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. Damian

    Oh that's a shame. Not sure why they should get tax exempt status as these mega churches rake in millions and he is living quite the life.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Shankar Narayanan

    Churches show pay taxes as everyone else.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  3. Sue

    Oh boo hoo, a religious nut was targeted?? About time – everything except actual charity donations should be taxed, and one political endorsement, you lose you tax exempt status.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • T

      .............And can I get an AMEN.?...............................AMEN..............10,000 TIMES

      May 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  4. JJ

    And you deserved it, chump. Corrupt religious fools like you ought to ALWAYS be subject to strong scrutiny from tax authorities.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      There is no evidence that Franklin Graham is a corrupt religious fool.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  5. DavidTX

    The whole issue will evaporate once we recognize that none of these groups should enjoy tax exempt status and the few groups who do meet the very strict guideline of charity must allow the government to review the amounts the leaders of these charities pay themselves. These tax exempt groups are a sham, a ruse, the long con and they have been getting away with it for far too long. Wake up you fat headed evangelicals and get just one thing straight, this country was not built for YOU, it was built for ALL so any and all groups dedicated to fracturing this nation with divisivnes can go jump in a lake for all I care, one of fire if it's not to much trouble.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  6. Freedom Storm

    "No longer could we reflect, with generous pride, on the heroic actions of our American forefathers ... if we, but for a moment entertain the thought of giving up our liberty."

    -- Joseph Warren, Boston Massacre Oration, 1775

    May 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  7. STFU

    these people should name themselves as Evangelical's Tea or Soup Party, nothing is religious in their talks or in their actions,

    – they talk politics or endorse political parties during elections
    – they exploit laws in their benefits,
    – they serve as lobbyists
    – their churches are run by lawyers and insurance company
    – they make millions and don't pay a dime
    – they spend more time on opposing issues like Gays/Lasbians/Abortion than worshiping God

    May 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Don

      "The organizations, both of which are run by Graham, later received notice that they remain eligible for federal tax exemptions, he said."
      Why don't you try reading the whole article.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dat

      Well said!

      May 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Dat

      Don, I don't think you read STFU's post very well. Your response doesn't make any sense. You sound like a rabid teabagger.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Don

      Dat- My response is a quote from the article. But hey, don't let facts get in the way of your hate. You might want to try to get a little more fiber in your diet though. Then maybe you won't be such a nimrod.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • sam

      Don only likes that one part of the article. It doesn't matter whether it was relevant to STFU's post or not.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  8. Vijay

    I was audited for three years, I have to pay back some money back to them. I paid them back without arguing anything. IRS has a right to audit anyone. They want to make sure that everything is fine with that. If IRS does give huge refund (say 100,000) to an individual will he/she doesn't owe, do we pay back the refund, Of course not. When number of organizations were asking tax exempt status, definitely it would raise the red flag to IRS. I don't think IRS issue a major scandal for Obama.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  9. bamagrad03

    Interesting that the indignation spouted here suggests that the Grahams should be required to pay taxes because of it's suggested involvement in politics. Yet I'm sure none of you mind ACORN being a 501c...The new liberal mantra – everything under the sun is great, as long as it supports our ideology.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • .


      May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dat

      Is ACORN a church? No? Then why pretend it should be treated the same? I am all for taxing ACORN, so I guess I totally refuted your whole argument right there.
      Ha ha, loser. Try again if you like being pwnd. lol

      May 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Darw1n

      ACORN hasn't existed for 3 years, teabilly.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Boytjie

      ACORN ceased to exists in 2010 – and was found to have done nothing wrong!

      May 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • .


      May 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Mike

    What a difference politics did not matter to Rev. Billy Graham but his so Rev. Franklin Graham is taking more political stances

    May 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  11. williamjohnson007

    If Mr Graham had been Muslim, instead of being harassed by the IRS, he would have probably been given a grant!

    May 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  12. Alias

    More christians being bullied.
    Oh the injustice! The persecution!
    Just because they want to elect people with the same philosophy and pass laws to control all of our behaviors!
    Where is their god to save them from the non-believers?

    May 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      brilliant!!! 🙂

      May 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      He's busy helping Tebow reinvent himself.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bubba

      Everytime a religious figure is reviewed for the same behaviors all Americans are held to, it somehow becomes an attack on GOD. The Grahams are not GOD, and truth be known, they are not even good representatives of GOD's Teachings.
      Jesus spent His short life praising and promoting GOD, not making coin. That's where the Grahams and Jesus have nothing in common.
      The Grahams' financial blessings don't come from GOD, they come from sinners in the Bible Belt who are trying to purchase some Grace. The Grahams have simmply figured out a way to profit from the sins of others, thus, an attack on the Grahams is NOT AN ATTACK ON GOD.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  13. Don

    "The organizations, both of which are run by Graham, later received notice that they remain eligible for federal tax exemptions, he said."
    Apparently Christian haters don't care for the law or facts. But hey, it's your right to hate whomever you want......oh, wait a minute, aren't you the ones trying to pass hate speech legislation?

    May 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • sam

      Hey Don, guess what – he was audited and nothing happened. So I guess he wasn't targeted. Facts are hard, I guess, but hyperbole is fun!

      May 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  14. Bill Deacon

    Why churches aren't taxed:

    The distinction between the Church and the political community is ensured by respecting their reciprocal autonomy, which conditions their mutual freedom. The limits of this freedom are, for the State, to refrain from adopting measures which could do harm to the eternal salvation of the faithful, and, for the Church, to respect the public order of the State.

    This means that the Church and the state recognize each other as co-operative, contemporary entiities. The church (and by definition, its denominations) is an autonomous power that co-exist with the state and addresses a separate need of the people. This principle is well established in English common law and is structural to western society.

    People who argue for taxation of the Church are actually arguing for the power to destroy the Church. At which point, I suspect the Church may have some feelings about that. So we see that, contrary to to the cries of eminent theocracy, the TAX THE CHURCH argument leads to a concentration of power in an absolute government. Smart thinkers have already worked out a peaceful co-existence and codified it into law.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Alias

      No Bill, you have it all wrong.
      This is what happens when too many people who are 'friendly' to the christians get into office. Laws that favor the christians are passed.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Will you feel the same way when Muslims come to power and have controlling interest in our laws?

      Not freedom of religion...freedom from religion.

      Careful what you wish for.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm wrong that English common law ratifies the rationale for separation for church and state as supplied by Christian philosophy? Don't think so.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Dat

      Wow, Bill, your post is full of bullshlt.
      Your religion MUST remain SUBORDINATE to the CONSTlTUTION which is the SUPREME LAW HERE and not your pinheaded religious rules that don't cover anything but a handful of things important to ancient tribal shamans.
      Your argument is filled with a fallacious false equivalency between religion and politics. They are not equal and never will be.
      Your religion does not have the right of power parity with our government. You have to live according to our laws or you can expect a lot of legal problems, including prison, for your crimes.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Common Sensed, When Muslims are American citizens, they have as much right to vote their conscience as anyone else. The fact that their religion informs their conscience is something I may debate over but they have as much right to access the public discourse as other people I my disagree with. It's called a democracy

      May 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Dat, thanks for illustrating the triumph of statism in our public school system.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You are saying the const!tution is satanism?

      May 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • DavidTX

      "The church (and by definition, its denominations) is an autonomous power that co-exist with the state and addresses a separate need of the people." "People who argue for taxation of the Church are actually arguing for the power to destroy the Church."

      1. There are three branches of government, the executive, legislative and judicial. Notice how there is no fourth branch of religion? And also notice how the founders specifically forbade an establishment of such.
      2. The Church is in competltion with our government for the right to rule and thus should be put back in it's place along with every other organization that is in conflict with our civil government and should never be placed on equal footing.
      3. " reciprocal autonomy" is not found anywhere in our constltution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is.

      We are not arguing for the power to destroy the Church, you guys are doing a great job of that yourselves. We are arguing against some civil need to put you on life support and feel that this is one patient that we should compassionatly view as having signed a DNR request.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Dat

      Bill, our const1tution was and is ratified by the states which represent the people.
      It was not ratified by England, nor by their common law statutes.
      Our founding fathers would laugh in your face at such a statement and probably burn down whatever school taught you such demonstrably false ideas.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • ME II

      Here's an interesting article with what seems to be both sides: http://www.latimes.com/la-oew-lynn-stanley23-2008sep23,0,4272340.story

      @Bill Deacon,
      I disagree with the "autonomous" aspect of your argument, since, like all freedoms there are limits. While the power to tax is a power of a church, it would by law need to be applied across all churches equally, so as not to endorse one over another.

      That said, however, I don't disagree with the current restriction/compromises on taxing churches. As long as the churches adhere to them also.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • ME II

      "While the power to tax is a power of a church,..."
      should read
      "While the power to tax is a power over a church,..."

      May 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  15. humtake

    Yawn. The Dems do dirty things to oppose the Reps and the Reps do dirty things to oppose the Dems. If only these dirty things stayed in politics, the American people wouldn't be so bad off.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Dan

      It's too bad it's the American people they have bent over the workbench with a ballgag in our mouth.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  16. martin

    It's about ime somebody shut down these money mills.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      And what has Franklin Graham done for which he should be shut down?

      May 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Dat

      Graham is a fraud and his organizations are in the business of committing fraud.
      Were he required to prove his assertions in court, he would lose. There are no gods.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Other than to continue to spew unsubstantiated religious bullsh!t to the unintelligent and unsuspecting masses, probably nothing.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  17. Jim

    So where was all this righteous indignation when it was the NAACP who was targeted for their public comments against the Iraq war? Now we get a Christian group who takes a similar political stance on with a heavy partisan message and so the IRS checks out their tax exempt status as they should. What is the big deal here?

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

      I agree.
      They asked to be targeted by declaring they hate any form of taxes. This is the highest risk group for tax fraud and so an investigation is just a common sense action, regardless of who they are or what organization they belong to.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  18. j crew

    This family saves $ ,not just souls.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  19. The selfless ways of Franklin Graham

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Concerns about his rising financial compensation during tough economic times have prompted evangelist Franklin Graham to temporarily give up future contributions to his retirement plans at the two Christian charities he leads.

    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.

    The size of Graham's total 2008 compensation - $535,000 from Samaritan's Purse and $669,000 from Charlotte, N.C.-based BGEA - drew questions from nonprofit experts. They doubted that one person - even the energetic, globe-trotting Graham - can do two full-time jobs when those positions are head of organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world.

    As head of the Boone, N.C.-based Samaritan's Purse, Graham earned more last year than any other leader of an international relief agency based in the United States. That includes eight with larger budgets, according to data compiled by Guidestar, a group that monitors non-profits.

    Graham acknowledged last week that his compensation total "looks terrible" and that "people won't understand it."

    McClatchy-Tribune News Service

    May 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • ryan

      Graham is pimping out God.
      Graham is a super-star.

      May 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  20. tony

    God doesn't believe in Pastors.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:28 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.