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Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?

The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO/Pastors for Peace) has worked tirelessly so that someday U. S. international dealings would be based on peace and mutual respect. Now the Internal Revenue Service is about to remove the tax-exempt status of that non-profit, humanitarian group. In the words of the late Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., who founded the organization, IFCO wants a “people’s foreign policy.”

An IRS appeals officer in September signaled that the agency would be upholding a ruling from December 2013 revoking IFCO’s non-profit, tax-exempt status. IFCO has long stood in the forefront of efforts to establish decent U. S. relations with Cuba. The IRS action seems to stem from IFCO activities in that regard.

Under Rev. Walker’s leadership, IFCO transformed lessons learned from civil rights struggles to fashion tactics of non-violent civil disobedience to advance its work on Cuba. Annually for 23 years IFCO/Pastors for Peace, joined by supporters, has taken humanitarian aid to Cuba in purposeful violation of regulations governing the U. S. embargo against Cuba. Until now, ironically enough, federal authorities have done very little to impede the flow of IFCO aid material and delegations to the island.

The original IRS investigation that began in March 2011 had a very different agenda. Conservative congresspersons had complained to the IRS that IFCO in 2009 served as a fiscal sponsor for the U. S. branch of the British group Viva Palestina that at the time was helping to organize a humanitarian flotilla headed for Gaza. They alleged that IFCO was actually backing the Hamas political organization, and thereby terrorists.

IFCO Executive Director Gail Walker on October 3 reacted sharply to news that the IRS had rejected her organization’s appeal: the “attack by the U.S. government to rescind our nonprofit status is shocking and makes no sense in light of the significant moves of both the Obama and Castro administrations to normalize relations between our two countries.”

In fact IFCO has dedicated much of its work over two decades to ending the U. S. embargo against Cuba. More recently IFCO/Pastors for Peace has recruited and supported U.S. young people to become medical doctors through study, at no personal cost, at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine.

On October 3, an IFCO press release pointed out that the group is “one of the nation’s oldest faith-based civil rights organizations and the first ecumenical foundation founded by and for people of color.” That statement called upon the U. S. government “To stop bullying IFCO for helping the people of Cuba and allow us to continue our life-saving humanitarian work.”

IFCO asks for support and action on its behalf. In particular:

1 FAX or Telephone IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at Large Business and International Division, Attn: SE:LB, 1111 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20224, Phone: (202) 515-4400, Fax: (202) 622-5756

2 FAX or Telephone, Secretary of Treasury Jacob J. Lew, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW , Washington, D.C. 20220, Phone: (202) 622-2000, Fax: (202) 622-6415

(You may write them via regular mail, but FAX is better, says IFCO. A link is available to send a FAX: Use this.)

Click here to sign a petition which sends an email message to Commissioner John Koskinen, asking him to end this politically-motivated attack on IFCO. (and also to Pres. Obama and our friends in Congress — with one click)

More articles by:

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

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