Catholic Answers, a San Diego-based group “dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world,” announced last Friday it will ask the US Supreme Court to intervene and allow the organization to sue the Internal Revenue Service.
In 2004, the group published a voters’ guide and sent two political e-mails to a subscriber group. While the printed guide did not endorse any candidates by name, the e-mails specifically attacked self-proclaimed Catholic and then-Presidential candidate John Kerry for his stance on abortion.
The IRS, in an investigation, ruled that the guide did not violate the group’s tax-exempt status because it did not directly advocate for any given candidate, but found that the e-letters, since they specifically opposed the candidacy of an individual, constituted political expenditures. Catholic Answers was then ordered to pay excise taxes for 2004 and 2005. The IRS eventually reversed its decision, ruling that the alleged political activity “was not willful and flagrant.” The agency refunded the taxes, along with interest.
In April of 2009, Catholic Answers filed suit against the IRS in US District Court, claiming that the levy was a violation of their First Amendment rights and demanding a return of the taxes paid. The case was thrown out, as a refund had already been issued. The Ninth District Court of Appeals refused to allow the suit to be re-introduced, stating “[t]his suit is moot. There is no relief that this court could grant. The tax paid has already been abated.”