For stupidity in the face of common sense, the IRS decision to focus on Tea Party group applications for non-profit status is hard to beat. But the same folks crying foul now were conspicuously silent years ago when gay groups were being singled out by the agency for extra scrutiny. Just as it did with the Tea Party groups, the IRS decided to concentrate on gay groups on the assumption that anything gay had to be political and thus not qualified for nonprofit status.
The Washington Post Wonkblog has offered a nice reminder of how the IRS has gone after gaya groups when faced with ambiguous rules. For example, Big Mama Rag, a radical feminist organization that published a newsjournal, applied for non-profit status in 1974, only to be turned down. BMR argued that the IRS objection cited that the group was “promoting lesbianism,” a claim the IRS denied. The IRS did admit that it didn’t consider BMR’s mission as educational, since it did not publish a “full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts” sufficient “to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion.” It took years of legal wrangling before it finally was granted nonprofit status in 1980. (BMR ceased publishing in 1984.)
In 1996, a group formed to help LGBT youth, Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Support System (GLASS), sought tax-exempt status, only to get a much more clearly homophobic response. In rejecting the group’s application, an IRS official claimed that the group could be seen as “tending to encourage or facilitate homosexual practice and propensities by the young and impressionable,” and asked GLASS to “describe in detail the procedures and safeguards in place to assure that counselors and participants do not encourage or facilitate homosexual practices or encourage the development of homosexual attitudes and propensities by minor individuals attending your programs.” After an appeal, GLASS was granted nonprofit status the following year.
If you were around then, you might recall that no conservatives were alleging the death of liberty because of these particular IRS actions. (In fact, they would probably be happy to revive them.) But that’s the great thing about today’s loony right. They are all about principle when it comes to them, and all about violating it when it comes to others.