Christian Non-Profit Denied Tax-Exempt Status For Encouraging Prayer – With Lea Patterson And Bunni Pounds: Why should religious organizations be tax exempt? Why is the Biden Administration trying to implement a new policy concerning Christian organizations? Why was Christians Engaged denied tax-exempt status for helping believers live out their faith? Did you know the IRS said the Bible’s teachings are “Republican Affiliated”? Click the link to hear First Liberty Counsel Lea Patterson and Christians Engaged Founder, Bunni Pounds, explain the new fight we face!
Air Date: 06/24/2021
Guest: Lea Patterson And Bunni Pounds
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
- WallBuilders | American historical events, founding fathers, historical documents, books, videos, CDs, tapes, David Barton’s speaking schedule.
- Coupons: Use promo code WBL17 to receive 10% off your entire order on ALL WallBuilders Store Products!!
- Helpful links:
- Send In Your Questions!Â
- The Founders Bible
- The Founders Bible App
- Constitution Alive
- First Liberty
- The Courageous Leaders Collection
- Heroes of History
- Quotations of the Founders Books
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- Liberty Counsel
- Patriot Academy
- High Point Leadership Camp
- WallBuilders’ YouTube
- Wallbuilders Summer Leadership Training Program
- Today’s Links:
Download: Click Here
Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith and the Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live, we are talking about the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. And today, that first part is really what we’re honed in on in terms of the idea, the right, the freedom to talk about things from a biblical perspective. And it’s more than just a freedom.
We have specific tax laws that yes, given advantage, they give a tax deduction to biblical teaching. That’s what we do with our nonprofit status for churches and houses of worship, not just those who believe in the Bible, but it’s the same for followers of Islam or any other religion.
We have always in this country said that we want to make sure that you can donate freely and get a tax deduction for those donations when you give to organizations that are helping in our society, and especially those who are teaching a faith. Because we know that people of faith make better citizens most of the time, because they have a standard they have a code, if you will, that is backed up by thousands of years of history. And that’s why we have supported that from a political perspective, supported in terms of tax deductions.
Now, why did they have all of that in our intro today? Because our topic today is going to be on an IRS denial of someone being able to have a nonprofit status because they’re encouraging people to pray, they’re teaching from the Bible on how we should act in society. Unbelievable position of the IRS.
So as always, here on WallBuilders Live looking at things from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. And today, making sure that that continues to be legal in our country, and continues to have the same status and the same treatment and not be discriminated against.
My name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach. This is Foundation of Freedom Thursday on WallBuilders Live. And normally, on Foundations of Freedom Thursday, we have America’s premier historian David Barton, and national speaker and pastor and president of wall builders, Tim Barton taking your questions.
Foundations of Freedom
So normally, you send in your emails, and Thursdays we do our Foundations of Freedom. It’s all about diving into foundational principles. Well, today, we’re specifically diving into this foundational principle of the idea that we want the Bible to influence our culture.
And so today, I’ve got two guests that are going to be with me on the program. Bunni pounds, she is the founder of Christians Engaged, the organization that was just denied tax exempt status by the IRS, and her attorney, Lea Patterson from First Liberty Institute. So we’ll have both of those interviews later in the program today to talk about this fact that they’ve been denied that and how do we fight back against that sort of thing.
Now, we always talk about biblical citizenship here on WallBuilders Live. We talk about, again, that biblical, historical, constitutional perspective literally driving our decisions on how we act as citizens. And of course, in America, our perspective has to be under the Constitution. So we’re going to follow the Bible, and we’re going to follow the Constitution, because that’s the rulebook for our particular form of citizenship in this country.
And the beauty of the way America was designed and the reason America became the most powerful, most successful, most benevolent nation in the history of the world, is because of the biblical application of citizenship. The Founders talked, over and over again, they talked about the fact that if you follow the Bible, you get good results, and when you don’t follow the Bible, you get bad results.
And Noah Webster and Benjamin Rush and all these other Founders talked about the fact that evil and vice and slavery and all of these things happen when we ignore the Bible, when we don’t make our decisions informed by a biblical application.
And so I just want to set this program up today with you thinking like that, that we want biblical instruction on how to act as citizens. And here we’re going to find out today that the new position of the IRS under this president, and frankly, under a lot of the bureaucrats in the IRS is that you shouldn’t be able to do that and have a tax exempt status.
When we come back from the break, Lea Patterson is the attorney representing Bunni Pounds and Christians Engaged. We’re going to find out what the status of this is, and what can be done to make sure that this doesn’t happen to every church in America, and every nonprofit that has a biblical perspective in America. It’s a very dangerous path to be going down.
A MOMENT FROM AMERICAN HISTORY
Stay with us, we’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.
This is David Barton, with another moment from America’s history. As Christians become more active in politics, they must remember to elevate principles above party loyalty. Perhaps the best illustration of this comes from the life of founding father Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who served in the presidential administrations of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, each of whom was from a different political party.
When Benjamin Rush was asked of his personal party affiliation, he responded “I’ve been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat, I am neither. I am a Christocrat, I believe all power will fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.”
Like Benjamin Rush, we too must remain Christocrat, regardless of our personal party affiliation. For more information on God’s hand in American history, contact WallBuilders at 1808REBUILD.
Welcome Lea Patterson
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us today. Lea Patterson is with us from First Liberty Institute. Lea, thanks for coming on.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
We all do so much good work, Kelly and the team just phenomenal, the way that you guys defend our constitutional rights in so many different areas, specifically, our religious liberty. And this one, man, y’all been down this road before, here we go. Again, déjà vu, IRS is discriminating against people that don’t line up with the current president’s political philosophy.
So for them to deny a nonprofit status to our friends over Christians Engaged because they’re encouraging prayer, are you kidding? Now this might be new, this may not be deja vu. I don’t know that we’ve ever done this based on prayer.
Well, it certainly is different, I have to say, when I read the letter, and anyone can read it on our website at firstliberty.org, I was pretty surprised myself.
What is the process just for our listeners understand this? So if you start a new organization, you want to do some good in the world, and you’re willing to do nonprofit, which everybody knows in the nonprofit world, you’re going to make far less money, if you make any money at all, all of these people volunteer to do their work for free.
But if you start an organization, and you go into the nonprofit world, you apply with the IRS for the reason that people will donate if they can get the deduction, so this status with IRS is very important for an organization to actually survive when you’re based on nonprofit dollars, right?
IRS Employees Deciding
And these IRS employees that make these decisions, it’s supposed to be neutral. It’s supposed to be okay, you’re doing a purpose that has been clearly a nonprofit type activity in the past, seems like a rubber stamp situation for an organization like this. I don’t even understand their objection.
Well, you know, you just have to read their objections to believe them. Basically, I could quote them directly. Here, they argued that the Christians Engaged was in was doing political campaign intervention, because it, “educates believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.”
And they went on to explain, “Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican Party and candidate.” So their reasoning seems to violate their own regulations as well as constitutional protections for free speech and free exercise of religion.
I’m trying to follow the logic. If they’re saying that you cannot be nonprofit, if you’re teaching people of faith how to apply their faith, well, there goes every church in the country, there goes WallBuilders, there goes Patriot Academy, I mean, that’s what we do. This will cover everyone.
Right. That’s why we’re so concerned about this reasoning, because if the IRS really mean that it thinks Bible teachings are typically Republican affiliated, then that does endanger the tax exempt status of many religious organizations and potentially churches too. So that’s why we’re fighting this and why we appealed on Wednesday.
Now tell me a little bit about the process. You know, I’ve only done one of these myself and we were actually approved because it was during the Bush years, so I guess, is why, I don’t know. But anyway, you’re not having to file suit against them yet, I guess, there’s actually a built in appeals process within the IRS approval system. Is that how this works?
IRS Appeal Process
Yes, that’s right. So we go through the IRS as administrative appeal process first, and that’ll happen over the next few months. And then depending on the outcome of that process, we could end up in federal court.
Okay, so you’ll exhaust administrative remedies first, and then you may have to file suit based on constitutional grounds.
And that’s a long process, I’m guessing?
Yes, I think that is fair to say, but we’re in it for the long haul.
And for our friends, Bunni Pounds and the others over at Christians Engaged, can they continue to operate as an organization while this happens, and can people still donate to them while this happens?
Well, I know they can still operate now that the particular tax implications of how they have to operate, now I couldn’t speak to.
Okay. Yeah, I think if I understand it right, they can still accept donations, people can still give them, there’s a chance your donation won’t be approved as a tax deductible donation if we end up losing the fight in the long run, but I’m not their counsel and I’m not I haven’t researched that. That’s just my understanding from past studies of these things.
So tell me, Lea, what will be First Liberty, how do you guys move forward on this? Can people donate to First Liberty to help support the legal fees and everything that you all got to deal with in this?
Well, I’ll tell you First Liberty is a nonprofit law firm itself and we never charge our clients a dime. So we are entirely donation funded.
And you’ve already got your nonprofit status, right?
Yes. And we hope to keep it too.
Well, don’t tell anybody to pray, I guess, that’s the new rule. Man, I’m just shocked by this. This is over the top. Every church in America should be concerned by this. I mean, anybody that is teaching people how to live out their faith would technically be covered in, and this is not the head of the IRS, I guess it’s the head of the tax exempt organization part of the IRS. Is that right?
That’s correct. Yes.
Okay. So is he long do we know, is he like a longtime? I just remember there being the lady during the Obama years that was kind of the one that was being so aggressive towards Tea Party groups and conservative nonprofits, and finally, I can’t remember the lady’s name. But I think she ultimately ended up, people realized she’s definitely letting the politics affect her decisions. Is it possible for one person to do that even after we went through that 10 years ago?
Well, my understanding is that the official that denied the tax exempt status here holds the same position that Lois Lerner did. So anything’s possible.
You knew the name. That’s it. Lois Lerner. Okay. So yeah, it could be history repeating itself. We’ll find out in a few months, I guess. Please keep us updated, Lea.
Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Stay with us, folks, we’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.
Have you noticed the vacuum of leadership in America? We’re looking around for leaders of principle to step up and too often, no one is there. God is raising up a generation of young leaders with a passion for impacting the world around them. They’re crying out for the mentorship and leadership training they need. Patriot Academy was created to meet that need.
Patriot Academy graduates now serve in state capitals around America in the halls of Congress, in business, in the film industry, in the pulpit and every area of the culture. They’re leading effectively and impacting the world around them. Patriot Academy is now expanding across the nation and now’s your chance to experience this life changing week that trains champions to change the world.
Visit patriotacademy.com for dates and locations. Our core program is still for young leaders 16 to 25 years old, but we also now have a citizen track for adults, so visit the website today to learn more. Help us fill the void of leadership in America join us in training champions to change the world at patriotacademy.com
Alright, we’re back here on Wallbuilders Live. We actually have Bunni Pounds with us, the founder of Christians Engaged and a great friend here in Texas. Bunni, thanks so much for your time. I know you’re probably getting inundated. I really appreciate you coming on.
Welcome Bunni Pounds
Oh, well love you guys, love you and Kara, Rick, so much and your family and everything you do to educate believers on the Constitution and what’s happening in America, so happy to be on.
Well, I’m not sure that’s going to be allowed anymore, or at least not nonprofit status. I mean, you can’t even encourage people to pray. Are you kidding me?
So I knew you were working on your nonprofit status and you’re doing fantastic work and stuff that people should contribute to. This is what it’s about. This is about teaching people to follow their faith.
It’s just applying their faith. If we’re going to deny your nonprofit status for teaching people how to live out their faith, then every church in America should be concerned.
They should, Rick. I mean, this is incredible case. When I got the letter, the rejection letter or the determination letter from the IRS, I instantly read it and thought, what did they just say? Like in unbelief that they would actually put the biblical principles are affiliated with the Republican Party in writing.
Is the Bible Tied to a Party?
I’m like, I thought the Bible was an ancient document that we’ve all read and known and considered truth. Their parties are always changing based on platforms that people write. So the crazy thing of the IRS thinking that the Bible or biblical values is equated with the Republican Party is really unbelievable.
Well, I always wondered if there was first Ronald Reagan to and for, or something like that. But I don’t think that’s in there. So, you’re exactly right. The Bible is not exclusively for Republicans, as apparently the IRS now believes.
But to me, this is a shot across the bow shockwave kind of a determination letter. Because if the exact same principles are applied, that, I guess, this administrator, I was trying to find his name here, Steven Martin, so if this director of tax exempt organization, Steven, if his position on your organization were to be upheld on every tax exempt organization in the country.
I mean, that’s it. No church’s tax exempt, WallBuilders is not tax exempt, Patriot Academy’s not tax exempt, any organization that applies biblical principles to whatever’s happening in life would suddenly not be tax exempt.
Well, a lot of people need to understand about this appeal wreck is that all we do, what we do as Christians Engaged is encouraged people do pray for their city, state, and nation, their elected officials, to build habits of prayer before the Lord, to take their burdens before the Lord. We educate people on practical.
Why voting is important? Why our civic duties are important? Why should we be voting in every election: city elections, primary elections? As believers being salt and light that we should take Jesus to the ballot box, right, that we shouldn’t leave him at the 100 foot marker and just make decisions. But we should be connecting those to what we know the Bible says.
And then on the on the engagement side, all we do is talk about obeying God. If your heart is for the foster care kids, if your heart is for human traffic victims, if your heart is for the unborn, do something. If you want to go adopt a candidate or run for office or be involved in the political process, great:
We want to give you practical information just on how to do that. We don’t endorse political parties or candidates ever. We’ve gone into 27 churches last year and many more this spring.
It’s crazy that they would think that we are doing anything else. So what the President is, is that it just makes it where, I mean, there’s voting initiatives happening all over America from former elected officials, current elected officials have nonprofit, it’s absolutely crazy that they singled us out for this.
And I mean, we’ve got plenty of track record, case law, everything else for churches being able to register people to vote, churches being able to encourage people to vote, to be engaged, to apply the Bible to this, I mean everything that they’re doing is what you’re doing. And so this is clearly an ideological picking a fight discriminating against you guys because of what you stand for, and what you believe.
Biblical Values or Non-Biblical Values?
And I think it’s fair to say, I mean, I would say this, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, I guess I’ll try to ask you as a question. But I mean, Republican or Democrat, if the candidate stands for Biblical values, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re not saying one party over another, we’re saying biblical values over non-biblical values?
Right, and just educating people that the Bible should inform our decisions and our culture. You know, so many people, as you know, 9% of American Christians read their Bible, if that many.
So, our whole point is educating people that the Bible has much to say about the issues of our time. And we just need to read it. We need to just to pick it up and all we do is write articles and have podcasts and videos and classes related to those topics…
It’s interesting you mentioned fostering and working against human trafficking and all of those things. I mean, everything you’re talking about is how society what are we doing in our neighborhood to make our neighborhood better? What are we doing to make our community, our society better?
And the Bible gives us all the instruction on how to do that, seems to me as a culture and a nation we would want to encourage getting the right instruction. And Lord knows, I could go into all kinds of Founding Fathers quotes here about how they thought the Bible had the best answers for society. And that’s exactly what you guys are doing.
Bunni, I want to encourage people to go to your website today, Christiansengaged.org and whether or not you ever get your nonprofit status, which if you don’t, then none of us deserve to have nonprofit status. But whether or not you ever get it, we should be donating in.
Invest in Freedom
I’m not saying that I don’t want you to get it, I’m not saying people shouldn’t care if you get it. I’m just saying we should be donated organizations like yours, whether or not we get the tax write off. We need to be investing in freedom. So, folks go give at Christiansengaged.org today.
My understanding, Bunni and earlier in the program, we had your attorney on to talk about this as well. I know it’s going to take months to fight this battle. I’m sure you’ve been waiting for a while. But I think your application for nonprofit was, what, like a year ago, so you’ve had to wait a long time just to get this answer.
Yeah, 18 months. Yeah, they’ve been kind of holding us hostage. I had an agent call me last August and tell me he would be refusing me because I’m using the Bible to push people towards my point of view. And I said, well, with all due respect, sir:
Every church in America has a doctrinal statement that they’re teaching off of. So that makes no sense whatsoever. And then he held our rejection letter or determination letter hostage for nine months. And we had to open a case with Congressman Lance Goodman’s office to get them to find our file a few months later.
So it’s been a constant battle that we’ve been fighting. And I was so thankful, so thankful for First Liberty and thank you for giving us the plug, Rick, but go donate to firstliberty.org too, because we couldn’t have afforded as a small nonprofit to take on this battle and have this appeal letter written in less than 30 days. So we’re very, very thankful for our friends at First Liberty for fighting this battle with us.
Definitely. Absolutely. We love Kelly and the whole team over there and definitely will have a link where you can donate to First Liberty today as well. Last thing, Bunni, I guess I was thinking as you were just saying that, I guess they really do, these folks that that think you shouldn’t have nonprofit status when so many others do, I think they really do buy into the idea.
Faith Informing Actions
It’s kind of the old Democrat politician or Republican politician, either one, because we’ve had both that say, oh, well, I’m Catholic, or I’m Christian, and so I’m personally prolife, but I’m going to vote for abortion. My faith is not going to inform my vote.
In other words, they want people to separate their faith from their actual decisions. In your case, you’re encouraging people their faith should influence their decisions, whether or not they foster, whether or not they vote, all of those things? The other side, I guess, really does like the idea of separating those two?
Well, I’ll say this, Rick, I was out at a festival, we were out at the Tomato Festival in Jacksonville, Texas last weekend, and I was getting people to come to our Christians Engaged booth and educating them on prayer voting engagement. And the guy that was making salsa next to me, he said at the end of about seven hours of listening to me talk to people, he said, Bunni, I don’t know if I believe in God.
I used to be in prison. But first today, I thought this girl’s mix of politics and religion, it doesn’t make any sense to me.
But he said, by the end of the day, I realized what you were doing is telling people that if they’re Christ’s followers, God should inform every segment of their life, their time, their calendar, their money: every segment of their lives should have Jesus in the mix. And he goes, if Christians actually did that, I might be a Christian.
American Christ Followers
And that was such a powerful state, because that’s really what we’re doing. And that’s what you guys are doing, Rick, is just telling people let God be a part of all of your life. And you’re being an American, you being a Christ follower, and fulfilling your civic duties has to be a part of that equation.
That’s awesome. That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. How was the salsa, by the way? Did he let you taste the salsa?
He did. He have great salsa. Yeah, he sold out or I would have bought, but I’m going to have to order it from him online. Hopefully, we’ll have dinner soon.
Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it. Bunni, God bless you, keep up the great work.
I’m actually thrilled this is happening to you because I want more people to know about you and know about the good work that you all are doing at Christians Engaged. So we’re excited for you. We want to help people to know about it, go donate today at Christiansengage.org, go donate today at First Liberty. We’ll have links to both today at wallbuilderslive.com. Bunni Pounds, thank you for coming on today.
Thank you, Rick, we’re going to be faithful.
Thanks to Bunni Pounds and Lea Patterson for being on today to talk about this very, very important situation with IRS. As I’ve already said a couple times during the program, folks, I mean, if you’re going to say that people cannot have nonprofit status under this IRS and this administration, simply for encouraging people to pray, simply for encouraging people to live out their faith and to apply their faith to real things in life to not be one of these.
I would argue faithless people that they claim to be followers of Christ or followers of whatever religion. But yet somehow that religion or that faith or those convictions don’t impact their decisions, that they don’t make their decisions about how to live their life, treat their family, treat their neighbors, conduct themselves in society, they don’t let that be influenced by their faith, I mean, is that really the kind of world we want to live in?
I mean, the whole reason for these policies, this idea of a nonprofit status is actually a biblical idea. I mean, that’s what’s actually a little bit hilarious about this. It’s a biblical idea to not tax the priests, to not tax the church, to not tax the nonprofit, to not tax those who are serving the community selflessly.
And it’s had a great tradition in our country. And now we’re going to go to a place where we’re going to say, oh, no, no, not if you believe in the Bible, not if you’re encouraging people to pray; that’s only a Republican idea.
What a dangerous, dangerous place that would be if now believing in the Bible, and following the Bible is only a Republican idea. We don’t want to have people of faith in both parties, I would hope that we would.
If you’re out there listening today, and you call yourself a Democrat, but yet a person who believes in the Bible, the IRS is saying that you don’t exist. So that’s where we are, folks. That’s what the IRS is attempting to do.
But thank the good Lord, for Bunni Pounds and Christians Engaged standing up to them. Thank the good Lord for Kelly Shackleford and Lea Patterson and all the folks over First Liberty Institute fighting back. I believe we’ll win this battle. We have to win this battle.
Christian Non-Profit Denied Tax-Exempt Status For Encouraging Prayer
You know, when we don’t win this battle, then every church in the country loses their nonprofit status. We now have a two tiered system where if you give to liberal causes, if you give to secular causes, if you give to those who want to change America dramatically, you can write off your donation. But if you give to a church or you give to a Christian organization or any organization that’s Bible based, then no longer can you write off that donation.
Therefore we’re not encouraging people, we’re not helping society have organizations like that that makes society better. Dangerous, dangerous path, folks, let’s pray for and act. Let’s donate to First Liberty and to Christians Engaged so that we can win this battle, not just for them, but for the rest of the country as well.
One of the best ways that you can be engaged is to become a Biblical Citizenship coach. In other words, to host a Biblical Citizenship class in your home or at your church or in your community somewhere. So make sure you go today to Biblicalcitizens.com and get signed up, it’s entirely free. Become a coach, and nothing to it. You don’t have to pass any kind of a test.
In fact, you can take the class for the first time while coaching. In other words, you just get people in your living room or at your church together, pass out the workbooks and get the video playing and then lead the discussion, meaning just get people talking. And you will find through those videos and application of the Bible, the very thing the IRS is now saying should not be tax deductible.
Anyway, you get to participate in that and you get to be one of those people that’s a catalyst, a catalyst for a restoration of biblical values and constitutional principles right there in your community. Biblicalcitizens.com today, get signed up, get your class started. We’ve got 1,000 classes across the country this year already and 7,000 people have signed up to be coaches, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of people go through the class. You’ll be one of the ones that helps make it happen in your… Biblicalcitizens.com. Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live.