Texas-based Pro-Life Revolution applied for 501(c)3 status with the IRS in January 2011--they received that status some 900 days later, on June 6, 2013 in a letter dated May 19. In the interim, they received letters asking for clarification and "more information," and a March 2012 phone call in which IRS agent Sherry Wan told Pro-Life Revolution President Ania Joseph how the IRS expects tax-exempt groups to act, think, and speak.
In a legally recorded call 14 months into an application process that was supposed to last no more than 270 days, Wan told Joseph:
You cannot force your religion or force your beliefs on somebody else…. You have to know your boundaries. You have to know your limits. You have to respect other people’s beliefs.
The agent went on to say she stresses neutrality on issues because she works for the IRS, and therefore, has "to stick with the law."
Mind you, this is the IRS telling a private citizen how they should or shouldn't, can or can't, speak or act when it comes to exercising their First Amendment freedoms.
If you think such an accusation is a bridge too far, consider that it appears the agent also told Joseph she'd be allowed to reach out to women--including handing them a pro-life brochure—but, if she wants a tax exemption, she ought to play nice with abortion clinics:
You convince them. But when you take a lot of action…for example, when you, you know, go to, you know, the abortion clinic, and you found them [unintelligible], we don’t want, you know, to come against them. You can’t take all kinds of confrontation activities and also put something on a website and ask people to take action against the abortion clinic. That’s not, that’s not really educational.
Again, this is an IRS agent telling a private citizen how her group can and can't act, what they can and can't say or do.
But don’t fall for any excuses that may come again about this being a “rogue” agent. To be charitable to Wan, I’m sure she’s simply following her training—training that apparently taught her to base her arguments to Pro-Life Revolution on a law overturned by a federal appeals court in D.C. during the Carter administration.
Toward the end of the conversation, Wan told Joseph: "When you conduct religious activities, meanwhile you have to respect other people's beliefs, other people's religion. You cannot [go]...against other groups or devalue other groups, other people's beliefs. OK?"
In other words, if you want a tax-exempt status, you need only be sure you stand for nothing and say the same.