By Dr. Ed Hollilday/The Rev. James Hull
James, there was a march for civil rights last month in Tupelo. The Tupelo Tea Party peacefully assembled and protested the IRS abuse of conservative groups. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught Americans well that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The harm government employees within the IRS did to law-abiding American citizens because of their political beliefs is incalculable. The actions of the IRS employees purposely delayed decisions to grant tax-exempt status until after the 2012 elections by using bullying tactics and questions not asked of progressive organizations.
Civil rights to speak and assemble were denied to these targeted conservative groups yet a relative of President Obama who reportedly collected money illegally for two years was given a pat on the back and got his tax-exempt organization approved by this same IRS division in 30 days. Mississippians like Roy Nicholson and Julia Hodges of the Mississippi Tea Party faced this harassment and intimidation until they just gave up after two years. The bullies within the IRS won because it appears that they used their power within a federal agency to influence a federal election.
The IRS also targeted other groups opposing this administration’s policies. I talked with William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors when he visited Tupelo last week. He and I belong to the National Organization for Marriage that seeks to protect the definition of traditional marriage. In early 2012 it became evident that someone within the IRS leaked a confidential document to a gay-rights activist who just happened to be the co-chair of the team to re-elect the president. Just how did that happen? We asked our representatives to investigate. These representatives were assured over a year ago by the IRS that this matter would be looked into. A year later nothing has been said or done. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, including Mississippians like Roy Nicholson, Julia Hodges, and me – and even you, James.
The IRS targeting or singling out any group for any reason is despicable. But, bear in mind, whether it was individuals in the Obama Administration that hatched this cockamamie scheme, or officials of the administration, is a key distinction. Without question, and it’s a documented, historical fact, that no one had even thought of this before Richard Nixon. It was the Nixon Administration – Richard Nixon himself – who decided the best way to deal with political enemies was to harass them, legally persecute them and unfairly prosecute.
But it is yet to be proved that any official of the Obama Administration – especially the president himself – knew of, approved or even thought about using the IRS as a harassment tool against conservative groups. And while motives should not be brought into to play, it deserves to be mentioned that the Nixon Administration literally targeted its enemies with the expressed purpose of doing harm.
The important distinction is this: The current IRS misguided motives were to more highly scrutinize politically-oriented groups which would use the cover of tax-exemption to engage in political speech. IRS agents were scrutinizing the exact thing these conservative groups said they were going to do.
Several years ago, Tea Partiers, Patriot groups and conservative pastors, both African-American and Caucasian, explicitly declared they would exercise their constitutional right of free speech to endorse political candidates and engage in political speech regardless of the IRS codes. It is the constitution, they declared with obvious disdain for the IRS and all it stands for, that gives them the right to do this. And then, to make their point these groups publicly dared the IRS to do anything about it.
Well, I guess the IRS took its dare.
So now those same groups want to cry foul, because they are being scrutinized for the very thing they boldly declared they would do. Hmmm.
DR. ED HOLLIDAY is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. REV. JAMES HULL is an award-winning journalist and a political consultant. Contact him at email@example.com.