Alliance Defending Freedom asked a federal district court Friday to order the Internal Revenue Service to identify records it has withheld for nearly two years that are related to secret procedures for investigating churches. The existence of the secret procedures became known through the agency’s settlement of an atheist group’s lawsuit, but the IRS has stonewalled the release of details.
In 2014, ADF filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the records. The IRS refused to produce any records for a full year. When it finally started producing documents in July 2015, months after ADF filed suit through its attorneys with Judicial Watch, the agency withheld more than 10,000 out of 16,000 pages requested, and of the pages it did produce, more than 2,000 are almost entirely blacked out. Now ADF is asking the court to order the IRS to comply with its legal duty to justify the thousands of records withheld or else produce them.
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce the documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to Freedom From Religion Foundation.”
The whole matter stems from a legal settlement between the IRS and FFRF in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Koskinen. The IRS assured the atheist group that it had adopted new protocols and procedures for church investigations in order to end the lawsuit.
—Mariana Barillas, “How Is The IRS Auditing Churches: Group Demands Answers“