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IRS's Lerner Had History of Harassment, Inappropriate Religious Inquiries at FEC

Targeted Christian Coalition.

4:45 PM, May 20, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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FEC attorneys continued their intrusion into religious activities by prying into what occurs at Coalition staff prayer meetings, and even who attends the prayer meetings held at the Coalition. This line of questioning was pursued several times. Deponents were also asked to explain what the positions of “intercessory prayer” and “prayer warrior” entailed, what churches specific people belonged, and the church and its location at which a deponent met Dr. Reed.

One of the most shocking and startling examples of this irrelevant and intrusive questioning by F EC attorneys into private political associations of citizens occurred during the administrative depositions of three pastors from South Carolina. Each pastor, only one of whom had only the slightest connection with the Coalition, was asked not only about their federal, state and local political activities, including party affiliations, but about political activities that, as one FEC attorney described as “personal,” and outside of the jurisdiction of the FECA [Federal Election Campaign Act]. They were also continually asked about the associations and activities of the members of their congregations, and even other pastors.

If that all sounds like it could simply be Bopp's jaundiced characterization of the FEC's inquiries, Bopp's testimony includes this transcript of the FEC's deposition of Lt. Col. Oliver North. An attorney for the FEC asks North about prayers between him and the Christian Coalition's Pat Robertson. Bopp and other attorneys are present for the questions, which leads to this testy exchange. The letter Q denotes the FEC's lawyer, the letter A denotes North's responses, and the letter O is used to represent attorneys representing North and the Christian Coalition:

Q: (reading from a letter from Oliver North to Pat Robertson) “‘Betsy and I thank you for your kind regards and prayers.’ The next paragraph is, ‘Please give our love to Dede and I hope to see you in the near future.’ Who is Dede?”

A: “That is Mrs. Robertson.”

Q: “What did you mean in paragraph 2, about thanking -you and your wife thanking Pat Robertson for kind regards?”

A: “Last time I checked in America, prayers were still legal. I am sure that Pat had said he was praying for my family and me in some correspondence or phone call.”

Q: “Would that be something that Pat Robertson was doing for you?”

A: “I hope a lot of people were praying for me, Holly.”

Q: “But you knew that Pat Robertson was?”

A: “Well, apparently at that time I was reflecting something that Pat had either, as I said, had told me or conveyed to me in some fashion, and it is my habit to thank people for things like that.”

Q: “During the time that you knew Pat Robertson, was it your impression that he had - he was praying for you?”

O: “I object. There is no allegation that praying creates a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act and there is no such allegation in the complaint. This is completely irrelevant and intrusive on the religious beliefs of this witness.”

O: “It is a very strange line of questioning. You have got to be kidding, really. What are you thinking of, to ask questions like that? I mean, really. I have been to some strange depositions, but I don't think I have ever had anybody inquire into somebody’s prayers. I think that is really just outrageous. And if you want to ask some questions regarding political activities, please do and then we can get over this very quickly. But if you want to ask abou somebody’s religious activities, that is outrageous.”

Q: “I am allowed to make-’’

O: “We are allowed not to answer and if you think the Commission is going to permit you to go forward with a question about somebody’s prayers, I just don't believe that. I just don't for a moment believe that. I find that the most outrageous line of questioning. I am going to instruct my witness not to answer.”

Q: “On what grounds?”

O: “We are not going to let you inquire about people’s religious beliefs or activities, period. If you want to ask about someone’s prayers-Jeez, I don't know what we are thinking of. But the answer is, no, people are not going to respond to questions about people’s prayers, no.”

Q: “Will you take that, at the first break, take it up- we will do whatever we have to do.”

O: “You do whatever you think you have to do to get them to answer questions about what people are praying about.”

Q: “I did not ask Mr. North what people were praying about I am allowed to inquire about the relationship between-’’

O: “Absolutely, but you have asked the question repeatedly. If you move on to a question other than about prayer, be my guest."

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