Kristina Arriaga, executive director of The Becket Fund, points out that a lawsuit filed against the IRS by an atheist group has revealed the IRS is investigating some churches for allegedly violating the Johnson Amendment.
The amendment limits political involvement from non-profits, including churches. It was proposed in 1954 for political purposes, when then-U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson was being opposed by nonprofits during his re-election.
Atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the IRS, and settled the lawsuit, to force the agency to enforce the Johnson Amendment against churches.
According to Arriaga, the IRS told the atheist group in a letter that an agency within the IRS investigates whether pastors have violated the law when they spoke from the pulpit.
The agency is called the Political Activities Referral Committee.
"The IRS informed the Freedom From Religion Foundation that there are 99 churches alleged to have violated this Johnson Amendment, and they are under investigation," says Arriaga, referring to the letter sent to the atheist group.
She calls it "unbelievable" that the federal government is monitoring pastors' sermons.
In a press release, Becket said the letter divulges that 99 churches have merited a "high priority examiniation" by the federal agency since 2010.
Arriaga says the documents released to the atheist group were never given to the Becket Fund, which was a party to the lawsuit.