FFRF’s anti-electioneering victory final

FFRF’s major victory to compel the Internal Revenue Service to resume monitoring tax-exempt churches that engage in illegal electioneering was finalized July 29.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee issued an order approving the joint motion for dismissal between FFRF and the IRS. FFRF agreed to voluntarily dismiss its closely watched federal lawsuit after being given evidence that the IRS has authorized procedures and “signature authority” to resume initiating church tax investigations and examinations. 

Since agreeing to settle July 17, FFRF has encountered a lot of misconceptions about the suit, the settlement and the law, which went into effect in 1954. FFRF is not “targeting” churches.

No tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit, church or otherwise, may lawfully engage in partisan political action. Among those who bought the claims of various theocratic media was Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt, who stated in early August:

“At the intersection of those two fundamental rights [free speech and free exercise] lies the right of religious organizations to encourage their members to engage in the political process in a manner consistent with the core tenets of their religions. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is unabashed in its desire to destroy that right, and the fact that this organization has now entered into an agreement with the IRS — an agreement that they call ‘a victory’ for their cause — is alarming.” 

FFRF wrote Pruitt on Aug. 7 asking him to stop the smears, noting that FFRF “works not to ‘destroy’ the First Amendment but to uphold the law and the Constitution.” 

“FFRF agreed to voluntary dismissal of our case because recent changes by the IRS have remedied our concerns,” noted Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in her letter to Pruitt. “FFRF is satisfied that the IRS does not at this time have a policy specific to churches of nonenforcement of its anti-electioneering provisions. As you are undoubtedly aware, there is an appropriate blanket ban against any and all 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in political action, specifically such as endorsing political candidates.”

To clarify the issues, FFRF put together an online FAQ. 

FFRF will be monitoring “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” Oct. 5, as proclaimed by the theocratic Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF urges pastors to deliberately break the law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit.

Freedom From Religion Foundation