The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) announced on Friday that it and the IRS had settled a federal lawsuit over non-enforcement of restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt religious organizations and churches. The only roadblock to full compliance is a Congressional fishing expedition looking for scandals.
FFRF filed suit against the IRS shortly after the presidential election in 2012, based on the agency’s reported enforcement moratorium, as evidenced by open and notorious politicking by churches. Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in fact, has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches. A prior lawsuit in 2009 required the IRS to designate an appropriate high-ranking official to initiate church tax examinations, but it had apparently failed to do so.
The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.
Until the IRS has satisfied congressional overseers that objective procedures are firmly in place with regard to political activities by all tax-exempt organizations, the judge in FFRF’s pending suit would not currently be able to order any immediate or effective relief.
Who knows when the Congressional investigation will end since the majority Republicans insist there is a scandal even though all the “evidence” claimed so far have been rebutted.
Once the IRS starts enforcing their own rules, then the pastors who participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will finally get their shot to take a case to the Supreme Court.