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. Boston

    CRAZY – these religious and political organizations say they are providing a benefit – everyone should pay up taxes – that way we'll enough money for s.s. and other important things

    May 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • peter

      People posting on here are so ignorant about the laws regarding tax exemption it's hilarious. If you run a non-profit origination, no matter what the general cause it, you can get tax exemption as long as it's not-for-profit. It's simple, even an atheist organisation can do it. If you don't like the laws, vote and change them, but until then, the laws should be a applied fairly to all organisations, whether you like what they are promoting or not, it does not matter under the eyes of the law.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Andyx3s

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

      May 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  2. Connie

    " ‘We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us"

    Statement made by Obama in a radio interview on Univision. And that's exactly what 'The Criminal-in-Chief, Obama, and his criminal thugs have done and have been doing.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • sam


      May 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Eddie

      That's the problem with people like you, Sam. You're too stupid to wake up and smell the coffee. You'd rather "yawn" and sleep your life away while this administration destroys this county while you sit around and suck off the teat of the government.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Alias

      How about keeping foreign policy quotes in proper context?
      Or is it just too much fun to distort th e truth?
      Lying christian fucktards!

      May 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • sam

      Connie/Eddie: get a room and work on your teat/conspiracy fantasies together.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Eddie

      " distort th e truth?".....WOW Alias, are you really that stupid? No one distorted the truth. I posted truthfully what Obama said and your weak mind tries to spin it. Move along little zombie, move along.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Eddie

      No thanks, Sam. Seems you and Alias have that area all covered.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • sam

      "I posted truthfully what Obama said -"

      So you're Connie one moment and Eddie the next. Working out your gender identity crisis?

      Since you can't stay on the topic of the article, and you're not sure who you are, maybe you should run along and let the big kids talk.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  3. Bootyfunk

    Franklin Graham should not have tax exempt status. this guy has dipped into politics hundreds of times. not to mention evangelists are the worst rip off artists in the world, stealing money from the elderly, saying your check will guarantee you entry to heaven - then he runs out and buys a house or a gold watch with it.

    hard to feel sorry for such a snake.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • peter

      Well, maybe he shouldn't be tax exempt (in some sort of moral sense) because he is a "bad" guy, fine thats your opinion, BUT if you believe in the rule of law, we have to apply the law fairly to all non-profit-organisions no matter what they promote. So your point in moot, because the rule of law is more important then targeting people because of your own biases rather than going by whats on the books. If you don't like whats on the book, vote, or just whine like what your doing right now.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  4. Say Whaaaat!

    I do not think that these guys shouldn't be audited to ensure they keep on their side of th isle. But they certainly aren't the first mega churches who have been looked at. Joyce Meyers, Joel Olsteen, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar all have been looked at concerning their handling of being tax exempt. I think it is legitimate regardless of their political beliefs and affilitations. There is nothing wrong with auditing tax exempt organizations across the board. It should keep them honest to some extent.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  5. Brett

    Hey, I don't get tax exemption for shouting my opinions. And that is all your religion is Mr. Graham....YOUR opinion. So pay up you filthy leech on society.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      well said.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • peter

      Freedom of speech protects all people and opinions, having the status of tax exempt for an organisation is not limited to those who have the same opinions as you. I am not a supported of the Grahams, but you are speaking out of hate and ignorance and it shows. Your comment is not going to change anyone's mind and just reflects poorly on you. Think about it.....

      May 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  6. Person of Interest

    No matter how humble someone acts they can still be greedy and corrupt underneath. If you pass your audits, good. If you don't then they got you. If you are doing right then let them come after you cause they won't find anything.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  7. bill

    Maybe the GOP should start paying their taxes and then we wouldn't have all this (i.e. Mitt Romney). This isn't a case about illegal taxes being assessed against the GOP, it's all about the GOP paying what they owe to America. Sorry GOP, taxes apply to ALL Americans, and not just the 99%. So kick-in and shut-up.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah and stop all the partyin' while yer at it. Drinkin' whiskey don't require puttin' on aires or ares or airs. .

      May 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • peter

      I am not a Republican or Democrat, both parties are idiotic in my opinion, but I am assuming you are a Democrat. If you missed it, Obama has acknowledged the misconduct and has denounced the actions of the IRS. The IRS actually did illegally target certain Republicans. Democrats, including Obama, have acknowledged it and have denounced the actions of the IRS. Please be informed before you post, because when your not informed and are just speaking from bias, it not only reflects poorly on you, but also on your party. So basically you are shooting yourself in the foot with your mindless jabber. If you found my comment offensive, please consider the fact that I am not speaking out of hate, I am not demeaning you, I am just saying it how it is, and if the truth offends you, your logic is faulty.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • KitVA


      The Obama administration denounced it as it showed unfair political bias. That does not however mean that some of the audits were in fact unwarranted. Again, check up on the requirements of being a 501(c)(4) tax exempt organization and you will see that any organization with an obviously political oriented name would warrant further review by the IRS to remain tax-exempt as these groups primary purpose can not be for political lobbying/organization/campaign funding. The failure of the IRS was simply that they didn't do a better job of diversifying their investigations to non-conservative groups as well, and if they had the manpower I personally would have loved to have seen them audit EVERY 501(c)(4) organization after citizen's united due to the effects of that ruling on this gruoping of tax-exempt organizations.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  8. Cindy

    Such hatred, and not by the Christians either.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Hop

      But it's ok because it's against Christians.

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

      haha, that's funny. yeah, definitely no hatred from the christians toward non-believers.... LOL

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

      Are you shaking your head sadly over it, wondering what the world is coming to?

      May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Good for you – one out of ten ain't bad.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • bill

      I hear Fox News is full of that good ol' Christian conservative family values love. Rush is also a great example and reflection of Christ

      May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bored Boy

      Since when is an IRS audit considered 'hatred'?

      If people with vast amounts of money trying to apply for tax exempt status base their principals/practices on an old book some old Jewish men wrote 2,000 years ago in an attempt to keep their bloodlines alive, then yes, please CHECK to see if these white americans living in the 21st century are following the rules because the basis for their organizations are absurd.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Rush is a staunch defender of the "sanct-ity of marriage", donchaknow.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Don

      Yup, I'm just ROTHLMAO at how these libs never miss an opportunity to display their blazing hypocrisy

      May 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • sam

      Don, you're...what, exactly? I don't think that acronym worked out the way you'd hoped. Maybe quote that single line from the article again, you seemed to have that down pat.

      May 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Truth Prevails :-)

    "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."

    He's whining over the reality of being caught violating the Constitution...how very christian of him. More groups like this need to be caught.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • lol??

      God has sumpin fer you and yer Beast god.

      "Luk 21:35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth."

      May 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You're funny...that may mean something to you but to me it's not much different than when Dyslexic Dog quotes Harry Potter-both fictional.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  10. Independent Thought

    I'll be praying for all those with the hateful comments...... As far as the story, EVEN THE ACLU condemns what the IRS did! Do you want a Republican president targeting the liberal groups? Of course we don't. Stop the hate! Your words of anger and hate will never change the minds and hearts of those that know Christ as their savior!

    Rom 6:23

    May 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • lol??

      Make sure you don't have yer name on a church roll. Why make it easy for them??

      May 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Gavin Ford

      Ironic screen name, considering you are brainwashed and all.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • None of this would be happening if people just followed the KING!


      May 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Alias

      No, what the ACLU condemned was the IRS targetting the Tea Party. This is a case of a church not following the rules, and whining when they got slapped on th wrist.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • ME II

      @Independent Thought,
      "EVEN THE ACLU condemns what the IRS did! "

      ... what the IRS did to the Tea Party, et. al., I haven't them speak to Franklin Graham's claims.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Wonderful

      I do not like the IRS having different standards for conservative or liberal groups. America's democracy allows all to speak for what they believe. Richard Nixon targeted liberal groups including John Lennon. Franklin Graham's organizations are very involved in politics. I know because I am a Christian who detest what I hear coming out of Franklin Graham's mouth. I find it appropriate for the IRS to investigate religious organizations who preach the "gospel" of vote for this person and not that one. If they want to be involved in elections they should not be tax exempt. Ministry should be about edifying God, not destroying those who dare to think differently. Religious groups should stay out of politics and government should stay out of religion.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  11. bill

    Franklin is a moron. That's one apple that fell way far from the tree

    May 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Hop

      No worries. You can be sure he and his dad have already forgiven you.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  12. JohnRJohnson

    Billy Graham Jr. should be targeted by the local mental hospital. He's completely crazy.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • lol??

      Now ya wanna get Obama care involved?? Bet they don't have a waiver like the unions.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  13. SurelyUjest

    As far as this charlotan Franklin Graham and his father before him is concerned I say you should pay more tax and stop fleecing your flock for your own benefit. The day these guys stay OUT of politics is the day I might support any organized religion in America and their legitimate claim to tax free status. Big religion only sucks more money out of the system for it's own agenda which for the record is NOT saving souls or helping people. Their number one agenda is to grow bigger and bigger and flex their beliefs in to as many persons lives as they can. The fact is from Saudi Arabia to Isreal and America these religions are all trying and succeeding at controlling our governments. We should stand up and kick them out of power by TAXING them on income!!!

    May 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • lol??

      Beasts and False Prophets don't exactly have a LUVFEST.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Hop

      Are you this hateful towards your own children too?

      May 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Franklin Graham may have been "targeted" because he was overtly endorsing and campaigning for Mormon Mitt Romney, who I believe once wanted to be President of the United States.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  15. rl

    Now all of these nutcases are going to start jum[ing on the band wagon on ow those mean awful Progressive Americans IRS is picking on them because the are Tea Party. I guess I might as well too, I always felt that since I am a true American Patriotic Progressive the bush Cheney administration tagreted me during their reign of terror.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • lol??

      Get off the water wagon you idiot.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  16. lol??

    Whiskey Rebellion ALL the WAY!!!!!

    May 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • I know, right?

      " Farmers who used their leftover grain and corn in the form of whiskey as a medium of exchange were forced to pay a new tax. "

      Damn that government for trying to tax people who were trying to get around taxation through an alcohol barter system thus undercutting the value of the American dollar that had been struggling leading to additional inflation. Damn that government! Always getting in the way of our rights! Now clear the publicly financed roads so I can get to the Capital so I can complain about being taxed, I mean, what do they even use those taxes for?

      May 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Science


      ................someone has to pay the bills lol??

      Please visit ..........thanks !

      May 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  17. mlwells

    Perfect example of why these "religious organizations' require more scrutiny when applying for tax exempt status!

    May 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  18. ab

    Oh the liberal shenanigans.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  19. Morgan King

    While Graham may "believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate" him, he also believes in a primitive vengeful sky deity and twists messages of love into divisive hatemongering, so I'm not really sure I'm prepared to take him at his word.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  20. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Why are Churches exempt from paying taxes???!!!

    ...OK even if you think Churches should be exempt, why should freaks who own helicopters and mansion who run Churches be exempt???


    May 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Conrad Shull

      Why are unions exempt from paying taxes?


      May 15, 2013 at 1:40 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.