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
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(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."

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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.

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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. sam

    Douches should be targeted.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  2. bluedogboy

    Glad they targeted this godless, bigoted man.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      said the bigot (problem with the godless?, everyone is godless)

      May 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  3. blackhawkmom

    If religious organizations want to keep their tax exempt status – then, stay the heck out of politics.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • yallhavetobejoking

      So it's OK for a political action committee to be tax exempt on donations/dues/fundraising, but it's not ok for a church to be tax exempt on donations if that pull for a candidate that supports their views? Don't you think that's a little hypocritical?

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

      Actually, it's not hypocritical, as one group is POLITICAL, and the other is RELIGIOUS. You do know that RELIGION and POLITICS are different, right?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • yallhavetobejoking

      If you want to pretend religious organizations don't want someone representing them that has their values you're being naive. The bottom line is that if someone goes to a church, they are doing so because of their beliefs, and if they donate to that church it's to support those beliefs.
      I would argue that anyone who donates their money to a church knows that, in one way or another, those dollars are inherently going to support the views of that church. So if a church wants to see the country run a certain way, wouldn't they want the politicians in office to have their views? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • yallhavetobejoking

      And just a little comical rebuttal to the differences between religion and politics:
      Religion has laws on how to live your life
      Politics has laws on how to live your life

      In religion, if you don't live your life correctly you have punishment
      In politics, if you break the laws, you have punishment

      In both politics and religion you have hierarchies set up to run them.

      They seem pretty similar to me.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Paul

      PACS and Churches should pay taxes.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Dat

      Taxing churches doesn't stop people from donating, so I don't understand where your problem is. If people want to vote, and want to support politicians and political goals, they can do so whether they are taxed or not.
      I guess what you want is for businesses like churches to be considered the same as people.
      Here's a newsflash: businesses aren't people and do not have the right to vote.
      A business is a business, not a person. Voting and political rights are reserved for the People of this country, not the organizations they join.
      I guess the laws are too complicated for you, yall. Rocket science might be easier for you.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • beelzebubba

      RE: "If you want to pretend religious organizations don't want someone representing them that has their values you're being naive... "
      So, you support the cult that thrives in small towns (always the biggest, cross-shaped church) to dominate local politics behind the scene because in the end that will benefit you and other members of the church (at the expense of non-members)? The reason you see nothing wrong with that is simple. Sleazy people join sleazy churches. This is not done for god in any way, shape or form. It is pure selfishness. God knows what's in your heart. Sucks for you.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  4. sgs

    Anyone with sense knows it was done because of the election!

    May 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  5. us_1776

    Franklin, you're so weird no wonder the IRS targeted you.


    May 15, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  6. Carrie

    It's not politics, it's voting by your morals and the Bible. I guess there is freedom of speech as long as you agree with the "world".

    May 15, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • James PDX

      Carrie, when you are voting to force your religious beliefs on others, it's politics. This is America, which was founded on individual freedom, equality, and liberty and a guarantee of separation of church and state. Voting to take that freedom, liberty, and equality away from people who are doing you no harm is un-American. Voting to put your religious beliefs into our laws is un-American. When it comes to morals, we don't all agree. Therefore, your morals should be for you and you should allow others to follow their own.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You can vote whatever you want, churches can't act as political organizations unless they want to pay taxes. I know....you want it both ways...boo hoo.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • sam

      'Morals'. LOL Ah, how subjective. Whatever, Carrie. When we want a theocracy, we'll call you.

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

      Please share from the Bible where Jesus told his followers to get involved with politics. He did the exact opposite. He asked his followers to pray for Gods Kingdom (the Lords prayer), and to trust only in that government. Putting your trust in mans government show total disrespect and a lack of faith in what God's government promises. Jesus Apostles and early disciples also did not get involved in politics.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  7. OldJoe

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. …
    John 10:27

    May 15, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      is there a point or is this just another random bible quote?

      May 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  8. Jack518

    When I was involved in a non-profit, tax emept 503(c) the rules were clear: Make no political endorsement of any kind without penalty of losing tax exempt status. Has this changed?

    May 15, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Only for churches.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • blackhawkmom

      EXACTLY !!!!!!!!!

      May 15, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "When I was involved in a non-profit, tax emept 503(c) the rules were clear: Make no political endorsement of any kind without penalty of losing tax exempt status. Has this changed?"
      The definition of the political speech that would lead to loss of tax exempt status is pretty narrowly defined. Certain speech may appear political but isn't, per a strict reading of the law. Endorsement of politicians is prohibited, but suggesting people vote for politicians that stand for certain principles, without naming these politicians, is typically allowed.

      It may have been prudence by your organization that caused them to prohibit any speech that could be interpreted as political.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Josh in Denver

      The organizations in question are a different type of non-profit than what you worked for. They are allowed to "educate" their community about "social welfare". They can't tell you who to vote for but they can run ads that educate you about a candidate, whether positive or negative.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  9. STA STA

    Graham should be investigated year after year.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • David

      You're damn right! ... as should EVERY "tax-exempt" organization!

      May 15, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  10. GOOD

    It's about time. You con artists should not get any relief. You should be taxed way more then the "Rich" because you are pretty darn rich yourselves and you LIE just like the rest of 'em.

    False hope should be a sin.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. James PDX

    Tax exempt status for religions is a payment made to them in exchange for staying out of politics. Any church who openly gets involved in politics should immediately have their tax exempt status yanked for a minimum of 3 years and then have to undergo a review of those 3 years to have it reinstated. A 2nd offense should include permanent loss of their status.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • blackhawkmom


      May 15, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • David

      ... and some jail time....

      May 15, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • melshop

      Getting a tax exemption isn't a payment or trade for anything. It's part of the Founding Fathers idea that government should inhibit "religion and the free exercise thereof." If you ever opened a history book, you would understand there was an enormous problem in England because the Church of England and the governmental body (a monarchy in this case) were, in essence the same thing because the king headed them both. Churches never had any regulations regarding political involvement until the 1960s because of another little thing called freedom of speech. The only reason regulations were put in place is because government officials thought churches had too much influence over the electorate, given their growing membership and regular attendance. That issue is now being readdressed by a number of pastors who are trying to get it before the U.S. Supreme Court. As it stands, even though church leaders (or churches) can't endorse a particular candidate, they can speak to, against, or promote any political issue.

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

      there are 2 different tax exemptions. I forget the exact numbers/letters, but one allows for no political statements/endorsements, and the other allows for it as long as the organization is primarily involved in social welfare. obviously, Franklin Graham has made political statements, which is his right, and as you can see if you read this story, the IRS did not find him guilty of any wrong doing. he did not loose his tax exempt status.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  12. Tim Jordan

    It's about time these con artists were targeted. Does anyone realize how quickly the national debt would be paid if churches and other religious organizations were taxed?

    May 15, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • SinnerInTheBush

      About as fast as it took Barack Hussein to increase it?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • G to the T

      Gotta love how they trot out the middle name anytime they want to diss the prez...

      May 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  13. Doc Vestibule

    "The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it is a lovely work if you can stomach it."
    – Robert Heinlein

    May 15, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Only thing better is professional voter

      May 15, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • James PDX

      Heinlein was indeed a brilliant man.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Alias

      Bill, how much could i get paid to vote?

      May 15, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  14. Answer

    They think they're above the law. These religious cretins should all be crushed.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  15. pickle

    Telling the world God exists is best when it's done for the shear happiness and joy.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  16. Dave8582

    Jesus was an urban legend. He never actually existed.

    Give your kids a break. Treat them to reality. Spend the money you spend on an imaginary god, on extra math and science classes.


    May 15, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • JV

      Actually he did exist. The evidence is over whelming, and he was probably a very charismatic fella. It the magic and rising from the dead thing that is obviously bs to anyone who really looks around.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  17. Dave8582

    I am tickled, the the IRS is keeping an eye on the people who would replace our government with a theocracy.

    They very much want to set up a theocracy with Jesus as the head. All our laws would be based on the Old Testament.

    2014 is coming. It will be a chance to further purge the religious zealots.

    God bless the Humanists.


    May 15, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • James PDX

      Christians can't even agree on their own books and myths. Some want to enforce the Old Testament, while others claim the Mosaic laws were fulfilled by Jesus and no longer apply. To get around this chaos, they instead just pick and choose the laws they personally don't intend to break and just try to enforce those upon others.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Fold-E-Mart


      May 15, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • yallhavetobejoking

      Do any of you all that are making the comments denouncing religion realize our country was founded on Christian principles?

      I guess they just made a typo when they decided on 'One Nation Under God,' right?

      or when they put 'Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth'? I'm sure all atheists refer to the year of OUR LORD when stating a date, right?

      The founders wanted to make sure the government couldn't dictate what form of Christianity the people practiced (like England did). Obviously it was applicable to the government not interfering in any religious affiliation, but the fact of the matter stands, our country's whole basis for existence was 2 fold: taxation without representation, freedom to choose what form of Christianity to practice.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Fundie Fighter

      Where the hell have you been?
      We've missed you big time.

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

      You sound like a kid who never paid attention in history class. Your "knowledge" about our history is laughable.
      It doesn't matter what your religion is, your religious laws are subordinate to our nation's laws as this is the only solution that gives your religion the maximum amount of freedom in the midst of thousands of other religions.
      Bah. It's people like you who are part of the problem. You don't know what the hell you're talking about but you're willing to die for whatever mangled understanding you possess. Just sad.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You are so wrong...back to history class for you.
      The phrase that took the pledge away from the people was put in place in the 1950's. It was originally written ( by a minister) without god referenced. It was the christians that stole the pledge from we the people and changed it to exclude all who do believe in their god, and they did it by violating the const!tution. They also put the lie "in god we trust" on our money during the same time period.
      Both had nothing to do with the forefathers.

      Get back to class.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  18. HotAirAce

    Oh those poor dead jew zombie death cult members aka christians, having to be subject to reviews!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • James PDX

      Besides being zombies, don't forget the Christian cult members are also cannibals and vampires, as they regularly perform rituals where they eat the body of their leader and drink his blood.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • G to the T

      Further review of the "jesus incident" has shown that we wasn't actually a zombie.... "Litch" would be the more appropriate term as he was a priest before hand and had magical powers...

      May 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  19. Alias

    This isn't targeting. This is the IRS doing its job.
    Ministries that get involved in politics are supposed to lose their tax exempt status!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Ann


      May 15, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Your president disagrees

      May 15, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Exactly what does Obama disagree with? That the IRS shouldn't conduct reviews? That the IRS should not target groups? That the IRS has acted appropriately? Etc., etc.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  20. Dare to be a Daniel

    Love the shoe box ministry!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • myers

      Operation Christmas Child – created in 1990 by Dave Cook[3] – is a 'global Christmas gift exchange' project operated by Samaritan's Purse. Each November it opens thousands of locations, typically at churches or schools, to collect shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items, and other gifts. These boxes are then distributed as Christmas gifts, accompanied by Christian literature.[4] From 1993 through 2012, some 100 million gift boxes have been handed out in more than 130 countries.
      Disaster Relief responds to emergency situations. In the United States and Canada, Samaritan’s Purse mobilizes teams of volunteers to repair houses damaged by natural disasters. The organization has four tractor-trailer units loaded with emergency supplies and equipment. Each can serve as a self-contained base in a disaster zone.
      World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse, was founded in 1977 by brothers Dr. Richard Furman and Dr. Lowell Furman to enable doctors to serve short-term assignments at overwhelmed missionary hospitals. The Post-Residency Program supports physicians as they serve two-year terms in mission hospitals and consider becoming career missionaries. World Medical Mission also operates a warehouse that ships equipment and supplies to mission hospitals and provides them with technical support.
      Children’s Heart Project provides surgery for children born with heart defects in countries where proper care is not available. Children are brought to North America, where services are donated by hospitals, surgeons, and host families and churches..
      HIV/AIDS Projects mobilize private, church, corporate, and government resources to respond to the AIDS pandemic. In partnership with the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, Samaritan’s Purse is working in East Africa with education about the disease and abstinence-based prevention programs.
      Turn on the Tap is a campaign to provide safe drinking water in the developing world. Samaritan’s Purse-Canada holds the license to build BioSand Water Filters, which can provide a family with a perpetual source of safe drinking water. Samaritan’s Purse also drills and repairs wells, sets up large-scale filters in disaster zones, and helps to educate communities in hygiene and sanitation.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • G to the T

      All great stuff... "accompanied by Christian literature." But this is where it goes wrong for me. Charity isn't charity once you include preaching as part of the deal...

      May 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
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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.