home
RSS
Franklin Graham: IRS targeted ministries
"I do not believe the IRS audits of our two organizations last year is a coincidence," Franklin Graham wrote to the president.
May 15th, 2013
09:50 AM ET

Franklin Graham: IRS targeted ministries

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

(CNN) - Franklin Graham, one of the country's most prominent evangelicals, says the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service included two of his ministries.

"I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us," Graham wrote in a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama. The evangelical leader is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham.

Graham said the IRS contacted the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a North Carolina-based ministry, after it ran newspaper ads in that state in April encouraging support for an amendment against same-sex marriage. The group also bought newspaper ads in November encouraging Christians to vote for candidates who oppose same-sex marriage, support Israel and "base their decisions on biblical principles."

Graham said the ads were purchased by funds donated by "friends of our ministry."

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

In September, the IRS informed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, an international aid group, that it would review the groups' records for the tax year ending in 2010, according to Graham. IRS agents conducted the review in October, Graham said.

The organizations, both of which are run by Graham, later received notice that they remain eligible for federal tax exemptions, he said.

"I do not believe the IRS audits of our two organizations last year is a coincidence - or justifiable," Graham said in the letter to Obama.

The IRS did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment. The agency has acknowledged that it gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups applying for federal tax exemptions. The Treasury Department's inspector general said in a report that the IRS' use of "inappropriate criteria"  ended in May 2012.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Obama said Tuesday that he has directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to hold IRS employees accountable for "these failures."

"But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong," Obama said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Billy Graham • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (1,354 Responses)
  1. Scars

    He ran political ads and then claimed to be targeted by the IRS? I don't know about the Tea Party investigations, but the investigation into this false prophet was completely justified. I'm not anti-religion. But I am anti-hypocrite. And this guy is one of the biggest ones around. I used to think his father was mostly a decent person. But, if this is how he raised his son - clearly, I was wrong about him. There is NOTHING Christian about this man. He is an embarrassment to real Christians everywhere.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Answer

      "Real" christians.. so hilarious.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Topher

      I don't really know much about Franklin. What is your problem with him?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Answer

      The picture of a s-c-u-m.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • sam stone

      On one hand, he is a bigot

      on the other, he is fleecing the gullilble

      May 15, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Topher wants to be taken seriously but he doesn't know much about Franklin. . .

      But I suppose that is consistent with not getting outside your own cult.

      Or he is lying as has been shown so many times previously.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • sam stone

      Topher wants to be taken seriously, but when the questions get too tough, he switches into his alter-ego, Gopher

      Topher is a liar and a coward

      May 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      Isn't it about time to get on your knees and beg for salvation, Gopher?

      Your pr1ck god needs to have his a$$ kissed at every turn or he gets angry

      May 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • may40

      All you "anti"Christians are the hypocrites. You completely lack tolerance and despise those who have morals and integrity. What do all you unbelievers do with your life for the poor and needy???? Anyone? If it weren't for the Grahams and the rest of the Christians this nation would be a complete disaster and other nations be without any hope whatsoever. You should ALL be ashamed!!!

      May 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      May 40 you have many incorrect assumptions.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • may40

      Funny you liberals are complaining about people coming forward because they had been targeted but you don't have a clue about Obama's 1/2 brother being given an exempt for his "charity". It took all of 1 month (unheard of) to put it in place and he also got 2 years retroactive. NICE!!!!! Pathetic, you're all crooks!!!!

      May 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  2. John

    Franklin has been VERY political his entire life and has used those ministries to that end. His father was never political and stuck to his message that he always preached. He was embraced by all parties because of that. Franklin has hijacked everything his father has done for his own personal agenda which was usually political. Obviously the IRS has people who are also on a political agenda. The whole organization is not guilty, but it is being lax in making sure that renegades don't get involved in politics in doing their job. They got Al Capone in much the same way, but only because of not doing taxes properly due to ill-gotten gains obtained by breaking the law. Clearly Franklin is just jumping on the band wagon of these mistakes to get publicity like he always has. Give it a few years and Franklin will fade away as the ministries shrink because of his poor leadership.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  3. Taroya

    Oh, fer cripes! Watch them all come out of the woodwork now!
    "I was picked on!" "I was targeted" "They audited me!"
    If you apply for tax exempt status, EXPECT to be scrutinized! If you aren't minding your p's and q's to retain that status, then it needs to be taken from you so you can pay up on your 'income' as well as the rest of us.
    If you are minding your p's and q's, then nothing will happen.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah, besides if you weren't guilty, they never would have arrested you

      May 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • ME II

      "If you apply for tax exempt status, EXPECT to be scrutinized! "

      Agreed!

      "If you are minding your p's and q's, then nothing will happen."

      Not so much.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • may40

      Funny you liberals are complaining about people coming forward because they had been targeted but you don't have a clue about Obama's 1/2 brother being given an exempt for his "charity". It took all of 1 month (unheard of) to put it in place and he also got 2 years retroactive. NICE!!!!! Pathetic, you're all crooks!!!!

      May 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      may40

      Taroya
      Because church and state are not to be mixed. EVER.
      You know that! Stop playing stupid!

      Well, Taroya you need to have a little History lesson. Once again you libs don't have a clue. Separation of Church and State was to keep the government out of the Church NOT the Church out of the state. They put that in place so the government wouldn't oppress people to worship one religion.
      .
      .
      Seperation goes both ways. We are not and never were a Christian Nation.....We are a United States...not United in Christ

      May 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  4. myuntidydesk

    Maybe they are targeting you because you are using your father's name in ways he never wanted it used.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  5. Kaye

    Mr. Graham and his organizations were audited because it appeared they were in violation of the tax exempt requirments by using their money to advance a political position. These organizations are allowed to raise huge amounts of money and pay no taxes. In addiiton, the people who donate to these organizations deduct the contribution on their taxes thereby reducing the amount of money the government collects even further. They should be be happy and willing for anyone to review their records. This is a privilege the majority of businesss are not allowed.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  6. Robert

    It wouldn't surprise me if these were younger people, especially those who espouse the discarding of morals long cherished by previous generations. Each generation gets more hostile to Christ. Can you imagine twenty years from now when these people are in control of the government? They will find excuses for outlawing churches and throwing Christians in concentration camps complete with gas chambers and crematoriums.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • sam

      'Morals'. Hilarious. And sure, this all leads with the faithful being sent to concentration camps. Make sure your tin foil hat is on real tight.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Answer

      Sure right... bring on your own persecution complex.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You just pegged my Bullsh!t and Strawman Detector! But you will be a hit with The Baggers, The Pubtards, and those dwelling in The Babble Belt.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • ME II

      "They will find excuses for outlawing churches and throwing Christians in concentration camps complete with gas chambers and crematoriums."

      Hyperbolic bs. Worry about how they're going to pay for your SS check.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      Not a bad idea rounding them up...burning all churchs to the ground except for the structure that have historical value.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  7. idolatry on the loose

    tax the churches.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  8. Topher

    Also curious why you think pastors shouldn't be able to talk politics.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • idolatry on the loose

      we need to tax the churches

      May 15, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Taroya

      Because church and state are not to be mixed. EVER.
      You know that! Stop playing stupid!

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Answer

      You can talk about it Gopher, but don't get mixed up in it. A moron like yourself can never seem to grasp that anyways.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Topher

      OK. But WHY? What does it matter if a pastor from the pulpit says, "Abortion is wrong. God says so. And thus we must as Christians fight against this atrocity"? Clearly that's a political issue. So why does it matter?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Answer

      So why does it matter? <<<-

      Then why does it matter if you just shut up about it?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Answer

      The response is always and has always been ..."because my babble says so."

      Troll out your babble to support your bs. And when the bs is proven as bs you still insist that you have the proper bs.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Topher

      Answer

      "Then why does it matter if you just shut up about it?"

      So your answer is you don't have a good excuse? Nice.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • Answer

      Say your line of "going to work" Gopher.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Topher

      That's several hours away.

      So are you going to contribute to the conversation or just keep spouting off?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Answer

      Do some research Gopher s-c-u-m.

      Find out for yourself on how the rules are set up on tax-exempt status. Go right on ahead s-c-u-m.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      Topher

      Also curious why you think pastors shouldn't be able to talk politics.
      -----

      Do a little research...this is something you need to do yourself

      May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Topher

      Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      "Do a little research...this is something you need to do yourself"

      I'm curious why YOU think so.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Because anyone with half a brain knows that things self taught are better learned and remembered than things told. Of course, you have to learn things correctly, else you end up with a bunch of mentally ill delusionals believing in The Babble, but the learning principle and experience remains the same.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      Topher

      Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      "Do a little research...this is something you need to do yourself"

      I'm curious why YOU think so.
      --------–

      I think it is great that you are curious, in time you will understand my statement.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • may40

      Taroya
      Because church and state are not to be mixed. EVER.
      You know that! Stop playing stupid!

      Well, Taroya you need to have a little History lesson. Once again you libs don't have a clue. Separation of Church and State was to keep the government out of the Church NOT the Church out of the state. They put that in place so the government wouldn't oppress people to worship one religion.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Ted Jones the crusader not for khrist

      It has already been established that we are not a Christian Nation...this goes back to our Founding Fathers. In order to be seperate it has to go both ways.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • G to the T

      May – and putting in place legislation that enforces the view of just one particular religion is different how?

      We cannot accommodate ALL religious beliefs. EVERYONE's best bet is to keep them as separate as possible and to ensure that the most people possible enjoy as much liberty as possible.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  9. NJreader

    Good! If you have nothing to hide, it's not a problem, right?

    May 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • may40

      It's about control you fool. How about they audit you????????? You are all such hypocrites it makes me sick!!!!!! How about if gay businesses were targeted???? You'd be going off the reservation NUTS.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Ed

    folks who think this is funny need to wake up. You may or not agree with the "tea party", Graham, etc. Thats OK. You may be next. Maybe the next president doesnt like where you are from, who you voted for, or your faith. This is worse than Nixons enemies list.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • whaaaa?

      You mean these rich white Christians are finally finding out what it's like to be treated like non-white non-Christians have been for decades? Baaaaaawwww.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • may40

      All you nonChristians WILL get yours in the end. Don't you worry. And I actually feel sorry for you.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • G to the T

      ... and out come the thinly veiled christian threats of damnnation...

      May 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      May 40
      Threatening people from a book they do not believe in is ridiculous.

      It's like me telling you that you should never say Lord Voldemorts name or he will get you....sounds pretty silly doesn't it.

      May 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  11. Not a GOPer and nor do I play one on TV

    Does Mr. Graham still have his 501(c)(3) tax status? Presumably yes.

    Was his 501(c)(3) tax status ever revoked? Presumably no.

    Then he is not being "targeted or persecuted".

    While the behavior of the IRS regarding tea party groups is clearly wrong, it is kind of funny.

    Q. What are goals of the tea party?
    A. Reduced taxes and fewer federal employees?
    Q. Whose livelihoods does this affect?
    A. IRS employees.

    It's really not surprising that the IRS would "target" tea party groups.

    Having said all that, I don't see any reason why additional scruitiny shouldn't be given to ANY group claiming 501(c)(4) tax exemption. The world of political action committees is a murky world that (in my opinion) includes a huge amount of unethical (if not illegal) behavior.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • you are fool

      Mr graham has a 501 exemption? fantastic

      May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • ME II

      +1

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  12. nadinesh

    I'd like to target you, you loudmouth hypocrite. Go take your traveling circus to Saudi Arabia, where it belongs.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  13. mec

    It's fun how liberals think that it's ok to target conservatives simply because they are such. Read the news on other websites to find out WHAT the IRS was demanding and you'll see just how far wrong the IRS went with these investigations. Sorry libs, your bubble is about to burst.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • sam

      No one gives a shit who's liberal, conservative, etc...this guy is an asshole.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      nothing illegal about that sam. Aren't you glad?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • may40

      Wow, Sam you are pathetic.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  14. Paul

    Megachurches would never abuse their tax free status. Never.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  15. Joep

    I notice that no one here is even a little disgusted at the events that took place regarding the IRS. Yeah, as long as it isn't my organization and my beliefs, then it's OK.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • .

      Because a bunch of tea bagger idiots tried to get away with gaming the system and didn't want to pay taxes? Whatever.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  16. EnjaySea

    Wait. Scrutinizing "ministries" is exactly what the IRS should be doing. Never has a scam of such massive proportions been so successful at working the system, than has the Christian church and all of it's "ministries". They should be taxed like any other big-box retail outlet, because that's exactly what they are.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • move_on

      Right on!

      May 15, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • nadinesh

      True dat! Especially this guy, who is a notorious televangelist sc*mbag.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  17. g.r.r.

    What is REALLY wrong here, is that a 501C is being used to do ANY political action.
    We really need to revamp these so that:
    1) 75-85% of ALL money must go into the charity. Perhaps allow an exception if they collect under 50K/year.
    2) not a PENNY spent or a word published on Politics.

    Until we change this, things will remain a mess.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Topher

      I'm curious. Other than hatred of the Church, why do you all think churches should pay taxes?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Science

      How about the proberty bought ?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Science

      Oops...............What

      May 15, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Because they are an organization, like all organizations, that draws services from those provided by the various levels of government. They should pay their fair share.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • ME II

      @Topher,
      I'm curious, where was the church mentioned?

      @grr makes, I think, a good point. Why should any PAC-like org, or any org that has political activity, get tax-exempt status?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Topher

      ME II

      The church is being mentioned all over this page. People are railing against it and saying their tax-exempt status should be revoked. Perhaps I should have started my own conversation instead of applying to this one. But I'm still curious why people think so other than they hate the Church.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Not a GOPer and nor do I play one on TV

      Arguably, the Graham Ministries should be a 501(c)(4) not a 501(c)(3).

      Under the son, they are a political group, not a religious group.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Topher

      Not a GOPer and nor do I play one on TV

      "Under the son, they are a political group, not a religious group."

      Do you honestly believe Billy Graham is more concerned with politics than people's souls?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • midwest rail

      Reading comprehension is a skill. Goper was clearly referring to Franklin Graham.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Not a GOPer and nor do I play one on TV

      @Topher,

      Billy Graham can't remember what he had for breakfast.

      Franklin Graham is a shill for the GOP.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • ME II

      @Topher,
      "But I'm still curious why people think so other than they hate the Church."

      The question might be rephrased as 'Why should the Church get tax-exempt status?"
      Alternatively, the whole tax-exempt/political speech compromise, may be just a way of maintaining the separation of church and state.
      However, many also think churches are just scams and therefore should not get any special treatment.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  18. David

    This guy Graham and his family are LOADED! How do you think they got their money? By being "tax-exempt"!

    What a bunch of shysters!

    May 15, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • fred

      So what you're saying is that you earn money by having a tax-exempt organization? That's not where he makes his money. People give these organizations money to spend on what the organization stands for, the same way your family members give you money for holidays. Should that money your family gives you be taxed too?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Science

      fred each parent can give ..............i think it is $20,000 tax free to each child ............per tax year !

      May 15, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • @chad

      @fred
      So what you're saying is that you earn money by having a tax-exempt organization?
      He certainly earns more by being tax exempt.
      That's not where he makes his money. People give these organizations money to spend on what the organization stands for
      And he in turn spends large portions of that money on himself, and other ventures that he profits from all the while paying no taxes.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • ME II

      "As president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, he receives two full-time salaries and two retirement packages. Last year his total compensation from the two Christian ministries was $1.2 million."
      (http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/10/franklin_graham_moves_to_addre.html)

      I'm confused. He gets paid for two "full-time" salaried jobs.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Confused?

    I don't understand why these groups feel like they are being singled out. I can't think of any liberal organizations that do what these people do. I don't get it.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • ME II

      @Confused?,
      I don't know about Franklin Graham's org, but the Tea Party orgs were targeted unjustly and illegally. Abuse at the IRS can have huge impacts on the our system and our freedoms, think Watergate. Not that these cases are at that level, but they were wrong and need to be corrected.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  20. Pat

    Excuse me, but I thought that was what the IRS did – check tax returns for possible errors. Religious organizations are not supposed to be politically aligned. I have had the IRS check my returns before and did not suggest that in any way were they targeting me. I believe most of the complaints are because they could not get their candidates elected. Maybe they should have been more careful who they endorsed. This would not even have been brought up if Obama had lost the election. They need to get back to taking care of the needy, poor, and lost souls.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • sam

      The needy and poor don't have any money...so they're not worth the time to guys like this.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      "Maybe they should have been more careful who they endorsed."

      I think that is kind of the point of having a nonpolitical system. Geez and people like you get to vote.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • fred

      So what you're saying is that girls shouldn't play sports? That white people shouldn't rap? That Christians shouldn't listen to rock music? Just cuz a guy is a well-known religious leader means he can't form an organization that is political? Come-on now.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.