Catholic Answers Launches Lawsuit over IRS “Intimidation” Tactics against Non-Profits
By Peter J. Smith
SAN DIEGO, June 8, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic Answers, a lay-run Catholic apologetics ministry, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Internal Revenue Service, charging that the federal tax collection agency routinely bullies churches and non-profit organizations into political silence, especially when it comes to speaking out on the moral issues at stake in an election cycle.
“We’re standing up to the IRS. Not just for ourselves, but on behalf of non-profit organizations and churches all across the country that are constantly harassed, threatened, intimidated, and persecuted by the IRS,” said Catholic Answers President Karl Keating in a statement released on the Catholic Answers website.
Keating announced that Catholic Answers filed a lawsuit against the IRS with the US District Court based in San Diego on April 3, 2009, saying that the IRS has been using “very vague criteria to intimidate churches, non-profit organizations, and ministries into silence on moral issues that are being debated in the political realm.”
The dispute between the IRS and Catholic Answers began during the 2004 presidential election cycle when Frances Kissling, president of the pro-abortion advocacy group Catholics for Free Choice (CFFC), filed a complaint with the IRS demanding it revoke Catholic Answers’ tax-exempt status for engaging in political activity.
Catholic Answers had released an influential “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics”– which stated that Catholics remaining faithful to the Catholic Church and its teachings had to vote with “five non-negotiable” issues in mind: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and homosexual “marriage." The guide, however, did not mention or endorse any particular candidate, and, according to Keating, it had reached at least 20 million Catholic voters.
However, CFFC latched onto a statement by Keating in a Catholic Answers E-letter dated April 13, 2004. In that letter Keating mentioned his belief that Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kerry is not a Catholic in good standing. In this context Keating stated, “Kerry is nominally Catholic, and he is vociferously pro-abortion. So far as I can tell, he flunks the test given in Catholic Answers’ Voter Guide for Serious Catholics: He is wrong on all five ‘non-negotiable’ issues listed there.”
In a letter to the agency, Kissling insisted that the IRS investigate Catholic Answers because its example would “threaten to encourage further non-compliance by other 501(c)(3) organizations.”
However, the IRS ruled that the Catholic Answers voter guide met the tax agency’s election criteria for non-profits, but also agreed that Keating’s statements in the E-letter constituted a political intervention, and so levied fines on the organization.
“Our lawyers win ninety percent of their cases and assure us that they are very confident of this case,” Catholic Answers spokesman Jimmy Akin told LifeSiteNews.com.
The firm of Bopp, Coleson, and Bostrom is representing Catholic Answers, and according to Akin, “the relevant legal test is direct endorsement of a candidate or direct dis-endorsement, so that you have to expressly say: ‘vote for this person,’ or ‘don’t vote for this person,’ as opposed to being able to talk forcefully about moral issues or that this candidate has not voted appropriately in these matters.”
Akin added that Catholic Answers was very hopeful about the outcome of the case: “We think it could liberate non-profits from the shackles they’ve been under with the IRS for the last several decades that have basically caused them to cower in silence and allow immoral forces in government to ride roughshod over traditional values.”