It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

The news that IRS agents had applied undue scrutiny to Tea Party and other politically conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status was disturbing enough. We’re now hearing from many respectable Christian organizations claiming they have likewise been targeted for discrimination, for what they say and for what they stand for.

Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, sent a letter to President Obama accusing the IRS of harassing two affiliated non-profit organizations, Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, because they advocated against same-sex “marriage” and abortion. Both groups were subject to unfounded IRS audits.

Eerily similar, a newsletter in North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder, reported a sudden IRS audit soon after they voiced support for a state amendment banning homosexual unions.

Christian Voices for Life relayed a significant delay in their attempt to obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS. Family Talk Action, an advocacy group associated with James Dobson’s Family Talk radio show, was exposed to an unusual amount of questioning over the course of two years in trying to secure a 501(c)(4) designation. And a pro-life group, Coalition of Life of Iowa, has complained of a similar delay in their efforts to get non-profit status.

On Friday, in a house hearing investigating the IRS scandal, Rep. Aaron Schock (R) brought to light the type of questioning Coalition of Life of Iowa endured in the process. Noting that Coalition of Life promoted a respect for life through prayer, the IRS asked: “Please detail the content of the members of your organization’s prayers?”

To what end does the IRS want to use knowledge of prayers?

I shudder to think of it. Even scarier, these incidents reveal that this abuse is not the product of a highly-active, profoundly-biased rogue agent (or two), but a true conspiracy implicating a systematic, deliberate effort to silence the voices of Christians, along with other conservatives. All signs point to those at the highest levels of the IRS and in the legislative and executive branches of government being well aware of these unconscionable actions.

The power to tax is the power to silence, which, of course, is the whole idea behind this effort. The IRS is communicating clearly that organizations sharing government orthodoxy, or are willing to keep contrarian views to themselves, can remain in business. All others will be eliminated.

But not even the federal government – with all its power – can silence dissent. This is a First Amendment issue, relating to inalienable, God-given rights that the government should not and cannot take away. Much like the organizations that pressed on through the difficult process the IRS laid out for them, we must all persevere in maintaining our right to speak.

In retaining that right, now would be good time to use it.

Posted by Nate Kellum