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IRS Has 99 Problems But the Church Ain’t One

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IRS Commissioner Koskinen testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "Examining the IRS Response to the Targeting Scandal" on Capitol Hill in Washington

The scandal plagued Obama Administration IRS admits that it has targeted 99 churches for additional scrutiny after settling a lawsuit with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

The IRS settlement with the angry atheist group FFRF is shrouded in secrecy, but the little we do know is enough to raise significant suspicion.

Last month Representative Scott Garrett (NJ-5) led a congressional letter demanding answers from the IRS about the settlement.

Last week the IRS responded – well sort of.  The IRS dodged almost every one of Congress’s questions, hiding behind the Obama Justice Department’s handling of the case.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen informed Congress that the DOJ “is in a better posture to answer your inquiries.”

It’s unsurprising that DOJ would be running interference for the IRS on this matter.  Last week it was revealed that Attorney General Holder’s staff has been attempting to conspire with liberal members of Congress to spin and deflect attention away from the IRS targeting scandal.

Yet, despite the attempt to deflect attention from the matter the IRS admitted something in this letter that is chilling in and of itself.  Commissioner Koskinen wrote:

Over a period of time, we identified the 99 churches as having potential impermissible political campaign intervention activities based on referrals received by our Exempt Organizations (EO) Examination function. The Political Activity Referral Committee (PARC), which consists of career civil service managers, reviews each referral and determines whether the case should be selected for further compliance review.

The IRS Commissioner also stated that PARC reviews began in 2012 after the initial referrals from the IRS division then run by Lois Lerner.

This means that at the same time the IRS was targeting conservative groups, it also was identifying churches as political targets.

The Orwellian sounding Political Activity Referral Committee has since been culling through these 99 churches for further review.

In addition, the IRS has given unknown assurances to an angry atheist group which was demanding that the IRS target churches.

What did the IRS tell FFRF, which induced them to drop their lawsuit in a settlement, that it refuses to tell the American people?

When viewed against the IRS targeting scandal backdrop the IRS’s admission that it is has targeted at least 99 churches for the same kind of scrutiny it was giving to the Tea Party and pro-life groups is disturbing to say the least.  And the fact that the IRS refuses to release the details of its settlement with FFRF further exacerbates the concern.

The IRS has proven it can’t be trusted time and time again.

It’s time for the IRS and the Department of Justice to come clean.

The IRS shouldn’t be targeting churches, and it absolutely shouldn’t be doing it secretly and on behalf of those who oppose everything the Church stands for.

At the ACLJ we’re continuing to aggressively pursue our lawsuit against the IRS on behalf of 41 conservative and pro-life groups illegally targeted for their beliefs.

The IRS corruption and abuse must end.

Matthew Clark is Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.

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