IRS Reverses Course, Grants Tax-Exemption to Texas Religious Group

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The Epoch Times

A senior IRS executive who had previously denied tax-exemption to Christians Engaged has reversed his decision, awarding the favorable designation to the Texas prayer group.

Stephen K. Martin, director of exempt organization rulings and agreements, had initially cited a claim that prayer and Bible study favor Republicans as the reason for Christians Engaged’s denial of tax-exempt status. However, in a letter received by the Christian organization on July 7, Martin announced a reversal regarding that decision.

“We’re pleased to tell you we determined you’re exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code 501(C)(3). Donors can deduct contributions they make to you under IRC Section 170,” the letter reads.

Martin didn’t say in the letter why he reversed his previous position, which was first reported by The Epoch Times and which prompted a national backlash.

Martin had said in a May 18 letter to the group, which was recognized as exempt from state taxes in 2019, that it wasn’t eligible for federal exemption because it “[engages] in prohibited political campaign intervention” and “[operates] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”

Christians Engaged encourages its followers to pray on a nonpartisan basis for government leaders at all levels, and to be active in civic affairs by voting and by applying biblical values to public affairs issues.

The group was represented in an appeal of Martin’s initial decision by First Liberty Institute, a Plano, Texas-based public interest law firm that specializes in religious freedom litigation.

“This is truly great news for our client, as well as religious organizations and churches across America,” Lea Patterson, counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement. “We are grateful the IRS changed course to bring its decision into line with the Constitution and its own regulations.”

In the appeal of Martin’s May decision, Patterson argued three points against the initial finding by the IRS executive.


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