By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The popular apologetics organization known as Catholic Answers has filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for intimidating churches and non-profit groups on politically controversial moral issues.
According to a report by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Catholic Answers president Karl Keating said the suit is in response to a fine levied against them by the IRS in 2004 after the organization issued an e-letter stating that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry should not be allowed to receive Communion because of his pro-abortion voting record.
“It’s important to note that at no time did I or anyone at Catholic Answers tell people whom to vote for or whom not to vote for,” Keating says on his website. “We merely stated our view that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion.”
As it turns out, Frances Kissling, then-leader of the pro-abortion front group “Catholics for a Free Choice,” saw the e-letter and reported it to the IRS.
“She hated our very successful Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics, which was read by more than 20 million American voters,” Keating said, pointing out that the Guide was actually cleared by the IRS of any violations.
“It did, however, come after us for my remark about John Kerry and Holy Communion,” Keating says. “It claimed that this was ‘intervening’ in the election—which is preposterous.”
Keating went on to say that the IRS has been using “very vague criteria” to “intimidate” churches, non-profits and ministries into “silence” on controversial moral issues.
“The intimidation has become so bad that nowadays, most churches and non-profits in America are scared to death even to talk about moral issues that are deemed ‘political’ (such as abortion).
“If you’re wondering why you don’t hear more about abortion in your parish, especially during election time, this is why. It’s IRS intimidation,” Keating wrote.
“All of this tail-between-the-legs cowering comes from the IRS’ ability to intimidate churches and non-profits into silence on political issues. And it’s simply wrong.
“For the IRS to claim that a non-profit organization cannot even so much as talk about a political candidate or ballot issue is something that must be strenuously opposed.”
Keating announced that Catholic Answers officially began its legal action against the IRS on April 3. Its lawsuit alleges that the IRS violates First Amendment Rights and intimidates non-profit organizations into silence.
The suit, he said, would serve not just Catholic Answers but the Catholic Church as a whole and all religious organizations. He said a victorious lawsuit would set a legal precedent holding that the IRS cannot prohibit speech on religious or moral issues.
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