US
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON  - FEBRUARY 3:  (L to R) Aurora Jewell, Mandi Moshay and Kirsten Dees hold up signs following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic February 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 3: (L to R) Aurora Jewell, Mandi Moshay and Kirsten Dees hold up signs following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic February 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)  

Claim: IRS asked pro-life group to pledge not to protest Planned Parenthood in exchange for tax exemption

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

In the wake of the revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, a Chicago-based public interest law firm is claiming that pro-life groups were also unfairly scrutinized.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative public-interest law firm, announced Wednesday that the IRS excessively probed two of their pro-life clients when they were seeking tax-exempt status — including inquiring about the content of their prayers and pledges that the group would not protest Planned Parenthood.

In the case of the Texas-based Christian Voices for Life, the Thomas More Society charges, the IRS repeatedly questioned the group about the content of its prayer vigils, communications, and activities around abortion facilities.

“The application of Christian Voices for Life clearly indicated that the organization qualified as a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3),” Thomas More Society special counsel Sally Wagenmaker said in a statement.

“The IRS seemed to be intent on denying or delaying tax-exempt status based upon the organization’s pro-life message, rather than any legitimate exemption concern, through its exhaustive, cumbersome questioning,” she added. “The implication that Christian Voices for Life somehow intended to engage in illegal activity was insulting.”

The group eventually received its tax-exempt status.

In the case of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, the Thomas More Society says, an IRS agent called the group and requested a letter pledging that the group would not protest Planned Parenthood.

“In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent ‘Ms. Richards’ told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood. Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved,” the Thomas More Society wrote in their announcement.

Shortly after the Thomas More Society threatened legal action against the IRS, the group received their tax-exempt status.

“The IRS’s role should only be to determine whether organizations fit the section 501(c)(3) test for ‘charitable, religious, or educational’ qualification, not to inquire about the content of prayers, protests, and petitions,” Thomas More Society special counsel Sally Wagenmaker said.

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