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Several well-known religious organizations say they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, including the ministry founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham and a 180-year-old Baptist newspaper, Fox News has learned.
Among the ministries targeted are the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse and the Biblical Recorder – the newspaper of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. The revelations seem to indicate the IRS was targeting more than just Tea Party groups and conservative political organizations.
“I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us,” wrote Franklin Graham in a letter Tuesday to President Obama. “This is morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’”
Graham is president of the ministry his father founded – as well as the international charity known as Samaritan’s Purse. Both organizations were notified of the IRS audits on the same day – not long after running advertisements supporting North Carolina’s Marriage amendment.
The ads encouraged voters to “cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” The ads concluded with these words: “Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me (Billy Graham) that American will remain one nation under God.”
“I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence – or justifiable,” Graham wrote in his letter.
The Internal Revenue Service did not return calls seeking comment.
Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for Graham, told Fox News it was the first time the ministry had been audited in its history.
“These certainly appear to be politically motivated since the ministry had run some newspaper ads – not mentioning any candidates – simply urging people to vote for candidates with biblical values,” DeMoss said.
The Biblical Recorder, the official news journal for North Carolina Southern Baptists, found itself in the same situation in March – audited for the first time since the Baptist newspaper was founded in 1833.
The newspaper garnered national attention last summer after Editor Allan Blume published an interview with Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy. In reference to his support of the traditional family, Cathy said he was “guilty as charged.”
The Biblical Recorder also published the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s ads affirming traditional marriage.
And then – came the telephone call from the Internal Revenue Service.
“It raised some red flags and made me wonder why we were being targeted for an audit when we have been around since 1833 and have never been audited before,” Blume told Fox News. “Putting it all together made me wonder.”
Blume said the timing may have been coincidental – but “it didn’t seem that way.”
“There seems to be a very anti-Christian bias that has flowed into a lot of government agencies – oppression literally against Christian organizations and groups,” he said. “It makes you wonder what’s going on.
Blume said the newspaper was eventually cleared, but the audit consumed time and money.
“It was a lot of time and energy that we didn’t have,” he said. “It took some of our staff literally several weeks of doing nothing but that (the audit),” he said.
The IRS eventually cleared both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, but Graham noted that the audit cost the ministries money.
“Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices,” Graham wrote.