Atheist group sues over what it calls religious electioneering
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin-based group representing atheists and agnostics argues that the Internal Revenue Service is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing tax-exempt churches and religious organizations to get involved in political campaigns.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation argues that churches and other religious organizations have become increasingly more involved in political campaigns, “blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions.”
Its lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Madison argues that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organizations from electioneering. Not enforcing it is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends.
The lawsuit, which was filed against IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, asks that the court order Shulman to initiate enforcement of the electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations.
It also asks that the IRS initiate legal action against any churches or religious organizations that are believed to be violating the restrictions.