IRS denies Christian Coalition tax exempt status


WASHINGTON, DC, June 10 -- The Internal Revenue Service has denied the Christian Coalition status as a tax-exempt organization, a move hailed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"It's about time," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, in response to a copyrighted report in today's St. Petersburg Times. "The Christian Coalition is a hardball political machine that has been masquerading as a tax-exempt group. The IRS has finally pulled off the mask."

"This is a devastating blow to TV preacher Pat Robertson's political ambitions," continued Lynn. "His crusade to politicize America's churches is now almost certain to fail. I, for one, say amen."

Americans United has been the leading critic and opponent of the coalition since the Robertson group's inception. In 1997, AU launched a national campaign to warn churches about legal limits on political activities and to urge them to reject coalition voter guides.

"The Coalition's primary political weapons are its voter guides," Lynn added. "Every year the Christian Coalition attempts to flex its political muscle by distributing these slanted guides in thousands of churches.

"In light of the IRS action, pastors would have to be out of their minds to distribute these guides now. The Christian Coalition's credibility is shot. That's the real impact of the IRS action."

Americans United had urged the IRS to deny the coalition's application for tax exemption and had submitted voluminous evidence to the tax agency of the coalition's obvious partisan nature.

Most notably, AU gave the IRS a tape of a September 1997 closed-door Robertson speech to Coalition state lieutenants outlining his partisan political goals and strategies. Urging the group to emulate political machines such as Tammany Hall, Robertson took credit for the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and laid plans to elect a Republican to the presidency in 2000.

"That tape was the smoking gun," concluded AU's Lynn. "Robertson sounded more like a ward boss than a religious leader. After that, the IRS had no choice but to deny the group's tax exemption."

In 1990, in the wake of his failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Robertson formed the Christian Coalition, which sought tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. Since that time, the group has operated as a tax-exempt organization pending a final decision from the IRS.

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