Atheists Refuse Tax Exemption Granted to Clergy

Friday, August 23, 2013

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.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


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)


John the Ex-Baptist 6 years ago
Just a week or so ago Congress denied the Armed Forces the right to have atheist chaplains. The rationale behind the denial was that atheists can't have chaplains because ATHEISM ISN'T A RELIGION. Now this week the IRS is granting an atheist organization tax exempt status because they feel atheism IS a religion. Absolute buffoonery!
ufo42 6 years ago
Even if the FFRF were to be bought off by accepting a housing allowance (which they are obviously too honest to accept), it would not come close to fixing the problem of the billions of dollars in lost tax revenue supporting the mansions and estates of megapreachers and their relative and friends all of whom are deemed to be preachers even though most never preach in public. It is past time that the USA gets back to the position of Ben Franklin, one of the key players in the establishment of the USA, who said ( ) that if churches need government subsidies to stay in business, maybe they are praying to the wrong god. Every other non-profit needs to fill out detailed proof every year that they are, indeed using their donations for charitable work in order to retain the right to issue tax receipts to donors so that their donations can be tax deductible. Only churches can get away with using 99% of their donations to enrich their already obscenely wealthy leaders while using the remaining 1% for the "charitable" activity of preaching about how important it is to give the preachers more money. At the same time, it is ridiculously easy for any group of con-men to become a recognized church. This has been starving worthwhile government programs of much needed tax revenues for over 100 years. It is past time to put an end to this travesty of justice! If there are churches who are really doing enough worthwhile charitable work (not just spreading the usual pile of biblical lies), let them prove it just like any other non-profit must do. Any organization, whether it calls itself a church or not, which can't do that, should not have any tax breaks not available to an ordinary citizen.

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