As IRS targeting scandal continues, critics on left and right slam new regs limiting free speech
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.”
Princeton’s Robert George: Are you ready to pay the price? The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over
ORLANDO, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- “It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel,” said Princeton Professor Robert George to a large crowd at the Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Professor George added that people can still safely identify as “Catholic” as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.”
He said “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness,’” will still grant a comfort to a Catholic ashamed of the Gospel, “or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed.”
The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded his audience of Christ’s words: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” “We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now,” he remarked.
Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.
For Catholics, and Evangelicals in America, he said, “it is now Good Friday.” To a rousing standing ovation Professor George concluded:
The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded. Yes, he had been greeted—and not long ago—by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King. But all that is now in the past. Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.
Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to ‘fit in,’ to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak. Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire: ‘Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.’
The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union….
The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are you this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife? These teachings are not the whole Gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation. But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable. To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life. And it is a Gospel of family life, too. And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.
One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. …
One thing alone will matter: let me say this with maximum clarity—whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?
If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.” If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him—even to Calvary.
But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming. Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did—that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup. We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in him, our hope in his resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of his heavenly Father can conquer fear. By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. Never be ashamed of the Gospel.
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Planned Parenthood investigator Daleiden refuses plea deal: ‘What we really want is an apology’
HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This morning, Harris County prosecutor's office offered David Daleiden a plea deal. His legal team, in turn, made a counter-offer.
"The only thing we're going to accept right now is an apology," said Terry Yates, one of four attorneys who flanked Daleiden down the corridors of the courthouse as he visited two court rooms to face felony and misdemeanor charges.
He confirmed an offer had been made but was unlikely to be accepted.
Instead, Yates said that a hearing before Judge Brock Thomas of Texas District 338 had been scheduled for March 28. "At that time, we anticipate filing a couple of motions" asking that all charges be dismissed at once. "We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient."
"The old Texas expression 'all hat and no cattle' - that's what we believe these indictments are. There's not much to them," he said.
Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society reiterated that stance during a press conference co-hosted by LifeSiteNews at 11 a.m. local time.
When asked if Daleiden would plead guilty to lesser charges offered by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Breen replied, "At this point, no."
"What we really want is an apology," Breen said, standing next to fellow counsel Briscoe Cain, Texas attorney for Operation Rescue. "He deserves an apology...He is innocent."
His legal team felt certain he would prevail on the substance of the charges without admitting guilt to any of them.
"The reality is David is a modern day hero," Jared Woodfill, another Daleiden attorney, told LifeSiteNews inside the courthouse. "He has exposed the wrongdoing that has been occurring at abortion clinics all across this country. And the fact that he's here today is a miscarriage of justice."
"He will be vindicated," he said.
The 27-year-old Daleiden appeared unflappable - smiling, well-groomed, wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, and black tie as he spoke briefly with reporters, including LifeSiteNews.
"I'm very grateful for all the support from the public, especially from the people of Houston," he said, some of whom held handmade signs that said "I Stand with Sandra and David" as he presented himself for booking and paid bail this morning.
Attorneys did not disclose the terms of the agreement prosecutors had offered. If convicted, Daleiden and fellow pro-life investigative journalist Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
However, the charges could be dismissed at any time. LifeSiteNews delivered the first batch of signatures, more than 106,000, on its petition to the DA's office asking that all charges against Daleiden be dropped at once.
If that fails? "We're ready to go to trial," Woodfill told LifeSiteNews.
First 100K petitions to drop charges against Daleiden delivered: ‘let’s double that’
HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Pro-life leaders have presented more than 106,000 signatures to the Harris County district attorney's office, demanding that charges be dropped against David Daleiden.
It was the first batch of signatures to be dropped off in LifeSiteNews' ongoing petition. It asks prosecutor Devon Anderson to dismiss the charges facing Daleiden and his fellow investigator Sandra Merritt, which could result in 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
"Houston, we do have a problem," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time.
"We are standing in solidarity and say, 'When you attack David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, you are attacking us and our community,'" Rev. Mahoney continued. "Do not proceed with these unjust indictments."
Congressman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, sent a statement to the gathering saying, "Instead of society persecuting the truth tellers, Planned Parenthood needs to answer for their gruesome practices," as well as apologizing to adoptive families like his own, which the abortion provider has "prevented from being whole."
The local indictment, made by the Houston-area grand jury last Monday, has drawn national coverage as the first skirmish in a war between Planned Parenthood and those who sought to expose their practices.
"In delivering these petitions, I am representing more than 100,000 people who demand that these charges against this 27-year-old man and his fellow investigator be dropped at once," said LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne.
"The next move is up to the Harris County DA's office," she said, reading a statement prepared by LifeSiteNews. "These petitions prove that the world is watching."
"The indictment is another example of Planned Parenthood's bare-fisted intimidation tactics," she added, similar to campaigns taken against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Andy Parrish, PR director for LifeSiteNews, who was in Houston with Bourne, said he was honored to tell David of the 106,000 LifeSite petition signers who were standing with him. "These signatures are just the beginning. The coalition standing behind David is growing. We've got 100,000, but let's double that."
David Daleiden addressed the crowd alongside two of his attorneys, Peter Breen and Briscoe Cain, and thanked all those who showed their support for him during his latest legal showdown.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone at LifeSiteNews and everyone who shared the petition, who signed it, and made it possible to deliver that today," Daleiden told LifeSiteNews. "It means a lot to me, and to Sandra, and to the Center for Medical Progress. Thank you for your faithfulness and for standing up for us."
He hoped everyone would remain united in demanding justice be done - and, like Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, hopes that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be indicted.
"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about a day when there is no longer a price tag on human life," Daleiden said.
During the windy 45-minute-long press conference, speakers at the rostrum defended Daleiden's undercover journalism tactics in the face of sometimes hostile questions from the established press.
"No one can deny that this was the number one investigative journalism story of 2015," Rev. Mahoney said, citing statistics of the story's impact on the mainstream media.
In the new media environment of 2016, someone does not need a degree from Northwestern or Columbia to be a journalist, he said.
"He broke one of the biggest stories of the year," agreed John Hawkins of Right-Wing News, who sent in a written statement to the conference. Pressing charges against him sends a message to conservatives and Christians: "Sit down and shut up, or this just might happen to you."
"If this were a meat-packing plant investigation, there would be no question about his integrity," said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "He would be universally lauded as a hero. I think he's a hero...for getting the truth out."
"In the meantime, we're going to do everything we can do to stand with David," she said, "and see justice prevail."