A bicameral group of Republican lawmakers issued a demand Friday to the Internal Revenue Service that the agency reverse its now-infamous decision to reject a Christian nonprofit's tax-exempt status over its Bible teachings.


What's the background?

In May, the IRS sent a rejection letter to Christian Engaged denying its nonprofit status because the "Bible's teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidates."

Christians Engaged's website says the group "exists to awaken, motivate, educate, and empower ordinary believers in Jesus Christ to: pray for our nation and elected officials regularly, vote in every election to impact our culture, [and] engage our hearts in some form of political education or activism for the furtherance of our nation."

This was too much for the IRS, which said in the letter written by the agency's exempt organizations director, Stephen Martin:

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).

Martin's letter made it clear that the mere notion that Christians Engaged promotes biblical teachings means it engages in "prohibited political campaign intervention."

"You operate for a substantial non-exempt private purpose and for the private interests of the Republican Party," Martin wrote.

Christians Engaged filed an appeal on June 16.

What are the lawmakers saying?

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, a group of 15 Republican senators and representatives led by Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy demanded that the agency review the decision and remove anyone who had a hand in "the blatantly biased, discriminatory, and flawed reasoning that led to the determination."

Citing Martin's letter that said biblical understanding of life, marriage, and justice were connected to the GOP, the letter writers reminded the IRS that those "issues have always been at the core of Christian belief and classing them as inherently political is patently absurd."

"If the IRS applied this interpretation broadly, it would jeopardize the tax-exempt status of thousands of Christian churches across the country," the lawmakers said.

They also noted Martin's apparent "offense" at the group's teachings about "freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations," but as they pointed out, religious beliefs inform how millions of Americans vote and often prompt "get out the vote" campaigns.

"In fact," the lawmakers wrote, "President Biden himself campaigned alongside church leaders during the 2020 presidential race."

"The IRS must objectively analyze applications for tax-exempt status and cannot allow political biases to creep into its decisions," they concluded. "We urge you to immediately review Christian Engaged's application for 501 (c)(3) status personally, and terminate the IRS staff involved in the flawed and politically motivated reasoning behind the decision."

Along with Roy, the letter was signed by Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Reps. Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Burgess Owens (Utah), Yvette Herrell (N.M.), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), and Lauren Boebert (Colo.).

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