The fact that the Obama administration is not a big fan of the First Amendment show itself every time Kathleen Sebelius threatens a company that speaks out against Obamacare. But there are other ways they fight against people’s right of free speech, the heavy hand of the IRS.
This past August Z Street filed a federal lawsuit against the IRS. The suit was filed after Z STREET (an Israel advocacy organization) was told by an IRS official that its application for tax-exempt status has been delayed because an IRS policy requires consideration of whether a group’s views on Israel differ from those of the current Administration.
“Not only is it patently un-American but it is also a clear violation of the First Amendment for a government agency to penalize an organization because of its political position on Israel or anything else,” said Z STREET president Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a former First Amendment lawyer. “This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver’s license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands.”
Think about the implications of that policy, pro-life organizations wouldn’t be able to receive funding because it is a different position than Obama, nor would small government PAC, or maybe even religious organizations that are different than the president’s.
Z STREET filed for tax-exempt status in January of this year and, despite having met all of the requirements for grant of this status, the application has been stalled. An IRS agent told Z STREET’s lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires more intense scrutiny of organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration.
Obviously tax-exempt status is important because donors would be able to deduct contributions from their taxable income. The IRS’s refusal to grant tax-exempt status to Z STREET inhibited the organization‘s fundraising efforts, and impeded its ability to speak and to educate the public.
As part of defending itself against the lawsuit, the IRS has filed court papers defending itself, and giving the reasons for their attack on the first amendment. And their rationale is as whacko as their statements leading up to the suit.
In a signed affidavit, an IRS official explains that there is no “Israel Special Policy,” instead it is a Terrorism Special Policy, and that Israel is included. That’s right, Israel is a terrorist state because terrorism happens there. It doesn’t matter that, Israel is the victim, (they’re the IRS, they don’t have to give a damn about facts) This brings moral equivalency to a whole new level. Every American should be screaming from the rooftops. The brief is here and the most significant of the IRS affidavits is here. The affidavit of the agent in charge of Z STREET’s application is here. And you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that the government completely ignores having asked another organization whether that organization “supports the existence of Israel”, and that organization’s “religious beliefs about the land of Israel.”
Of course, that doesn’t quite fit into their new defense. Nor, of course, the Constitution. And the Obama administration doesn’t really care about the Constitution.