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IRS gives nonprofit Christians Engaged tax-exempt status after saying efforts favor GOP

Reversal came as congressional Republicans ask Treasury Department’s inspector general’s office to look into the matter.

Updated: July 7, 2021 - 2:34pm

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The First Liberty Institute said Wednesday the IRS has granted tax-exempt status to the nonprofit group Christians Engaged after denying the request on the argument that Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidates.

"This is truly great news for our client, as well as religious organizations and churches across America," said Lea Patterson, counsel for First Liberty Institute, whose clients include Christians Engaged. "We are grateful the IRS changed course to bring its decision into line with the Constitution and its own regulations."

The reversal comes amid backlash from congressional Republicans who have asked the Treasury Department’s inspector general’s office to look into the IRS having originally denied the group’s tax-exempt status. 

"The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) appears to be engaging again in viewpoint discrimination," GOP Reps. Jim Jordan, James Comer and Mike Johnson said in a June 30 letter. "Over ten years after the IRS began targeting Tea Party groups, it seems the IRS could be up to its old tricks."

Christians Engaged said it incorporated in July 2019 as a nonprofit "exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, or scientific purposes." 

The Texas-based group also said its goal was to provide nonpartisan religious and civic education, focusing on encouraging and educating Christians to be civically engaged as a part of their religious practice. 

The group applied for tax exempt status in late 2019. IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin on May 18 denied the application, arguing Christians Engaged participates in “prohibited political campaign intervention” and “operate[s] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.” 

After the appeal, Martin granted the application for a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.