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Allen authors IRS free speech bill
Proposal passes House with unanimous vote
W Rick-Allen
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen

A bill authored by U.S. Rep. Rick Allen to bar the Internal Revenue Service from targeting citizens for exercising First Amendment rights passed the House on a unanimous voice vote Tuesday.

First elected in November 2014, Allen, R-Georgia 12th District, has been a member of Congress for just over 15 months, and new members usually have few opportunities to introduce legislation.  Although he has co-sponsored a number of bills and has introduced at least two that are now in committee, this was the first bill he has authored that has passed the full House.

“Obviously we have the protection of the First Amendment on that, but it’s sad when you have the overreach of one of these agencies and we have to have a law that specifically deals with any employee of the IRS targeting any group or individual because of their beliefs, whether it be faith or political or otherwise,” Allen said in a phone interview Thursday.

Tax returns were due Monday, and Allen made a speech the next day about his bill, House Resolution 4903.

“I can think of nothing more despicable than persecution for beliefs,” Allen said in the speech, which aired on C-SPAN. “Tax Day is stressful enough with the tax code we have in place. The IRS has no business striking fear into the hearts of Americans for expressing their strongly held beliefs and convictions.”

The motivation for his bill, he said, lay in past actions by the IRS toward Tea Party organizations and other conservative groups. Investigations by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Ways and Means Committee showed that the IRS, particularly its Exempt Organizations Unit under the unit’s former director Lois Lerner, selected certain groups, especially 501c3 and 501c4 nonprofit corporations, for “additional scrutiny and delay” based on the groups’ names, Allen said in his remarks on the House floor.

A report showed that employees had used phrases and terms including “Tea Party,” “patriots” “912 Project,”  “government spending,” “government debt,” “taxes” and “Make America a better place to live” to flag applications, Allen noted.


Brief full text

The text of House Resolution 4903 consists of a single sentence: “None of the funds made available under any Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to target Citizens of the United States for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

Introduced April 12, the resolution was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, according to tracking information at With a motion to suspend rules requiring other steps and proceed to a vote, the House approved the bill on a voice vote Tuesday. With no “nays” voiced, HR 4903 passed unanimously, Allen said.

“Would you want to vote against this?” he said in the interview. “I can’t find too many people that want the IRS to do things like this.”

After being passed by the House, HR 4903 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, had introduced an identical, companion bill in the Senate April 15 as Senate Bill 965.

The bill does not include any statements about penalties or enforcement. But if it becomes law, Congress could act to defund the jobs of any IRS staffers who target citizens for exercising First Amendment rights, Allen said.

“There are some good folks at the IRS, but there are some over there that are politically motivated, and so we would go in and actually defund those positions,” he said. “The Congress would have the power to do that.”


‘Balance of power’

Besides freedom of speech, the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. So, the bill could help protect religious organizations from having their tax-exempt status threatened by the IRS, according to Allen.

He suggests that Congress should use the same approach, defunding the jobs of agency officials, to rein in other actions he considers to be regulatory overreach. He referred to two areas where the Environmental Protection Agency makes rules as examples.

“One of our bold agendas up here is to restore our Article I balance of power, and we need the ability to deal with all of the agencies in this manner,” Allen said. “When they put out rules that are overreaching the very laws that we’ve created, whether it be Clean Air, whether it be Waters of the U.S., all of these erroneous rules that are affecting and costing our business community and gumming up the economy, we need the ability to go in and surgically defund the staffing and the appropriations.”

Allen faces a challenge from Eugene Yu in the May 24 Republican primary, the winner of which will face the victor from two candidates, Joyce Nolin and Tricia Carpenter McCracken, running in the Democratic primary. The general election is Nov. 8.


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.




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