WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - I have followed the multi-year legal battle between Catholic Answers and the Internal Revenue for several reasons. First, because I applaud Catholic Answers and its founder Karl Keating for the work they have done for decades. Their mission statement explains, "Catholic Answers is an apostolate dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world. We help good Catholics become better Catholics, bring former Catholics "home," and lead non-Catholics into the fullness of the faith."

Second, because as a constitutional lawyer I know that that their dispute with the I.R.S. has serious implications for all Catholics and other Christians. We have an obligation to bring the values informed by our faith and revealed in the Natural Law into the culture. It is a vital part of our mission to build a culture of life and serve the common good. Hostile interference with our efforts by an Agency of the Federal Government threatens the fundamental human right to religious freedom and violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Finally, because I am convinced we are entering into one of the most important elections in our history. The battle ahead of us will make the past look like prologue. Our work will require our reliance upon a proper interpretation of the First Amendment because those who oppose our Pro-Life, Pro-Marriage and Pro-Freedom message want to prevent us from speaking out in the public square.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution is best understood as an "anti-establishment" clause. It was intended to prohibit the "establishment" of one particular religion - in the sense of a Federal or State sponsored Church which mandated adherence from unwilling citizens. It must always be seen along with the prohibition against the Free Exercise of Religion and the guarantees of free speech and free association contained within that same Amendment. 

Catholic Answers has shown tremendous courage by filing a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (Writ of Review) asking the US Supreme Court to review a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case styled CATHOLIC ANSWERS, INC. AND KARL KEATING, Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondents. The entire petition and supporting can be read here. 

The underlying facts in this case go back to 2004 when the Founder and President of Catholic Answers wrote an E Letter on their web site concerning Senator John Kerry's reception of communion. Senator Kerry is a professing Catholic whose refusal to defend the Right to Life and active support of legal abortion is in direct conflict with the teaching of his Church. He was also a candidate for the Presidency of the United States in 2004. The letter referenced the organizations "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics."

On January 3, 2005, the IRS informed Catholic Answers it was under investigation for its actions and alleging it may have violated the prohibition on political intervention for Sec. 501 c 3 non-profit organizations. The action by the IRS appears to have been instigated by the notoriously Anti-Right to Life group then calling itself "Catholics for a Free Choice". It is not Catholic and it denies the Right to Choose Life to children in the womb. Thus, the protracted persecution of Catholic Answers by a modern day Caesar began.

Catholic Answers was required to expend extraordinary amounts of time and resources defending itself in this punitive and lengthy IRS investigation. The IRS finally held that Catholic Answers did not violate its tax-exempt status because "only express advocacy communications constitute political intervention." However, they insisted in 2008 that two of the E letters written by Karl Keating opposed a specific candidate and ordered Catholic Answers to pay excise taxes for the years 2004 and 2005.

Since all of this, Catholic Answers has formed a separate Action fund under Section 501 c4 of the Code. Through that organization they continue their important work advocating for the issues which matter most in our call to full political participation as faithful Catholic citizens. They also continued their fight against the Internal Revenue Service.

Catholic Answers filed to have those wrongfully imposed excise tax assessments lifted and in 2009, the Service actually lifted the excise taxes. They ruled that the purported violation "was not willful and flagrant."  However, they did not retract their ruling that the E Letters violated the IRS Regulations.

In April of 2009, Catholic Answers filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court alleging that the IRS violated their First Amendment rights. A district court judge dismissed the

lawsuit. The Court opined that the IRS, by abating the taxes made the issue "moot" and there was no injury to Catholic Answers. Catholic Answers appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It affirmed the lower court's ruling.

So, on Oct. 21, James Bopp Jr. of the James Madison Center for Free Speech, one of the Nations great constitutional lawyers, announced the filing of the Writ of Ceriorari with the United States Supreme Court. In a Press release Attorney Bopp noted, "both the California federal district court and the federal appeals court held that because Catholic Answers got its money back, the issue was resolved and there was nothing for the courts to do.

"This allows the IRS to harass and penalize nonprofits who discuss public officials who are also running for office while leaving those nonprofits without any recourse: the IRS can simply return the money at the last minute and never be sued for taxing protected speech that shouldn't be taxed in the first place."

"Not only did the federal courts in this case misapply Supreme Court law, they have allowed the IRS to engage in trickery by penalizing nonprofits who exercise their right to speak, only to return the money at the last possible second. So long as the IRS is allowed to do this, nonprofits like Catholic Answers will be deterred from speaking about individuals who are political candidates in any context for fear they'll be investigated and taxed. Nothing prevents the IRS from doing this again. And these groups now have no judicial remedy."

Whether the US Supreme Court agrees to hear this case remains to be seen. Most Writs of Certiorari are denied. However, the case raises important constitutional issues. There is an effort to label the moral positions we espouse, such as the dignity of every human life and the primacy of marriage, as "religious". Then, the militant secularists insist that we keep those views locked up within the walls of our Church buildings. They base such an approach on an incorrect interpretation of the "separation of Church and State". This is both Anti-Christian and unconstitutional.

Using the guard dog of a secularized regime, the Internal Revenue Service, to prevent Catholics from freely participating in the public square is a threat to fundamental rights and dangerous. It must be opposed. Catholic Answers is doing that - and they should be applauded.