Franklin Graham Takes on the I.R.S.

Franklin Graham must have rejoiced at the news that I.R.S. officials improperly targeted conservative activist groups for audits.

By way of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — an outfit which not only pays zero taxes, but effectively receives a public subsidy to carry out its ministerial activities — Franklin has worked out quite a felicitous financial arrangement for his fiefdom.

Trouble is, the taxmen caught wind of the Graham family’s recent politicking: the BGEA set out to encourage Christians to back “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel” during the 2012 elections, and intervened in the (successful) North Carolina ballot initiative to ban gay marriage.

Ultimately, the I.R.S. took no action, and Graham’s outfits retained the legal designation of 501(c)(3) “charitable organization.” But he was not content to put the matter to rest. This week, the self-styled “Christian Leader” took advantage of the unfolding scandal in Washington and wrote an open letter to Barack Obama, accusing officials of “targeting and attempting to intimidate” the Graham dynasty, just as they had Tea Party and “Patriot” groups.

His hunch that the audit represented something more than just a “coincidence” was evidence enough for POLITICO and other news outlets to run with the story, foregoing any attempt at independent verification of Graham’s claims, and Christian right circles are up in arms.

Most to blame is the I.R.S. for empowering any old zealot who’s been subject of an audit to cast himself as a benighted victim. Score one for Franklin.

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