Catholic professor says IRS audit deterred her criticisms of Obama

Dr Anne Hendershott Credit  Franciscan University of Steubenville CNA US Catholic News 5 16 13 Dr. Anne Hendershott. | Franciscan University of Steubenville.

A Catholic professor says that an IRS audit that may have been politically motivated made her much less likely to criticize President Barack Obama in her writings.

"They asked who paid me – and wanted to know who they were," Anne Hendershott, a sociology professor at King's College in New York City, said of the Internal Revenue Service officials who oversaw her audit in 2010.

The audit affected her willingness to write on certain topics.

"Although I continued to write on Catholic issues, and continued until today to write about pro-life issues, I was much less likely to criticize the president," Hendershott said.

She told CNA that she had written "highly politicized articles" in the Catholic Advocate and the Wall Street Journal when she was contacted by the Internal Revenue Service in May 2010. She had a face-to-face meeting with IRS officials two months later.

"They only wanted to talk about who was paying me to do my writing," she explained.

Hendershott said that the questions were not explicitly political, but she interpreted them to mean the agency was "wanting to know if there were individuals or groups who wanted me to write to advance their cause."

She said the tax agency did not collect from her any information about the Catholic groups and organizations for which she wrote.

She and her husband had never been audited before in their 39 years of marriage. Though they file jointly, the IRS did not want to talk to her husband.

The professors voiced concern that she had attracted the attention of IRS officials because of her spring 2010 articles that were critical of the president's health care legislation and "the fake Catholic groups who were supporting Obamacare."

Hendershott said she "exposed" the George Soros funding of these groups and the individuals involved, particularly the Democratic-leaning group Catholics United. In addition, she was "very critical" of Catholic Health Association president and CEO Sister Carol Keehan, a strong supporter of the health care legislation.

Her account of an IRS audit comes amid continuing controversy over IRS officials' admissions that the organization had targeted "tea party" groups who applied for tax-exempt status with intrusive questions and burdensome requests.

President Obama on Wednesday said he was accepting the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller in light of these allegations.

"It's inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it and I am angry about it," the president said. "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but particularly the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives."

Miller had previously been set to leave his position in early June for reasons unrelated to the controversy, a source close to Miller told Fox News.

While much media attention has focused on audits of tea party groups, some concerns have also been raised by pro-life groups and those working to defend marriage.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society has said that the Texas group Christian Voices for Life received IRS letters demanding to know whether the group educates "on both sides of the issues" and whether its members try to block those attempting to enter an abortion clinic or try to talk to them. The society's executive director, Peter Breen, said the requests suggest the IRS could be denying or delaying the group's tax exempt status because of its pro-life views.

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The prominent Protestant minister Rev. Franklin Graham has said the IRS selected for auditing two non-profits he heads, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. Graham voiced concern that it was not a "coincidence" that the audit came after the organizations took out ads in support of the North Carolina marriage amendment and others which encouraged voters to choose candidates using "biblical principles."

The National Organization for Marriage has also charged that an IRS employee illegally leaked confidential donor information to its opponents.

Hendershott said she thinks the new focus on possible wrongdoing at the IRS should lessen the worries of those concerned that they might be targeted for audits for their advocacy.

"I think it is safe now," she said. "If you asked me that last month, I would have advised them to use caution."

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