Atheists Refuse Tax Exemption Granted to Clergy
Government lawyers have thrown a curveball at atheists suing over a tax exemption afforded to religious clergy, saying the plaintiffs are entitled to the same break. But the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which brought the lawsuit, says it doesn’t want the exemption—for themselves or for anyone else.
The legal battle involves the parsonage exemption for clergy, which entitles “ministers of the gospel” to claim part of their salary as a tax-free housing allowance.
The FFRF sued to have the exemption thrown out, arguing that it gives religious groups an unfair advantage and, thus, is unconstitutional.
The latest twist in the case came when the government filed a brief saying atheist leaders can be ministers, too, because atheism can function as a religion. That would mean leaders of an atheist organization could qualify for the exemption.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the head of FFRF, said no thanks, and has asked the judge overseeing the case for help to stop the government from granting her the exemption.
“We are not ministers,” Gaylor told USA Today. “We are having to tell the government the obvious: We are not a church.”
To Learn More:
Government Lawyers Advocate For Atheism As A Religion (by Peter J. Reilly, Forbes)
Feds say OK to Atheists on Religion Tax Break (by Bob Smietana, USA Today)
Atheists Sue IRS for Forcing Secular Non-Profits to Fill out more Detailed Forms than Churches (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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