Monday, May 20, 2013

IRS Targets Catholic Critics of Obama Regime

Crisis Magazine reports that the IRS scandal goes far beyond the targeting of tea party groups, and includes the targeting of Catholics critical of the Administration's agenda:
...There have also been revelations that the IRS made as a condition of a favorable ruling for tax-exempt status for a pro-life group that it not actively protest at Planned Parenthood facilities. Another pro-life group—a Christian organization—was closely scrutinized for involvement in the annual “Life Chain” and prayer vigils and was probed about the viewpoint content of its educational materials. The Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, has taken up their cases. The one involves an attempt to stop constitutionally protected peaceful picketing, and the other more unconstitutional viewpoint-based discrimination and a threat to the freedom of assembly.

Perhaps most troubling is the situation of Dr. Anne Hendershott, my colleague on the Franciscan University of Steubenville faculty and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists Board of Directors. Dr. Hendershott is one of the leading Catholic sociologists in the U.S. When the current IRS scandals broke, she decided to go public about the questionable audit she was subjected to in 2010, apparently because she wrote articles that: questioned the true Catholic character of two well-known sister non-profit organizations, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United; exposed the funding sources from these organizations (which included George Soros’ Open Society Institute and a major Democratic party fundraiser); and her raising tax questions about the leftist activist leader of these organizations. She had also written a series of articles critical of Obamacare. According to reports—I have not communicated with Dr. Hendershott about the matter—she was called into the IRS’s New Haven office for an audit of her “business” affairs connected with her writing. She said that at the audit session she was asked about who paid her for writing the articles and what their political viewpoint was. The effect of the audit was that Dr. Hendershott stopped writing about these topics. This is the very essence of “chilling effect.” The Supreme Court has consistently held that government cannot act in such a manner that it will have a “chilling effect” on speech so that people will be fearful of expressing their opinions. Moreover, the fact that Dr. Hendershott’s criticism was partly questioning whether these organizations were correct in understanding and interpreting Catholic social teaching adds another possible constitutional dimension to this. Did the IRS violate both the establishment and the free exercise clauses of the First Amendment? Did it effectively make an official governmental judgment about correct Catholic doctrine relating to certain public questions, and then called Dr. Hendershott to task for criticizing the positions of these left-tilting Catholic organizations?

It is not an overreaction to say that these IRS scandals sound like official favoritism of certain organizations and political viewpoints and an attempt to suppress opposition. The question of undue political influence also presents itself. For example, did the people who were prominent in the Obama campaign and the Democratic party go to contacts in the administration or in the agency itself to ask for the IRS action? While the IRS has had a history of taking actions that curry favor with the current political powers and has sometimes been accused of a pro-Democratic bias, the funneling of information to ProPublica and the HRC, the “hands-off Planned Parenthood” demand, the Hendershott matter, and the late-breaking news that information about the scandal was known about but not disclosed during the 2012 election year suggest political pressure from outside the agency. That would not be surprising. After all, this is the administration that has given us the HHS Mandate, supported the claim in the Hosanna-Tabor case that a religious body could not choose its own ministers, wouldn’t defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, increased federal financial support for Planned Parenthood, and is trying to stop military personnel from sharing their faith. This all indicates an agenda of hostility to traditional Christian morality and a willingness to share in the repressiveness that has come to characterize the political left...


Hat tip: Creative Minority Report

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Prominent Catholic Professor Claims IRS Audited Her After Speaking Out Against Obama and Demanded to Know Who Was Paying Her

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