Christian Living

ChurchWatch 09/13/07

Focus Vindicated After Year-long IRS Audit; Cross Ordered Off Federal Park Land

The IRS has closed a year-long audit of Focus on the Family and Dr. James C. Dobson by ruling that the organization committed no wrongdoing.

Two opposition groups pressed the IRS to launch the investigation after the 2004 elections. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson, in his capacity as the head of Focus, of electioneering by endorsing candidates for public office. The groups convinced the IRS to conduct a "full-scale investigation" with the purpose of revoking Focus' tax-exempt status, levying fines and pursuing "civil and criminal penalties."

"The purpose for this was not only to see if they could damage us and take us out," Dr. Dobson said, "but to scare every pastor and every nonprofit that's out there."

Dr. Dobson explained that churches and Christian groups that speak out about social and moral issues, including marriage, homosexuality and the sanctity of life, are the target of such an investigation.

The senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family Action, Tom Minnery, explained that CREW is funded in part by George Soros, the "radical Leftist who wants to undermine so much of what this country stands for."

On his radio broadcast, Dr. Dobson read from the letter he received last week from the IRS: "Our examination revealed that Dr. Dobson's reported remarks did not occur in publications of Focus on the Family, did not occur at functions of Focus on the Family and did not involve Dr. Dobson's suggestion that he was speaking as a representative of Focus on the Family. As such, we are closing our examination without any change to our recognition of Focus on the Family as (a tax-exempt organization.)"

Dr. Dobson summarized what the IRS letter said: "No dings. No criticisms. Not a single allegation was found to have substance."

Focus on the Family Web site

Cross Ordered Off Federal Park Land

The U.S. government cannot trade a parcel of land to private hands to allow a Christian cross to remain in the middle of a vast federal preserve, a U.S. appeals court has ruled.

Citing the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars the government from favoring any one religion, the court banned a lone white metal Latin cross in the Mojave National Preserve in southern California between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In 2004, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a cross on a prominent rock on public land was unconstitutional, prompting Congress to pass a law allowing a trade so its immediate area would become private land.

People have been putting crosses in the spot since the 1930s, most recently with one man drilling a metal cross into the rock a decade ago without permission. In 1999, a man requested and was denied permission to build a Buddhist shrine there, setting the stage for a tangled legal fight.

"A grave constitutional injury already exists," Judge Margaret McKeown wrote for a three-judge panel that upheld a lower court ruling. "The permitting display of the Sunrise Rock cross in the Preserve is an impermissible governmental endorsement of religion."

"The government's long-standing efforts to preserve and maintain the cross atop Sunrise Rock lead us to the undeniable conclusion that the government's purpose in this case is to evade the injunction and keep the cross in place," the judge said. "Carving out a tiny parcel of property in the midst of this vast Preserve - like a donut hole with the cross atop it - will do nothing to minimize the impermissible governmental endorsement."

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