An Internal Revenue Service agent was recorded on audiotape telling a pro-life organization that they had to remain neutral on the issue of abortion and lectured the group’s president about forcing its religious beliefs on others.
“You have to know your boundaries,” IRS agent Sherry Wan can be heard telling Ania Joseph, president of the Pro-Life Revolution. “You have to know your limits. You have to respect other people’s beliefs.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom said Joseph recorded the March 8, 2012 conversation during a two-year battle with the IRS to obtain tax-exempt status.
“You have the religious freedom; the freedom of speech,” Wan told the pro-life president. “And other people also have the civil rights; human rights. You cannot, you know, use your religious belief to tell other people you don’t have a belief. So I don’t believe you need the right to do this.”
ADF attorney Erik Stanley said the actions of the IRS are simply unconstitutional.
“The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech and belief police,” he said. “The agent seemed to be very biased and have an ideological bent against Pro-Life Revolution.”
In a May 2011 letter to the pro-life group, Wan took issue with their prayer and evangelism efforts.
“It appears that some of your activities, conducted or plan to conduct, may be neither educational nor charitable in nature no matter how sincere of your religious belief or how important of your viewpoint,” Wan wrote.
She specifically mentioned “carrying out prayer and evangelization at abortion clinic sites.”
It was a warning she also made in the recorded phone conversation.
“You cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else,” Wan said. “You have to respect other people’s beliefs, other people’s rights and not, you know, use some kind of confrontation.”
She also admonished the pro-life group’s efforts to reach out to women.
“You reach out to a woman, you can’t do that,” Wan said.
“What the IRS is doing here is unconstitutional – attempting to tell an organization that it could not advocate its viewpoint and still be considered educational and gain a tax exemption,” attorney Stanley told Fox News.
Stanley said he was surprised that the IRS agent would tell the group that they could not share their religious faith.
“That was in the letters,” he said. “It was in the phone call. All along this agent kept saying you have to keep your views to yourself. You cannot advocate your viewpoint. You can’t confront people with your views. That standard has been held to be unconstitutional.”