Witness: IRS warned us not to protest Planned Parenthood

We covered this earlier in the course of the IRS scandal coverage, and we’ve also noted the IRS response to the outrage, which was that the man running the agency couldn’t be certain that demanding to know prayer activity from applicants was necessarily inappropriate.   Today, the head of the pro-life organization that was instructed by the IRS that it better not be protesting Planned Parenthood got an opportunity to tell her story directly to the House committee.  Sue Martinek not only named names, but also pointed out that this scrutiny predated the March 2010 start date that the Treasury IG found for the agency’s assault on conservative activists:

At a hearing today over the Internal Revenue Service and how it targeted conservative and pro-life group, the head of one pro-life organization provide details about how the federal agency discriminated against it.

Sue Martinek, President of the Coalition for Life of Iowa,  explained to the House Ways and Means Committee that her pro-life group “is a grass-roots, low-budget public charity founded in 2004, to provide prayer, education, and related activities about the sanctity of life from conception to death.”

This passage could have come directly from George Orwell’s imagination, emphasis mine:

“[T]he IRS continued questioning us,” Martinek continued. “On June 22, 2009, IRS Agent Richards sent us additional written requests, as follows: ‘Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3).”

She added: “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at the prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organization spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization. Please explain in detail the signs that are being held up outside of Planned Parenthood and explain how they are considered educational.’ When we met at our next board meeting, we all were disappointed with the IRS’ request.”

Yes, when I pray to our Lord, I usually check in with my local IRS office to ensure I’m not transgressing their authority by appealing to Him.  We are The Bureaucracy, and thou shalt have no other God before us.

More importantly, though, note that this began in June 2009 — long before Citizens United, with the Tea Party movement still in its nascent stage.  This demonstrates a hostility to conservative, pro-life activism that existed within the IRS well before the supposed triggering event from the Supreme Court.  It came well before the eruption of outrage at Congressional town-hall events during the recess of August 2009 that put the Tea Party movement on the national radar.

So what’s the excuse this time?  Critics will certainly suspect that the administration tried to boost an important ally in Planned Parenthood by kneecapping its opponents, and so far none of the explanations offered by the IRS on the other targeting would explain this outrage.