Free Speech Rights Asserted for Religious Organizations

IRS Headquarters on Constitution Avenue

IRS Headquarters on Constitution Avenue (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, [email protected]

CHICAGO, April 27, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — “The Internal Revenue Service has no legal right to investigate, let alone threaten or penalize, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria for illegal ‘electioneering’ after Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C. referred to policies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin while delivering a robust, wholly legitimate critique of current federal efforts to quash and curtail religious liberties,” says Tom Brejcha, President of the Thomas More Society, a public interest Chicago-based law firm. “References to egregious, historic mistakes on the part of political leaders of the past in messages to congregations, even during an election year, are fully protected by the First Amendment, whether those messages are delivered from pulpits or on soapboxes in the public square.”

Backing up that message, Brejcha promised to provide free legal counsel and what it believes is a winning defense to any and all religious leaders whose free speech rights are assailed whether by the US government, or at the behest of any partisan political or private group. Brejcha was responding to reports of a complaint just filed with the IRS by Americans United for Separation of Church and State over Bishop Jenky’s comments.  “We think the law is very clear,” said Brejcha. “Well-settled Federal law does not prohibit churches and other tax-exempt non-profits from speaking out against government policies at odds with the common good or — as in this case — constitutionally obnoxious,” said Brejcha. “Where would the Civil Rights movement have been were it not for the courage of those of our religious leaders who spoke truth to power on behalf of the disenfranchised?” Brejcha added.

“When Bishop Jenky said, ‘…every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences…,’ he’s simply telling people that their religious convictions and values matter outside the church walls,” said Tom Brejcha.

TMS has successfully faced down the IRS twice recently, first when the Service delayed approval of the Coalition for Life of Iowa’s request for tax-exempt status while IRS was also pressing its pro-life members to refrain from conducting picketing or prayer vigils outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Iowa City. After TMS challenged the IRS’s legal position, the Service’s demands to stop the picketing were suddenly dropped and the Coalition promptly received an official IRS “Determination Letter” granting the requested tax exempt status.

In a second case, where the IRS made highly improper demands for information about prayer vigils conducted by the Christian Voices for Life, and was challenged by TMS, the IRS again backed down.

About the Thomas More Society: Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that aims to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.

1 Comment

  1. retiredday says:

    God bless Tom Brejcha and the Thomas More Society!  Don’t forget that we still have freedom of speech in America.  Don’t be intimidated!  Christians have the right to express their beliefs and opinions publicly.