Dr. James Dobson, a well-known Christian author and radio host, has come forward to discuss the disturbing details of his alleged run-in with the Internal Revenue Service.
It all started when he decided to create a 501(c)(4) for his radio ministry, Family Talk. TheBlaze interviewed his son, Ryan Dobson, about the 18-month debacle.
The organization, according to Dobson, submitted its application to the IRS on September 2, 2011.
Despite having what he called a “good attorney” who has been working in the industry for 26 years and who has never had an application denied, the IRS allegedly made the process needlessly difficult — at one point threatening to refuse approval.
Problems began shortly after the application was first submitted.
Dobson said Family Talk didn’t hear back from the government for six months. And when they finally did hear back, the IRS allegedly flooded them with odd questions.
“There were all kinds of questions — ones we’ve never seen before,” Ryan told TheBlaze, adding that the agency asked for their political opinions and for copies of past broadcasts and transcripts.
Despite meeting the IRS’ latter demand, Dobson said they didn’t hear back from the agency for another six months. Finally, the attorney for Family Talk contacted the IRS, asking for additional information.
It wasn’t until March 19 of this year — 18 months after the time-frame of the original application — that the IRS appeared ready to discuss the group’s application.
“We inquired about our status and [the agent] said she was probably going to recommend that our application not be [granted],” Dobson told TheBlaze. “She said we were political and we had criticized President Obama … and she said we did it when he was a candidate.”
Dobson found this particularly odd, as he noted that his father has been in radio for 36 years and has worked under both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) regulations.
“He explicitly understands [IRS law]. He does not cross that line,” Dobson said. “So to accuse us of something like that, it makes your hair curl.”
Equally troubling, Dobson said that the agent told Family Talk that they sounded like a partisan, right-wing group and that, because the organization doesn’t represent all viewpoints, it cannot be considered educational.
The agent, according to Dobson, asked the organization if it would like to revise its application, supposedly to fix the purported issues that were presented. Family Talk declined and threatened to take the IRS to court if the delays continued. Nine days later, the application was apparently approved.
While Dobson said the group isn’t currently planning to take any legal action, its members are speaking out about what unfolded.
“I have to be honest. It’s a very scary time for a nation right now. We’re kind of at a watershed moment,” he told TheBlaze. “We’re just trampling the Constitution. It’s bulling. It’s just a straight bully tactic. … that’s not the country our forefathers foresaw.”
Dobson made an interesting point — that not everyone would have had the means or patience to push back against the IRS. Considering how long it took Family Talk to secure its status, he wonders how many other groups simply gave up in the midst of government push-back.
As for political opinions being sought by the IRS, Dobson was perplexed. Family Talk was interested in addressing policy issues — something that couldn’t be adequately done under their 501(c)(3) status, which is why they were seeking out the 501(c)(4) application.
“What are our political opinions in the implications of what we do as a ministry?” he asked. “Again, those questions have no bearing on a 501(c)(4) application whatsoever.”
He called the questions “inappropriate.” While Dobson declined to quote his attorney directly, he made it clear that the lawyer had never been treated in such a manner in his entire career.
This is not the first faith group to come forward, alleging IRS intimidation. As the situation unfolds, it seems more individuals and organizations are coming forward with similar claims.
Follow Billy Hallowell on Twitter @BillyHallowell
This post has been updated.