An IRS official denied tax-exempt status to a Texas group that encourages church members to pray for state and national leaders regardless of their party affiliation because it benefits “the private interests of the [Republican] Party.”
“You do not qualify as an organization described in IRS Section 501(c)(3). You engage in prohibited political campaign intervention,” wrote Stephen A. Martin, Director of the IRS Office of Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements in a May 18 letter (pdf) to Christians Engaged, the Garland, Texas-based prayer group recognized by Texas officials as tax-exempt.
“You are also not operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 50l (c)(3), because you operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the D party,” Martin said.
The “D party” is a reference to the Republican Party, according to a novel “Legend” Martin provided at the top of his letter to the Texas Group.
Martin’s letter was made public Wednesday by the First Liberty Institute, a Plano, Texas-based public interest law firm that specializes in religious freedom litigation.
Martin also noted that the group’s activities “educate believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God,” Martin explained.
“Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental, including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations,” he said.
“The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the D party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under lRS Section 50I(c)(3),” he said.
Christians Engaged President Bunni Pounds said in a statement issued by the First Liberty Institute that “we just want to encourage more people to vote and participate in the political process. How can anyone be against that?”