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Did Liberty University Violate IRS Rules By Hosting Cruz's 2016 Announcement?

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Author: Zion Moulder
Created: 31 March, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
2 min read

Last week, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his candidacy for President of the United States to over 10,000 students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. His announcement makes him the first of a plethora of possible GOP candidates to do so.

WATCH: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks to Liberty University

Several concerns have arisen regarding the venue by which Cruz decided to make his announcement, and now Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent a complaint to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service claiming Liberty University -- a nonprofit organization -- violated IRS rules by endorsing a political candidate:

"As I'm sure you are aware, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his candidacy for president at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on March 23... The announcement itself was not unusual, but the venue was. Liberty University is a tax-exempt organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. As such, it is difficult to view Liberty's choice to allow Sen. Cruz to hold a campaign rally on campus as anything less than an endorsement of his candidacy, notwthstanding the university president's perfunctory disclaimer to the contrary."

The letter continued:

It would strain credibility should Liberty try to argue it did not know the purpose behind Sen. Cruz's appearance on campus. Just after midnight on March 23, roughly ten hours before his speech, Sen. Cruz announced on social media that he intended to run for president... This effort on behalf of Sen Cruz is very much in keeping with Liberty's long history of improper entanglement with partisan politics. - Americans United for Separation of Church and State

READ MORE: Full Letter from Americans United to IRS

Current IRS rules regarding the political activities of tax-exempt organizations under 501(c)(3) can be found on the agency's website. Nonprofit organizations are permitted to partake in limited political activities such as 'get out the vote' drives as long as they aren't presented in a partisan manner.

According to an article by Americans United, which further argues the point the group made in its letter to the IRS, enforcement of the rule was laxed when it was discovered that the IRS was discriminating against tea party groups.

Neither Sen. Cruz nor Liberty University have made any official statements on the issue; however, that could change depending on whether or not the IRS decides to further look into the matter.

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