As the IRS scandal widens by the minute in Washington, add another issue arising from Illinois, where allegations are emerging that the IRS asked a pro-life group to sign documents vowing not to protest or picket Planned Parenthood as part of the IRS inquiry into its tax-exempt status.
Two groups: both pro-life organizations, one from Iowa and one from Texas, sought legal help from the Illinois-based Thomas More Society after they felt the tax agency was putting them through the wringer in order to get tax exempt status.
"They needed extra legal muscle to call the IRS to the carpet when they were asking well above and beyond" the normal standard of scrutiny,
Thomas Ciesielka, who heads communications for the Thomas More Society, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The firm handles legal matters for not for profits and represents a number of pro-life organizations. "The IRS office that's under scrutiny in Cinncinnati, Ohio - the woman who sent out these letters was the woman we were dealing with. The other one that came under additional scrutiny - was California."
Ciesielka said the Texas-based pro-life group was at one point asked to sign papers promising not to picket or protest Planned Parenthood. That exchange was not contained in one of the letters below but was referenced in a letter from a Thomas More attorney in correspondence to the IRS, according to documents provided to the Sun-Times.
In 2009 correspondence, Thomas More attorneys referenced a telephone conversation an IRS investigator had with the president of the Texas-based Coalition for Life, asking about her group's activities with regard to Planned Parenthood.
"Questions were raised about prayer activity, particularly outside of Planned Parenthood," the letter states. "You then asked ... to have all Coalition Board members sign a statement that the coalition will not 'picket' or 'protest' outside of Planned Parenthood or similar organizations and will not 'organize' others to do so," a More attorney wrote.
"The IRS' questions about prayer time, so-called "picketing" and use of signs is clearly improper, given the Coalition's legal right as a tax-exempt organization to engage in educational and charitable advocacy and its own plainly charitable, religious, and educational activities," wrote Sally Wagenmaker, of the Thomas More Society.
Read the IRS letters to Coalition for Life of Iowa and Christian Voices for Life
Here is correspondence from the Thomas More Society on behalf of pro-life groups.