In response to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) acknowledging last week that they targeted conservative, nonprofit political groups, Franklin Graham released a letter May 14 voicing his own concerns to President Obama. The letter focused on the IRS auditing the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse, both based in North Carolina, last fall.
The letter also leaves Allan Blume, editor of the Biblical Recorder, “curious” about an IRS audit with the Recorder in recent weeks.
On May 10, the IRS publically acknowledged that they had targeted groups with names that included “Tea Party,” “Take back the Country,” “Patriot” and other descriptions associated with conservative nonprofits. In Graham’s letter to the president, he contended the investigations by the IRS were not limited to conservative, political groups.
“Indeed, it extended to religious charities – Jewish and Christian – as well,” Graham wrote in the opening paragraph of his letter.
“In light of what the IRS admitted to … and subsequent revelations from other sources, I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence – or justifiable,” he wrote. “… I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’”
Graham went on to imply that the two organizations were singled out, for the stand he and his father Billy Graham have taken on traditional marriage and encouraging evangelicals to “vote for biblical values” last November. Last April, the BGEA ran full-page ads statewide voicing support for the Marriage Amendment in N.C. that defined marriage only between a man and a woman. Later that fall, the BGEA ran ads in newspapers around the country that encouraged voters to “cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.”
In September 2012, both Samaritan’s Purse, headquartered in Boone, and the BGEA in Charlotte, received notification that the IRS would review forms they filed in 2010. An IRS agent arrived in October to conduct a review of both organizations.
“Our returns were accepted as filed,” Graham said. “Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices.”
Similarly, the IRS inquired about forms filed in 2010 by the Recorder. Earlier today on Fox News’ website, an article referenced all three audits with concerns that the IRS had also targeted conservative, religious groups.
The IRS notified Allan Blume, the Recorder’s editor, in March that the publication was being audited. An IRS agent visited the publication and conducted an interview with the editor and the organization’s attorney. The IRS agent completed his work with Blume and the BR’s attorney on May 9.
Blume remained cautious about making too many assumptions.
“We have no evidence that we were directly targeted by the IRS,” Blume said. “We were told there were questions about three consecutive years of what is called ‘unrelated business income.’ Attention seemed to be drawn to this item because much of our income comes from Cooperative Program gifts.”
“Once the agent understood the Southern Baptist way of giving and supporting mission causes, there seemed to be no serious concerns.”
Blume said, “The IRS agent was courteous and professional throughout the audit. We did not experience any form of intimidation by the agent. As expected, he had some suggestions about procedures, but affirmed that our records were in good condition. We are waiting for the agent’s official letter on the results of the audit. Such a letter typically takes up to six weeks.”
With that said, Blume added, “We are curious.”
“Last year the Biblical Recorder took a clear stand for family values throughout North Carolina’s marriage amendment vote,” he said. “We would like to know if the Biblical Recorder showed up on the IRS’ radar … because of our stand on biblical values.”
Blume also referenced the Recorder’s article on Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy last year that went viral online. In the article Cathy affirmed his support of traditional family values.
“The story gained national attention, after some media outlets distorted Mr. Cathy’s comments,” Blume said. “Our web traffic and national attention skyrocketed.”
Franklin Graham’s full letter to the president:
Dear Mr. President:
As an American, the recent admission by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that it had targeted not-for-profit organizations with “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names for audits is chilling. However, I write today to inform you this profiling by the IRS was not limited to conservative political organizations; indeed, it extended to religious charities—Jewish and Christian—as well.
Last April, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, headquartered in North Carolina, ran full-page ads statewide supporting the Marriage Amendment in North Carolina. We believe marriage between a man and a woman to be a moral, biblical value to be upheld. And last fall, our ministry ran newspaper ads nationally encouraging voters to “cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” The ad concluded with these words: “Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me (Billy Graham) that America will remain one nation under God.” (These ads were purchased with designated funds given by friends of our ministry for this purpose.)
To my surprise, on September 6, 2012, both Samaritan’s Purse (headquartered in Boone, NC) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (headquartered in Charlotte, NC) received notification from the IRS that a review would be conducted for tax year ending 2010. An IRS agent arrived October 15, 2012, to conduct a review of Samaritan’s Purse; and an agent arrived on October 29, 2012, to conduct a review of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In light of what the IRS admitted to on Friday, May 10, 2013, and subsequent revelations from other sources, I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence—or justifiable. Yesterday you said, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that’s outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions…” Mr. President, the IRS has already publicly acknowledged it operated in a less than neutral and non-partisan way. We also now know that the target of their improper actions was much wider than political or Tea Party organizations. Will you take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America’s history—repressive government rule?
After the election, we did receive official notice that our organizations continue to quality for exemption from Federal income tax, and that our returns were accepted as filed. Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices. I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical—indeed some would call it “un-American.”
Thank you for your attention to this matter.