Friday, December 03, 2010

Z Street and Bob Jones University

Readers here will have noticed my relative silence, which is of course explained by my extra activity at What's Wrong With the World. Jeff Culbreath and I have been tag-teaming this week on a big (and I do mean big) three-part series called "Disinviting Islam," which I'm sure my readers have already seen, saving me the trouble of finding the three links. (Right? Thanks for accommodating my laziness.)

Before I got all involved in that, I did come across some interesting additional information on the Obama IRS's outrageous attempts to discriminate in granting non-profit status on the basis of a group's position on the State of Israel. I mentioned it here. Apparently the supposed excuse for this special policy toward pro-Israel groups is the Bob Jones court decision according to which tax exempt status can be denied if the organization has a policy that is contrary to "established public policy." In Bob Jones's case this concerned, if I recall correctly, the university's policy on interracial dating which was related to U.S. antidiscrimination law.

But there is a huge gap between "established public policy" and what the IRS agent allegedly said to Z Street, namely, that tax exempt status might be disallowed if the group's policies different from the policies of the Obama administration. The foreign policy approach of one administration can differ radically from that of the previous administration and the next administration. It is not in itself a matter of U.S. law, and to refer to one particular administration's policy as "established public policy" is not only absurd but dangerous in ways that go far beyond Z Street. Think of it this way: The Obama administration is obviously hugely supportive of homosexual rights, yet they haven't been able to get all of those "rights" codified by Congress. While we're talking about Christian universities, how about a university that has a policy against homosexual acts by its faculty, which might be contrary to "administration policy." Could they be refused tax exempt status as well?

This one is worth flagging, and watching. I hope for many reasons that Z Street prevails in its lawsuit.


Kevin J Jones said...

Is this Obama policy or longstanding USG policy?

I'm betting the root cause of this policy re: pro-Israel groups dates back to the controversy over the American Zionist Council. The AZC was an Israeli government-backed group which was required to register as a foreign agent in the early 1960s because of its lobbying activities. It disbanded and became AIPAC instead of registering.

I only heard about this because I was reading this site (link is not an endorsement) on the Senate hearings. The original docs produced in the Senate hearing on the AZC reveal a highly sophisticating lobbying group any aspiring politico should use as a model.

Obviously, foreign agents or their proxies should not be allowed to exploit the tax code. The BJU connection is interesting, but possibly just a tangent.

Lydia McGrew said...

A comment appeared in my in-box and has apparently since been deleted by the comment author while I was preparing a response. The substance of it was a question as to whether this is a new policy or not and whether it is related instead to a very old issue concerning the American Zionist Council.

It appears to be a new policy, related to the Obama administration. Evidence for this is...

1) The absence of any earlier reports of such questions being asked. (Argument from silence, but not quite entirely worthless, especially considering the litigiousness of American culture and the probability that a Jewish group would have blown the whistle if such outspoken comments as those reported here--see below--had been previously made by the IRS.)

2) The specific question to a group other than Z Street that also applied as to whether they "support the existence of the State of Israel." A pretty outrageous question and not one that simply concerns the possibility of lobbying activities.

3) The new defense from the IRS itself that because Israel has a high level of terrorist activities taking place there, any groups relating to Israel get special scrutiny to make sure they are not funneling money to terrorists. See here:

This is particularly absurd since the Israelis are the victims in the "terrorist activities" taking place these days in Israel.

4) The explicit statement reported from the IRS agent to Z Street that they wanted to check concerning the group's positions vis a vis those of "the administration." How much clearer does that get? The IRS agent now denies that statement, by the way, but does so by saying that she didn't mention "the Obama administration." That sounds like weaseling to me. The phrase "the administration" uttered in 2010 of course refers to the present administration, just as, for example, "the President" uttered in 2010 refers to Barack Obama.

Kevin J Jones said...

Thanks for your reply, I don't know what happened to my comment.

Lydia McGrew said...

I found it in Google's spam folder. ??

Published it.