Dustin Siggins

As IRS targeting scandal continues, critics on left and right slam new regs limiting free speech

Dustin Siggins
Dustin Siggins
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Almost nine months after the IRS' targeting of Tea Party, patriot, and pro-life groups came to light, a new scandal has emerged: the same people who targeted political opponents from 2010 to 2012 created the new regulations the IRS proposed in 2013.

According to the House Ways & Means Committee, the IRS – which claimed work on its new regulatory platform was begun after May 2013 – began working on the non-profit standards in 2012, under disgraced former IRS staffer Lois Lerner. Lerner headed the department that targeted conservative organizations. She retired in September 2013.

Before this week, it was thought that the administration had been looking into changing some of the rules surrounding 501(c)(4) organizations after the scandal broke. The new rules, which have been proposed and are open for public comment, 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,” according to The Washington Post.

The Post says the regulations would not allow ads mentioning candidates after a certain date before Election Day, among other limitations on speech. Several prominent conservative organizations have described the regulations as codifying the suppression the IRS engaged in starting in 2010.

While the regulations would apply to all viewpoints equally on paper, conservatives are concerned that the harassment they faced under the IRS' two-year campaign would be made official federal policy – and that the IRS cannot be trusted to apply such laws equally.

According to Thomas Brejcha, founder, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, the newest chapter in the IRS scandal is no surprise. “[This is] another outrageous revelation in what has been a cascade of revelations from Washington showing that, contrary to what they claim, they have been attacking pro-life as well as Tea Party groups,” he said.

Brejcha, whose organization is representing six pro-life clients targeted by the IRS, says, “It's just been clear bureaucratic antagonism toward our pro-life clients. If that isn't corrupt misuse of the tax laws, I don't know what would be such.”

This is only the latest in the scandals that have rocked the IRS since last summer. Earlier this year, the FBI indicated it will not file charges related to the targeting, even though Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin told LifeSiteNews that “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.” It has also been revealed that the overseer of the IRS investigation within the Obama administration is a Democratic Party and Obama donor.

Last year, USA TODAY found 80 percent of 162 investigated organizations were conservative.

Tea Party Patriots National Grassroots Coordinator Keli Carender told LifeSiteNews her organization was “not surprised” at the newest revelations, “because there is zero trust in anything they say. We've always known these rule proposals are not about 'clarification.' We know they are about codifying the targeting into law. Instead of being unethical and illegal, harassment and targeting will just be unethical under these regulations.”

While the ACLU declined to comment on the new revelations of dishonesty from the IRS, a spokesperson did tell LifeSiteNews that “although the regulations aren't a direct restriction on speech, practically, we're concerned that non-profits--especially smaller, less well-resourced non-profits--will curtail or avoid totally non-partisan issue advocacy. That would present a serious chill on free speech.”

Gabriel Rottman, the ACLU's legislative counsel/policy advisor in its Washington Legislative Office, also said “there have been long been concerns with the current standard and groups have been pushing the IRS to change the rules for a while. The IRS actually did the right thing in proposing new rules, they just went the wrong way and the proposal could make things worse.”

Carender said Congress should take note that Tea Party Patriots and the ACLU are “on the same side of an issue,” and “should do its job and hold the bureaucrats accountable.”

“The ACLU's stated mission is to defend freedom of speech,” said Carender, “and the Tea Party movement is made up of millions of Americans who are exercising their freedom of speech. All of us together oppose these new proposed regulations. Obviously, this crosses the ideological divide, and when you have the Tea Party Patriots and the ACLU on the same side of an issue, I think we all know that there's something wrong.”

According to Rottman, the ACLU's “primary concern is that these rules will harm the ability of groups on both the right and left, who aren't engaged in any campaign intervention, from debating the issues freely.”

The IRS scandal had already been on the top of the news cycle this week, with President Obama's statement to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly before Sunday's Super Bowl that there was not “even a smidgen of corruption” involved in the IRS' targeting. That claim had critics in an uproar.

The IRS' new commissioner, John Koskinen, is also under fire for reinstating previously cancelled bonuses for IRS employees. Koskinen apologized for the targeting yesterday, promising “it won't happen going forward.”

The Obama administration, which promised to be the “most transparent administration in history,” has faced criticism for years on its lack of openness with the public. Among others, The New York Times and CNN host and former ABC White House Correspondent Jake Tapper have hammered the administration for targeting reporters, especially Fox's James Rosen. At Slate.com Paul Thacker slammed the administration last March for its violations of public trust.

Brejcha said that the IRS' corruption has “really got to be cleaned up at the top, but obviously at the top, there is a malignant indifference to the truth.”

Rep. Dave Camp, R-MI, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said at a recent hearing that the committee “will fight any and all efforts to restrict the rights of groups to organize, speak-out and educate the public, just as unions are allowed to do so.”

“We will get to the bottom of this, and I expect the IRS to produce – quickly – the outstanding documents the Committee has requested,” he continued. "I believe the IRS has a long way to go in restoring its credibility.  But, you can take a first step by complying with this Committee’s request and stopping all action against 501(c)(4) groups until the appropriate investigations are completed.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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