The IRS Asked a Pro-Life Group to Explain Its Prayers Outside Planned Parenthood, Which Is Now a Scandal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 17 2013 6:09 PM

The IRS Asked a Pro-Life Group to Explain its Prayers Outside Planned Parenthood, Which Is Now a Scandal

Chris Moody followed up on one of the next-wave conservative outrages over the IRS in the Obama years. It sounds incredible: In 2009, when the Coalition for Life of Iowa asked for tax exemption, the IRS' follow-up letter asked it about members' prayers.

Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.
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Like I said, incredible—which, when you think about it, tells you how quickly the Overton window has shifted. If you read the document trove, CFLI ended up handing the feds documentation on stem cells, on the viability of life in the womb, etc. The IRS accepted this; the group got tax-exempt status. The scandal, obviously, is that there's something inherently evil about inquiring into the "content of prayers." But the agency was easily satisfied. The point of the story isn't that Christianity is being oppressed in America. The point is similar to that of "Pulpit Freedom Day," an annual nationwide campaign to get churches to allow political sermons, and publicize them, and dare the IRS to step in and experience blowback.

The blowback is here. We will hear more stories like this, as long as people are primed for outrage.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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