Dustin Siggins

Conservative groups push back after Obama claims no corruption in IRS targeting

Dustin Siggins
Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 3, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Four conservative organizations – two targeted by the IRS, two representing targeted groups – have shot back after President Obama claimed Sunday night in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that “not even a smidgen of corruption” was involved in the IRS' targeting of conservative organizations.

According to David French, senior counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, whose organization represents 41 groups in 22 states, “it's a curious thing for [the President] to say, [especially since] one of the main people involved with the investigations has already taken the Fifth in order to not incriminate herself.”

In 2010, the IRS began investigating organizations with certain terms in their names, prominent among them “Patriot” and “Tea Party.” Pro-life groups were similarly targeted, most egregiously when the National Organization for Marriage saw its donor list and other tax information illegally released to the public by an IRS employee. The Coalition for Life of Iowa was also ill treated by the IRS when it was asked for invasive information that is not normal for the non-profit status for which it applied.

All of the groups were either existing 501(c)(4) non-profits or in the application process to become 501(c)(4) organizations. This legal status requires organizations have “social welfare,” such as education, as their primary purpose.

The IRS targeting became public in May 2013 when the IRS official in charge of the department targeting groups admitted extra attention was being given to certain groups. The official, Lois Lerner, made the admission in order to head off a report on the targeting from the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.

Lerner is the official referenced by French who chose to plead the Fifth Amendment. She eventually retired from the IRS in late 2013.

While the President admitted “there were some bone-headed decisions,” he stopped short of saying any intentional action was taken against political opponents. French denounced the President's description of the targeting, telling LifeSiteNews.com that “the problem I have with the President's statement is you have some of the most sophisticated tax people in the country targeting people with the tax system, tax lawyers who knew very well it's unlawful to target groups based on their viewpoints. That's not a mistake, that's corruption. That's not boneheaded; that's an intentional act.”

Earlier this year, the FBI declined to file charges against the IRS, indicating mismanagement, not illegal intent, were at fault. However, according to Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, “neither the FBI nor the President can know how much corruption exists in the IRS” because “the FBI has never asked what Tea Party Patriots' problems were or how we were affected by the IRS' targeting.”

Catherine Engelbrecht, who runs the targeted organization True the Vote, was among those who expressed displeasure with the President's statement, telling LSN that “the President's recent comments regarding the IRS targeting scandal represent a continued pattern of denying admitted-to wrongdoing on the part of the federal bureaucracy.”

Engelbrecht also cautioned that “President Obama's posture on the matter significantly increases the risk of this behavior becoming business as usual.”

The scandal has increased in scope since Lerner made the targeting public. Criticism increased after the person heading the investigation into the IRS was found to be an Obama and Democratic Party donor. Furthermore, USA TODAY reported last year that about 80 percent of 162 organizations given closer scrutiny by the IRS were conservative. And while some liberal politicians and pundits have tried to say this means the IRS targeting was bipartisan, Martin told LSN that “100 percent of Tea Party groups were targeted.”

A spokesperson for the legal organization Thomas More Society, which “has defended six pro-life organizations,” told LSN, “We are shocked that President Obama would state that there was 'not even a smidgeon of corruption’ involved in the IRS scandal. The Obama Administration must stop making excuses to cover up the IRS’ illegal activity and instead deal justly with the corruption and scandal that occurred."

Peter Breen, the society’s vice president and senior counsel, also said his group “produced two memos to the House Committee on Ways and Means, totaling over 500 pages of evidence that the IRS specifically targeted and harassed pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions.”

After the scandal broke, the IRS moved forward with changes it says would clarify rules about the activities 501(c)(4) organizations may engage in. However, prominent conservatives have opposed these changes, which the Washington Post reports have been proposed and opened for public comment. The changes, according to the Post, would “explicitly define which kind of activities are political and fall outside of the social welfare category, forcing such groups to be more careful about how they spend their funds.”

The Post says the unfinished regulations would not allow ads to mention candidates past a certain point close to Election Day, among other limitations on speech. 501(c)(4) organizations already trade freedom of speech for secrecy of donors and other benefits.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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