Julian Bond, President Emeritus of the NAACP, was asked recently about the IRS targeting theTea Party, especially in light of his objections to the IRS auditing the NAACP during the Bush Administration. Mr. Bond replied in part:
I think it’s entirely legitimate to look at the tea party. I mean, here are a group of people who are admittedly racist, who are overtly political, who’ve tried as best they can to harm President Obama in every way they can.
That's an interesting argument. Bond appear to be saying that it is legitimate for the IRS to take a special look at the Tea Party because it is:
- it is admittedly racist;
- it is overtly political;
- it has tried its best to harm President Obama.
I'm going to leave aside the issue of whether the Tea Party is overtly political in any sense that matters to the IRS, and the issue of whether the Tea Party has tried to harm President Obama (as well as the issue of what he means by "harm"). Those would be rich subjects to explore but they are not my focus. Furthermore, I am going to note in passing that the Tea Party is not "admittedly" racist but that is not my focus either. My focus is on Mr. Bond's apparent belief that an organization's racism has something to do with whether it is appropriate for the IRS to subject it to exceptional scrutiny. It does not.
The IRS does not exist to police the beliefs of individuals or the policies of groups.
If I believe that straight white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men are the only hope for the country and want to set up a group to educate everyone about my beliefs, I should be able to do so without the IRS subjecting me to a more intensive examination than it would give me if I believed that straight white Anglo-Protestant men were the bane of the country and wanted to educate my fellow citizens about those beliefs. It is no business of the IRS whether an organization is racist, sexist, or feminist; whether it is pro-men, anti-Catholic, pro-amnesty, anti-ethanol, pro-salt, anti-war, pro-LGBT, or anti-Asian. It is no business of the IRS whether an organization supports abortion or opposes it; supports Obamacare or opposes it; supports Israel or opposes it; supports the NAACP or opposes it. It is most emphatically no business of the IRS whether an organization supports the IRS or opposes it.
The only concern of the IRS is whether an organization's activities conform to the guidelines laid down for the type of organization it claims to be.
I wrote this post in May and then realized I didn't know how to finish it. Those who agree with me, agree with me - there's no need for a big finish to convince them. Those who disagree with me see the world too differently for what I write to make any difference. It's not a difference of degree; it's a difference of kind. To people of the latter persuasion, if someone's stance, position, or utterance is wrong, then it's perfectly reasonable to use every means at their disposal, especially government power, to make sure that someone is, at minimum, disadvantaged and, preferably, silenced. Or, rather, not just perfectly reasonable - it's the obligation of decent human beings to make sure that sure error is stamped out.
It's depressing and frightening to realize I'm sharing a country with people who think the way Julian Bond does. It's puzzling and ironic to realize that many of those who think like Mr. Bond are self-proclaimed representatives of the very groups whose views have been so often silenced by society and government in the past.