the letter, the IRS had targeted 99 churches as selected by an IRS Political Activities Referral Committee. The monitoring was part of the IRS’s settlement with the FFRF.
Judicial Watch challenged this monitoring as illegal and is awaiting a response from the IRS.
“It is an honor for Judicial Watch to represent Alliance Defending Freedom, which is so effective as a protector of the First Amendment, which recognizes the truth of God-given rights of Americans to both freely exercise their religion and participate in politics,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS is using a lot of energy to cover-up details of its illicit targeting of churches. Violating FOIA law comes at great taxpayer expense.”
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