Lathan Watts, director of legal communications for First Liberty Institute, must have a sense of humor.
In a recent essay, Mr. Watts wrote this about the Internal Revenue Service: “In terms of popularity with the American people, the IRS probably ranks somewhere between rush hour traffic and dysentery and only slightly above being stuck in rush hour traffic while experiencing dysentery.”
But Mr. Watts isn’t joking around when it comes to a recent policy decision IRS officials issued concerning religious liberty. The agency denied tax-exempt status to a Texas-based non-profit organization called Christians Engaged. The organization’s purpose is to educate and empower everyday Christians to pray for the nation and its elected officials, exercise their right to vote, and be engaged in civic issues.
The reason for the denial? The IRS letter said, “Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican party and candidates.”
But what Christians Engaged strives to do is to give people something to think about but not what to think. The IRS evidently can’t fathom that people of faith — in applying their shared values — could arrive at different conclusions and respect each other’s decisions.
People of faith from all points along the political spectrum can disagree about which political party more closely aligns with religious doctrine. What they should all be able to agree upon is that the IRS should stay out of that debate.
“With its letter, the IRS has claimed there is only one interpretation of Biblical principles: Theirs. If the religion clauses of the First Amendment mean anything, it is that government has no place in telling people of faith what their holy scripture requires of them,” Mr. Watts wrote.
The IRS letter might come as a surprise to Democrats like President Joe Biden, who is often described as basing his political ideology on his religious beliefs. Or to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who told the nation in 1935, “We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic.” And Republican Ronald Reagan cautioned against any claim of exclusive partisan rights to Biblical teaching. He once said, with his trademark sense of humor, “I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.”
Christians Engaged desires to see more people informed and participating in our civic process. It wants more people voting. Sadly, to some in the IRS, because Christians Engaged does so from a Christian perspective, it should be excluded from equal participation in American civil discourse.