IRS targets include Graham, Baptist newspaper
NEW YORK (BP) -- The ministry founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham and a 180-year-old Baptist newspaper, the Biblical Recorder, say they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, Fox News has learned.
The revelations involving the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan's Purse and the Biblical Recorder newsjournal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention seem to indicate the IRS was targeting more than just Tea Party groups and conservative political organizations.
Franklin Graham wrote in a letter to President Obama on Tuesday (May 14): "I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us." Graham described the IRS audits as "morally wrong and unethical -- indeed some would call it 'un-American.'"
Graham is president of the ministry his father founded as well as the international charity known as Samaritan's Purse. Both organizations were notified of the IRS audits on the same day -- not long after BGEA ran advertisements supporting North Carolina's marriage amendment.
The ads encouraged voters to "cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel." The ads concluded with these words: "Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me (Billy Graham) that America will remain one nation under God."
"I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence -- or justifiable," Graham wrote in his letter.
The Internal Revenue Service did not return calls seeking comment.
Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for Graham, told Fox News it was the first time the ministry had been audited in its history.
"These certainly appear to be politically motivated since the ministry had run some newspaper ads -- not mentioning any candidates -- simply urging people to vote for candidates with biblical values," DeMoss said.
The Biblical Recorder, the official newsjournal for North Carolina Southern Baptists, found itself in the same situation in March.
The newspaper garnered national attention last summer after editor Allan Blume published an interview with Chick-fil-A's president, Dan Cathy. In reference to his support of the traditional family, Cathy said he was "guilty as charged."
The Biblical Recorder also published the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's ads supporting North Carolina's marriage amendment. And then came the telephone call from the Internal Revenue Service.
"It raised some red flags and made me wonder why we were being targeted for an audit when we have been around since 1833 and have never been audited before," Blume told Fox News. "Putting it all together made me wonder."
Blume said the timing may have been coincidental -- but "it didn't seem that way."
"There seems to be a very anti-Christian bias that has flowed into a lot of government agencies -- oppression literally against Christian organizations and groups," Blume said. "It makes you wonder what's going on."
Blume said the newspaper was eventually cleared, but the audit consumed time and money.
"It was a lot of time and energy that we didn't have," Blume said. "It took some of our staff literally several weeks of doing nothing but that [audit]," he said.
The IRS eventually cleared both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse but Graham noted that the audit cost the ministries money.
"Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices," Graham wrote in his letter to Obama.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of "Dispatches From Bitter America" and "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick." This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission.