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IRS Agent: You Have Free Speech, But Don’t Exercise It

From a transcript of an IRS agent’s instructions to a pro-life group applying for tax-exempt status (audio embedded above):

Agent Sherry Wan (:06-:41) – “…so you have your right. You have your freedom. You have your religious rights. You have a right to believe what you believe. You have the right to think about what you should do, what is right for you to do. OK. And, but, however, this freedom also [unintelligible] to other people. Other people also have the freedom. You know, for the personal view, maybe I go with you. However, I have to [unintelligible] the Internal Revenue Service. I have to stick with the law. Because, you know, we have to keep it neutral.

Client Ania Joseph (:41-:44) – I understand that you have to stick with the law.

Agent (:44-1:17) – Yeah, you have the religious freedom; the freedom of speech. And other people also have the civil rights; human rights. You cannot, you know, use your religious belief to tell other people you don’t have a belief, so I don’t believe you need the right to do this, start confrontation, protesting, uh, prot, uh, protest. [unintelligible] You don’t apply for tax exemption.

Where does one even begin with this? Read the whole transcript or listen to the phone call. Not only is this agent ignorant of the law, she is utterly incoherent. Can you imagine that an IRS agent like this has the power to destroy your organization for violating the tax code — a code she doesn’t appear to understand in context of the First Amendment, and the basic details of which she is apparently incompetent to explain?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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