The Rev. Billy Graham was audited by the IRS shortly after his ministry expressed public support for North Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage according to Franklin Graham, the highly respected evangelist’s son.
The constitutional ban on gay marriage in North Carolina passed with 60 percent of the vote.
In connection with this audit, Franklin Graham alluded to religious profiling and suggested that it was similar to the kind of political targeting that Tea Party and other right-of-center groups received from the federal government’s tax collecting agency.
Both the Billy Graham Envangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse (an international humanitarian organization) were audited in October 2012. In a letter to President Obama, Franklin Graham declared that the audits were neither a coincidence nor justifiable and was an attempt to intimidate the Graham ministry.
The ministry also ran adds encouraging citizens to vote for candidates who follow biblical principles and support the state of Israel.
Billy Graham at 94 remains one of the most recognized religious figures in the world and has helped a number of presidents and political leaders as a spiritual adviser, including Barack Obama in 2011. Rev. Graham supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
According to the Gallup Poll, Rev. Graham is one of the most admired men in the world and has been on the top 10 Most Admired list 56 times since 1955, more than any other man.
Both Graham organizations ultimately got a clean bill of health from the IRS but it came at a price, according to Franklin Graham, who serves as president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “After the election, we did receive official notice that our organizations continue to qualify for the exemption from Federal Income Tax, and that our returns were accepted as filed. 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 serving the IRS agents in our office.”
Graham added that the IRS practice was “morally wrong and unethical.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered an FBI criminal investigation into the practice of IRS agents subjecting Tea Party and other groups to heavy and unconstitutional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status as so-called social welfare organizations. Some of these groups have been waiting up to three years for IRS approval. Some lawmakers now contend that as many as 500 groups were singled out and peppered with intrusive, burdensome questions by the tax collecting agency.
The IRS did not flag left-of-center groups who applied for the same 501(c)(4) non-profit status, however. “As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names were approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like ‘Progress’ or ‘Progressive,’ these groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.”
According to a May 14 report from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, ineffective IRS management allowed agents to used inappropriate criteria to screen conservative groups. The Inspector General’s report made nine recommendations to enable the IRS to root out this practice, seven of which have thus far been generally accepted by the agency.
Congress is also investigating the IRS in connection with this developing scandal.