Sen. Hillary Clinton speaking at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church
Liberty Counsel, a public interest law firm, is reporting that the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State apparently is trying to cover up the partisanship of its attacks on various religious organizations.
WND reported earlier when Liberty Counsel filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging Americans United “violate(s) the same tax-exempt laws it pretends to uphold and the group has become merely a facade for a liberal agenda and the Democratic Party.”
The complaint letter said AU “has crossed the line one too many times. … The IRS needs to put a stop to AU’s partisan intimidation tactics.”
Americans United is famous for filing demands with the IRS to investigate conservative organizations and ministries, including a recent letter seeking an investigation of Liberty University for allegedly banning the student Democrat club.
Liberty Counsel said the complaint apparently was based on “inaccurate hearsay misstatements contained in some media reports.” The complaint, it said, was unsubstantiated.
Now, Liberty Counsel has described what it believes to be an effort on the part of AU officials to “cover their tracks” by quickly filing a complaint with the IRS against the Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., for endorsing Democratic candidate Brian Moran.
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University school of law, expressed his opinion on AU.
“The politically partisan pattern of Americans United is clear,” Staver said. “Time after time the organization picks on churches whose pastors lean toward conservative or Republican candidates. At the same time, it ignores churches whose pastors lean toward Democratic candidates.”
Liberty Counsel called the complaint against Liberty University “bogus.” Officials said they reviewed all officially recognized student clubs to make sure that they didn’t advance issues contrary to the college’s mission statement.
But the school does not formally recognize or finance any politically-affiliated student groups on campus – Republican or Democrat. However, unofficial groups are allowed to meet on campus but are required to use a disclaimer stating that they are not formally affiliated with the university.
“AU is not concerned about truth. Its statements are designed to intimidate, silence, and harm those with whom it disagrees,” Liberty Counsel said. “AU’s activity is both reckless and partisan. It is reckless because AU never investigates the accuracy of its alleged complaints.”
Staver pointed out that AU has failed ever to have a tax-exempt status revoked from a church or religious group. He believes AU is more concerned with getting its name in the media than actually fulfilling its mission statement.
“AU’s pattern of reckless disregard for the truth, coupled with its malicious intent to injure those with whom it disagrees, is patently obvious. While the IRS considers such complaints confidential and will not release information to the public pending investigations, AU is only interested in getting its name in the media,” Staver said.
Staver called the banning of politics in the pulpit undemocratic and called for repealing IRS Code restrictions.
“Congress ought to repeal any restriction in the IRS Code that limits churches from addressing political issues and candidates for public office,” Staver said. “Such restrictions undermine our democratic process and are an offense to the open political discourse that has made America a great nation.”
According to Liberty Counsel’s original complaint, “AU has essentially become an arm of the Democratic Party. Churches or nonprofit organizations having anything to do with conservative causes or Republican policies or candidates are targeted by AU. But churches or nonprofit organizations having anything to do with liberal or Democratic policies or candidates go unnoticed.
“We respectfully request that you take immediate action to: (1) enjoin AU from continuing its intolerable waste of tax dollars through its barrage of unwarranted IRS complaints and subsequent investigations; (2) enjoin AU from continuing its abusive attacks and selective harassment of conservative churches, groups and related organizations; (3) enjoin AU from continuing its campaign of misrepresentation to the public of the political climate in relation to the conservative church and related groups; and (4) investigate the partisan pattern of filing complaints and the partisan activities of AU to determine whether such abuses represent illegal activities that jeopardize its current tax-exempt 501(c)(3) incorporation,” Liberty Counsel said.
For example, Americans United complained when a California pastor – as an individual – endorsed a political candidate. But it did not raise the issue when Democratic operatives and candidates delivered multiple political speeches in churches, Liberty Counsel said. Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, spoke at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis last year, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, spoke at Brookins Community A.M.E. church in California.
Similarly, President Obama “unashamedly politicked” from a church pulpit and “AU took no action: no press releases and no requests for a formal investigation by the IRS,” the letter said.
In a statement posted on the organizations website, Americans United said the Liberty Counsel complaint is “groundless.”
“This is a desperate diversionary tactic, and it will fail,” said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director.