Photo Credit: Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Federal court Orders IRS to respond to legal complaint of political discrimination, May 27, 2014.

After nearly four years of litigation, a U.S. federal district court judge instructed the Internal Revenue Service to cease “struggl[ing mightly]” to thwart a lawsuit filed by the pro-Israel organization Z STREET. That lawsuit alleges the IRS violated Z STREET’s First Amendment Constitutional rights. The judge ordered the IRS to file a substantive answer to Z STREET’s Complaint within 30 days.

Z STREET* sought tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization engaged in educating the public about Israel and the Middle East conflict. The organization filed its application in December of 2009.


On July 19, 2010, when counsel for Z STREET spoke with the IRS agent to whom the organization’s application had been assigned, that agent said that a determination on Z STREET’s application may be further delayed because the IRS gave “special scrutiny” to organizations connected to Israel and especially to those whose views “contradict those of the administration’s.”

That statement by the IRS agent, according to the Z STREET board, constituted a clear violation of the Constitution. The government may not treat an organization or person differently because of that person or organization’s political viewpoint. Such action by a government entity constitutes what is known as “viewpoint discrimination.”

Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS alleging that its Constitutional rights had been violated. That lawsuit, Z STREET v. Schulman, IRS Commissioner (now Koskinen) has finally obtained its first substantive ruling.

Several years after Z STREET challenged the IRS in court, several tea party and other conservative groups also claimed the IRS had discriminated against them on the basis of their political viewpoint. On May 10 of last year, the floodgates of criticism burst open when then Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had engaged in certain activity that disadvantaged conservative groups. Lerner referred to that activity at the time as “absolutely inappropriate.”

The ruling in the Z STREET case by Judge Ketanje Brown Jackson on Tuesday, May 27, is the first substantive ruling by a judge in any action brought challenging the political impartiality of the IRS under the current administration.

Judge Jackson summarily rejected the three grounds raised by the government in its effort to thwart Z STREET’s day in court. The first two she rejected because she refused to accept the IRS position that Z STREET was simply complaining about the fact that its application had not been granted.

Defendant struggles mightily to transform a lawsuit that clearly challenges the constitutionality of the process that the IRS allegedly employs when it determines the tax exempt status of certain organizations into a dispute over tax liability as a means of attempting to thwart this action’s advancement.

The judge rejected the third defense – one of sovereign immunity – raised by the IRS by pointing out that the government may not claim it is immune from claims that it is acting unconstitutionally. Indeed, that is the basis for the Bill of Rights.

The IRS must file a substantive response to Z STREET’s Complaint by June 26, 2014.

Since the time the lawsuit was filed, IRS documents were released by a U.S. congressman which essentially confirm Z STREET’s claims and suggest that the IRS agents filed documents with the court that were not truthful.

*The author of this article is the president of Z STREET.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. the obama administration is willing to do anything, legal or not, to advance its agenda. it is also willing to do anything it can to prevent anybody that doesn’t agree with them from having a public hearing.

  2. You may consider this..will these teachings be bifoted toward Muslims? There are many Muslims who live in the USA as well. And I already know that there is a true hatred between Jews and Muslims. But would you want a non profit teaching a one sided Muslim view on this ?

  3. Do you believe all Muslims are terrorists? I live in a neighborhood where a Muslim man owns a store. We had a very bad storm and no electricity. I went to buy ice and his store had no lights nor his register worked. But this gentle man was handing out ice free to all the neighbors. Should you hate him for being a Muslim? of course the bigotry of our president which is black has always been called a Muslim as a condemning factor to his character. If he were Jewish would he then be accepted? And of course republican..he isnt bombing anyone. He acfually was the one who secretly caught and killed Bin Laden. Then dumped his body in the ocean. But what if he really is a Muslum? Do we hate him because of his faith? Even though he has no part in extremist? What do you say? Is it just as wrong to hate a Muslim as someone who hates Jews? Or me a Catholic ? Or is it only wrong to live in a country made up of all kinds of religious beliefs and athiests to hate the anti semic people? And ok to hate others religions.

  4. Congratulations – finally a decent judge and a proper opinion. Let’s hope for the right conclusion.

    Donna, re-read the article. Nothing about Muslims is mentioned. The same status as the many Islamic organizations that got the okay for this designation is all that is being sought. Incidentally, it is the teaching and preaching against the Judeo-Christian – Western and American values that Islam teaches that should have prevented CAIR and the others from getting this tax bracket. Sharia law should not be underwritten by the US.

  5. I humbly pray for the success of this suit and that Lois Lerner, and all those who are as guilty as she, suffer major consequences in infringing upon our Constitution.

  6. The IRS is no better than the tax collectors in an oppressed regime. The income tax and all of its exemptions need to go, to be replaced by a national sales tax. Those who spend the most, pay the most.

  7. Gil, do you pay your taxes or are you one of those extremists who carries guns and refuses to abide by American laws? No one I know has ever said…whoopie its time for me to pay taxes..

  8. Sharia law has no place and should never be inflected in American soil. But people have sued companies that have not let them dress in their religious attire at work or be able to skip a job if it is a holy dayfor them?

  9. Lucky that everyone has their day in court. Justice ought to prevail though not always mercy. Mercy is a gift that sometimes is even provided to the guilty.

  10. Personally, I fear that our freedom and laws will get grow much unwanted people with bad intentions toward us, as a weed grows around a beautiful rose only to kill it in rhe end.

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