In the wake of admissions that the IRS targeted the Tea Party and other conservative applicants for aggressive, time-consuming investigations, the head of a recently-formed pro-life group is claiming that his charity was unfairly denied tax-exempt status because of its position on abortion.
Cherish Life Ministries is a charitable organization dedicated to bringing pro-life churches together to provide aid to mothers and babies in need, and educate communities about abortion and life issues.
The group was founded by Peter Shinn, head of Pro Life Unity, an activist pro-life group that has never sought tax-exempt status.
Shinn told LifeSiteNews.com that he applied for 501(c)3 status in order to attract donors and fund the group’s educational and outreach efforts. After reading the IRS guidelines on 501(c)3 organizations, he carefully tailored his application to fit the requirements and sent it in.
Like many conservatives who have complained about unfair targeting, Shinn said his application languished for more than a year without word from the IRS. Then, he received a letter saying that Cherish Life Ministries had been determined to be a “political organization” because of its position on abortion. It was denied 501(c)3 status.
Shinn told LifeSiteNews that when he called the caseworker in charge of his application to complain, she told him that to be considered an “educational” organization, his group would have to present both sides of the abortion argument.
“What, are you kidding?” Shinn recalled asking the caseworker. “You want me to educate people on how good abortion is?”
Shinn said when he directly asked the caseworker if she was telling him he had to promote abortion in order to receive a tax-exemption, she denied that was what she meant. But she seemed to contradict herself moments later, telling Shinn, “When you’re educating, you have to educate on all aspects.”
“Do you think that Planned Parenthood” – which is also a 501(c)3 organization – “teaches pro-life? I don’t think so.”
He said he pointed out various single-issue foundations that carry 501(c)3 non-profit status, but the caseworker offered to process the application as a 501(c)4 advocacy group instead.
Shinn told LifeSiteNews that in rejecting Cherish Life Ministries’ application, the IRS provided a rewritten summary of the group’s bylaws that directly contradicted the information he provided on his application.
“It was multiple paragraphs describing who we are and what we do,” Shinn said, “which was effectively rewriting our bylaws.” Said Shinn, “I thought that was absurd. Why would the IRS tell us who we are?”
Shinn now has 90 days to prove to the IRS that his group is non-political in nature.
The IRS has come under fire in recent days since Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations, admitted IRS agents “selected cases [for inappropriate review] simply because the applications had [conservative] names in the title.”
Initial reports indicated at least 100 groups were targeted, including those addressing issues like “government spending,” “government debt,” “taxes,” “how the country is being run,” and making “America a better place to live.”
Lerner also revealed agents asked questions of conservative applicants that went beyond the scope of the normal application process, demanding the names of donors and volunteers, copies of all minutes from the moment of inception, and copies of literature disseminated by the groups.
On Wednesday, the Thomas More Society released evidence that the IRS targeted pro-life groups for intrusive and time-consuming questioning.
The Senate Finance Committee, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the House Ways and Means Committee have all promised to launch investigations into the IRS’s wrongdoing.