Ben Johnson

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‘Illegal’ IRS harassment of pro-lifers continued to this day, 250 pages of evidence say

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite pledges to “get to the bottom” of the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups, pro-life activists, and Christians, the tax agency continued to ask inappropriate questions, allow interminable delays, and engage in “illegal” tactics, according to substantial evidence presented by a legal watchdog group.

The Thomas More Society submitted a new memo and 250 pages of additional evidence to Congressman Aaron Schock, R-IL, today.

The Chicago-based law firm had delivered a different 150-page memo to Rep. Schock in May, showing that the IRS asked such probing questions of one of the Society's clients, the Coalition of Life for Iowa, as, “Please detail the content of the members of your organization's prayers.”

The new evidence shows the agency has not reformed, using the same methods to deny or delay tax-exempt recognition to pro-life groups from 2009 until the present day.

“Even after public disclosure of this wrongdoing, the Obama administration’s IRS has refused to cease its illegal activity,” said Peter Breen, the society's vice president and senior counsel.

The 250-page exhibit involves three of the firm's client organizations: Cherish Life Ministries, LIFE Group, and Emerald Coast Coalition for Life.

Two of them, Cherish Life and LIFE Group, had multiple similarities:

  • Both were contacted by “Mrs. R. Medley” of the Cincinnati office of the IRS;

  • Both received identical denial letters on the same day, April 8;

  • Both were asked how much time they would spend being a “presence” in front of abortion facilities; and

  • Both were asked if they would present a competing view alongside the pro-life view.

For instance, Medley asked the LIFE Group on February 2, “Does your organization provide information regarding other alternatives to 'pro-life'? If so please indicate where.”

The group responded on February 15, “Any alternatives to pro-life would run directly contrary to the organization's beliefs, mission, and purpose…The ultimate purpose is to save the lives of both the mother and the child in a life-affirming way.”

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The question outraged Peter Shinn when an agent asked him by phone. “Do you think that Planned Parenthood teaches pro-life?” he told LifeSiteNews.com in May. “I don’t think so.”

The IRS seemed keen to learn whether the right to life groups would standing in front of abortion facilities, asking all three the extent of their involvement outside such offices.

On June 19, IRS agent Tyrone Thomas asked ECCL, “Will you promote demonstrations and/or rallies at clinic and/or hospitals to stop abortions in your community? If yes, Please [sic] explain.”

However, nothing in the tax code prevents peaceful assembly or prayer.

After enduring months of harassing treatment, all three groups received the legal assistance of Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel at the Thomas More Society.

When Wagenmaker asked Medley why she asked unauthorized questions of Peter Shinn, the agent tried asked the same questions of the lawyer.

“First, Mrs. Medley asked more questions about the organization's activities, particularly whether CLM would have a 'continuous presence in front of abortion mills,'” Wagenmaker wrote. “I asked her about why, if that were true, that would be a problem given the CLM’s participants’ First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech, and religious liberty. She would not respond.”

Upon hearing the same line of questioning in the ECCL case, Wagenmaker wrote IRS officials on July 9, “Frankly, most of your questions do not appear to be warranted here.”

Both CLM and LG ultimately received 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. However, all three groups have experienced bureaucratic foot-dragging, as agents sometimes did not contact the organization for nine months at a time.

LG, best known for running alongside highways with t-shirts that bear a pro-life message as LIFE Runners, waited 15 months for its application to be approved. CLM's petition lingered with the agency for 16 months.

ECCL has waited 14 months and has not yet received the tax authorization to which Wagenmaker says it is entitled.

“We have now produced irrefutable evidence of six clients whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of their position upholding the sanctity of life,” Breen said this afternoon.

Although the Obama administration's defenders have tried to portray this action as confined to “rogue agents” in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, the six groups had also received such treatment from agents in Chicago, and El Monte, California.

One of the agents who wrote to ECCL was Lois Lerner, who oversaw whether non-profits were granted tax-exempt status. Lerner, who had a history of harassing Christian organizations in the Federal Election Commission, has since been placed on administrative leave.

When called before Congressional investigators, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination – but prefaced the motion by saying she was innocent.

Congressmen believe such a statement invalidates the Fifth Amendment's protection. She is now asking for immunity before testifying before the body. 

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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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