(CNSNews.com) – The government has “forgotten its place,” Becky Gerritson, president of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, told the House Ways and Means Committee at a hearing on Tuesday on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups.
“I am a born-free American woman – wife, mother, and citizen – and I’m telling my government that you have forgotten your place,” Gerritson said. “It is not your responsibility to look out for my well-being or to monitor my speech.”
Gerritson, who was applauded by the audience at the conclusion of her speech, said it was Congress’ responsibility to “preserve American liberty.”
“The posts you occupy exist to preserve American liberty,” Gerritson said. “You have sworn to perform that duty.”
“And you have faltered,” Gerritson said. “The abuses I will discuss today occurred on you watch.”
“It is your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Gerritson said.
Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the committee, said the witnesses at the hearing represent citizens who were targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs.
“And who are these Americans?” Camp said. “While their life stories are different, what they all share in common is that they are Americans who did what we asked people to do every day: add their voice to the dialogue that defines our country.
“And for pursuing that passion, for simply exercising their First Amendment rights – the freedoms of association, expression and religion -- the IRS singled them out,” Camp said.
Ranking member Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) called the IRS’s actions “malfeasance.”
“You are owed an apology,” Levin said.
The other witnesses who testified about their treatment by the IRS in seeking 501(c)4 and 501c3 tax status were Kevin Kookogey, president and founder of Linchpins of Liberty, An American Leadership Development Enterprise; Diane Belsom, president of the Laurens County Tea Party; John Eastman, chairman of the Board, National Organization for Marriage, and Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley Tea Party; and Susan Martinek of the Coalition for Life of Iowa.