Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Atheists can sue IRS over failure to enforce limits on churches' political speech

The Freedom From Religion Foundation took home an important victory on Monday, when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that the group could proceed with its lawsuit over the Internal Revenue Service's alleged failure to enforce a ban on partisan politicking by tax-exempt religious groups.

The IRS had earlier filed a motion to dismiss the case, which the national foundation for atheists and agnostics had filed after the November elections last year. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman denied the motion on Monday, writing that the FFRF "has standing to seek an order requiring the IRS to treat religious organizations no more favorably than it treats the Foundation."

Tax-exempt religious organizations, as well as other educational and charitable groups registered under 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code, are prohibited from partisan electioneering. The FFRF suit contends that the IRS is failing to enforce that restriction particularly when it comes to churches, which the group argues constitutes a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The suit also claims that the alleged IRS inaction undermines equal protection rights by giving preferential treatment to tax-exempt religious organizations over other 501(c)(3) groups, including the FFRF.

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