The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) granted a Christian group, Christians Engaged, tax-exempt status after initially denying it, saying, “[B]ible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates,” First Liberty Institute announced on Wednesday.
“I am incredibly thankful to the IRS for doing the right thing, and we look forward to continuing our mission of educating more followers of Jesus to pray for our nation and to be civically engaged. When we stand up, our republic works for all Americans,” Christians Engaged President Bunni Pounds said.
Christians Engaged applied to become a 501(c)(3) in late 2019. It received a rejection letter on May 18, 2021, from Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin, saying the group “engage[s] in prohibited political campaign intervention” and “operate[s] for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the [Republican] party.”
Martin stated in his letter that the group does not meet requirements for tax exemption because biblical causes tend to favor the Republican Party:
Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican Party] and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).
First Liberty Institute sent an appeal letter to the IRS on behalf of Christians Engaged on June 16 defending the group’s purpose. According to the appeal letter:
From its religious perspective, Christians Engaged provides nonpartisan religious and civic education, focusing on encouraging and educating Christians to be civically engaged as a part of their religious practice…Denying tax-exempt status for Christians Engaged while recognizing the exempt status of other organizations who encourage civic engagement from different viewpoints demonstrates the IRS’s impermissible viewpoint discrimination.
The reversal comes after public backlash and accusations of religious discrimination from public officials.
On June 25, 15 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Commissioner Charles Rettig demanding the IRS reverse its decision to deny the group tax-exempt status and terminate the employees responsible for the “blatantly biased, discriminatory, and flawed reasoning that led to the determination.”
Lawmakers and counsel for First Liberty Institute Lea Patterson both previously expressed worry that the IRS’s denial could set a precedent for future discrimination against other religious organizations and churches.
“If the IRS going forward thinks that Bible teaching is Republican-affiliated, then that could endanger the tax-exempt status of many religious organizations — including potentially churches, which obviously teach the Bible with some frequency,” Patterson previously told Breitbart News.
Director Martin granted Christians Engaged 501(c)(3) status after the appeal. Patterson told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the IRS “simply granted Christians Engaged tax-exempt status without explanation.”
“Certainly, our hope is that no other religious group or church will have to go through this, and the IRS will adhere to its own regulations and the law,” she said.
If the decision had not been reversed, the IRS and Christians Engaged could have ended up in federal court.
“This is truly great news for our client, as well as religious organizations and churches across America,” she said.
Breitbart News reached out to the IRS about its decision to grant Christians Engaged tax-exempt status. The agency did not respond to request for comment.