FFRF sues IRS to enforce church electioneering ban


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking the Internal Revenue Service to court over its failure to enforce electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations, calling it a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and of FFRF’s equal protection rights. FFRF filed the lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. (View the lawsuit here.) 

A widely circulated Bloomberg news article quoted Russell Renwicks, with the IRS’ Tax-Exempt and Government Entities division, saying the IRS has suspended tax audits of churches. Other sources claim the IRS hasn’t been auditing churches since 2009. (See AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll’s story, “IRS Not Enforcing Rules on Churches and Politics.”) Although an IRS spokesman claimed Renwicks “misspoke,” there appears to be no evidence of IRS inquiries or action in the past three years.

As many as 1,500 clergy reportedly violated the electioneering restrictions on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, notes FFRF’s legal complaint. The complaint also references “blatantly political” full-page ads running in the three Sundays leading up to the presidential elections by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

FFRF, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is asking the the federal court to enjoin IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman from continuing “a policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations.”

Additionally, FFRF seeks to order Shulman “to authorize a high-ranking official within the IRS to approve and initiate enforcement of the restrictions of §501(c)(3) against churches and religious organizations, including the electioneering restrictions, as required by law.”

Written By: Freedom From Religion Foundation
continue to source article at ffrf.org


  1. About time.

    You would think that many churches that understand the secular nature of our Constitution would join such an action for their own sake. If these theocratic wackaloons gained the power they really crave then churches, such as the Universal Unitarians, would find themselves in as much hot water as the rest of us.

  2. This is great, and about time. This country can’t afford to be the laughing stock of the world. Its time to put a damper on the political pressure put on the election system.
    The religious right would like nothing better than to gain control of the government and control education to further grip America by the throat.

  3. I’m glad to see this but I think it is going to be a very tough case to win. I hope I’m wrong.

    The lawsuit is essentially claiming that secular non-profits are having their equal protection rights discriminated against because religious non-profits are enjoying a policy of non-enforcement by the IRS.  

    I’ve read the lawsuit twice and while I’m no expert, it seems to be unspecific in just exactly how secular non-profits are suffering damages as a result of the claim that religious non-profits are receiving special treatment. 

    Special treatment needs to be proved as well since there is a difference in saying the IRS is doing a lousy job and saying there is no policy in place and the IRS is actively promoting religious bias.  

    Just my .02


  4. An audit followed by tax bills for all those shown to have been making public political statements, would seem appropriate.

    Enforcement and collection or bankruptcy for non-payers, would then seem an appropriate follow-up. 
    They can’t have their cake and eat it – even if that is a “normal” theist thinking process!

  5. I don’t know @rdfrs-14179b8b1b7b28c74c66bc49489f50fe:disqus , it seems pretty straight forward to me:

    The Plaintiff, Freedom From Religion Foundation (“FFRF”), seeks a Declaration
    under 28 U.S.C. §2201 that the Defendant, Douglas Shulman (“Shulman”), in his capacity as
    Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), has violated, continues to violate, and
    will continue to violate in the future, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the
    Constitution of the United States by failing to enforce the electioneering restrictions of
    §501(c)(3) of the Tax Code against churches and religious organizations. The Defendant’s
    actions also violate the Plaintiff’s Equal Protection rights.

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