A church stripped of its tax exemption for declaring in 1992 a vote for Bill Clinton equal to "sin" has won a key round in its counterattack against the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman found that the Church at Pierce Creek in Vestal, N.Y., had furnished evidence it has a genuine claim the IRS intentionally discriminated in lifting its tax exemption.
The judge, a Clinton appointee to the U.S. District Court in Washington, said the record suggests the IRS treated this anti-Clinton church group "in a significantly different fashion from the way it has treated other churches and/or religious organizations that have engaged in overt political campaign activity."
He said evidence of discrimination is not strong yet but opened the door to internal IRS documents, witness statements or "other direct evidence of discriminatory intent."
The lawsuit brought by the American Center for Law and Justice said only one other church ever lost tax protection.
ACLJ lawyer Mark N. Troobnick called the order requiring the IRS to turn over documents and data virtually unprecedented.
"It is a landmark because I have never seen an order like that in any IRS case before. The question is why is the IRS doing it to this church?" Mr. Troobnick said.
Four days before the 1992 election, the Church at Pierce Creek, its pastor, the Rev. Dan Little, and Branch Ministries Inc. ran full-page ads headlined "Christian Beware" in The Washington Times and USA Today.
The ads said that while governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton supported homosexuality, abortion on demand, and distribution of condoms to teen-agers in public schools.
"How then can we vote for Bill Clinton? …