Caught on tape: IRS agent tells pro-life group not to protest abortion clinics, keep faith to itself
Listen to the audio here.
WASHINGTON, June 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) — In an audiotape released today, an IRS agent is heard lecturing the head of a pro-life group at length, telling her that her group cannot “force” their religion and beliefs on others, and that they shouldn't reach out to women or protest against abortion clinics.
The agent told the group that while they have their "right of belief" they have "no right to go against other people's beliefs."
The conversation took place on March 8, 2012, between IRS Exempt Organization Specialist Sherry Wan and Ania Joseph, the president of Pro-Life Revolution, a group that ministers to women in crisis pregnancies.
During the conversation Agent Wan said that the group’s protests against an abortion facility are motivated by “blind, emotional feelings.”
"You can’t take all kinds of confrontation activities and also put something on a website and ask people to take action against the abortion clinic," she said. "That’s not, that’s not really educational."
“You reach out to woman, [sic] you can’t do that,” Wan says at another point, adding, “You cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else.”
Throughout the conversation Joseph repeatedly attempts to respond to Wan's charges, and is repeatedly interrupted by the IRS agent, who continues to lecture the pro-life leader.
"You have the right to do, your religion told you what’s right. You have a right to, you know, outreach to other people," Wan explains. "But meanwhile, you have to know your boundaries. You have to know your limits. You have to respect other people’s beliefs. You have somebody else come to your door and know you don’t like them. When they come to you, how do you feel?"
When Joseph protests against the IRS agent's interpretation of freedom of religion, Wan tells her, "There are really complicated, really subtle, you know, issues here. And they are also very complicated."
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The legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom represents the group, which did not receive its tax-exempt status until last week, nearly two-and-a-half years after applying for it.
“The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech and belief police,” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The current scandal isn’t new but has merely exposed the abuse of power that characterizes this agency and threatens our fundamental freedoms.”
The IRS grants tax exemptions to religious, educational, and/or charitable organizations. Pro-Life Revolution, which operates from Texas, filed its application for tax-exempt status with the IRS in January 2011.
Four months later, the IRS sent a letter requesting “more information” and an explanation of how the organization’s activities are educational or charitable, even though IRS rules specify that an organization need only operate for “one or more” of the three exempt purposes. Ania Joseph nonetheless replied and answered the IRS’s questions.
In March 2012, Joseph received the call from Wan that is depicted in the recording.
In February of this year, the IRS requested additional information in another letter and attempted to apply a standard for tax exemption to Pro-Life Revolution that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held to be unconstitutional in 1980. Alliance Defending Freedom pointed this out in a letter responding to the IRS, which finally granted tax-exempt status to the organization in a letter received Thursday.
“The power to tax is the power to destroy,” added Stanley. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We cannot allow the IRS to ruthlessly dictate against legitimate non-profits simply because it does not approve of the organization’s mission. It must be held accountable.”