Comments about ‘Atheists lose bid to overturn IRS' religious exemptions’

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Published: Saturday, May 24 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, May 24 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

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majmajor
Layton, UT

So essentially the atheists are saying, "We don't feel good about taking this tax exception so no one else should."

gmlewis
Houston, TX

The IRS code is consistent on this issue, because a "housing exemption" is available for both ministers and our military. I support the exemption for both.

However, I have no problem with Atheist altruistic groups applying for IRS acceptance as ministers. True faith has never been a prerequisite for that designation.

Karen R.
Houston, TX

"A review of case law establishes that the words 'church,' 'religious organization,' and 'minister,' do not necessarily require a theistic or deity-centered meaning" in order to qualify for IRS designation as a tax-exempt religious organization."

This is interesting. If it's an accurate interpretation, the law makes these words meaningless. Which kind of proves the point, doesn't it? Why should one type of non-profit be exempt from certain laws and reporting requirements if it is indeed no different than the others?

Hutterite
American Fork, UT

Karen R is right. If the scam is this easy to maintain, the church of beyonce won't be the last of it's kind. But if we give this to one outfit, we have to give it to all.

1aggie
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

All non-profits should be subject to the same laws and reporting requirements; it is common sense and only a matter of time...

Meckofahess
Salt Lake City, UT

Just another attack on Religion in an attempt to overturn time honored rules that favor traditional American values and our religious heritage and the sound reasoning they are based on. Thank goodness good judgment prevailed and this anti-religious atheist group failed to achieve any standing in the eyes of the court. It is the in-thing now for all these various groups to challenge time honored principles and practices based on religious faith that have served us so well in this country. What a sad and dangerous time we live in. We may yet see anarchy occur in this country if good judgment and heritage fall by the way side.

ArizonaMormon
Mesa, AZ

@Karen R.

There are churches who don't profess or require members to profess a belief in deity. Unitarian Universalism, for example. While their historical roots lie in Christianity, today they welcome atheists, deists, agnostics, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, you name it. They are a tax-exempt organization, and rightfully so.

It's worth noting that American Atheists are also tax-exempt. And again, rightfully so.

I'm not familiar with all the legal intricacies involved in deciding who get tax-exempt status and who doesn't. I would say that, in general (I'm sure there could be exceptions) tax-exempt status should go to organizations whose primary purpose is not to make a profit and whose existence is mission driven, i.e. organizations that seek to promote a worldview or understanding that they see as conducive to the greater good. Given the pluralistic nature of our society, it's a given that various tax-exempt organizations will espouse views that oppose or contradict those of other tax-exempt groups. And that's OK.

rezun
Charlotte, NC

someone not worth naming said "So essentially the atheists are saying, 'We don't feel good about taking this tax exception so no one else should.'"

I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume this person is religious. A daring guess, I know. Now, I wonder if this person would feel good about having to assert--legally--that they deny the existence of a deity in order to obtain a tax benefit. Would they do it? Or would they feel excluded?

Oh wait, I know, this isn't about a deity after all. My goodness, I need a whole new dictionary.

Pops
NORTH SALT LAKE, UT

Not believing in God requires faith, especially if one understands the statistical probability of random mutations creating life as we know it. And that's just the biological part, never mind the much larger mystery of self consciousness. I've always held that atheism is a religion, and it looks like the judgment in this case might agree.

Karen R.
Houston, TX

@ ArizonaMormon

From the American Atheist website:

"In order to qualify for nonprofit tax-exempt status, any religious or secular organization must demonstrate it exists to benefit the public. After that basic element is established, religious non-profits are almost always declared automatically tax-exempt under the current IRC rules and definitions. However, secular non-profits face a lengthy application and a fee, which can be as high as $850.

"...The lawsuit also covers discrepancies in how secular and religious organizations are treated in maintaining their tax-exempt statuses. Secular nonprofits complete Form 990 annually, which details information about finances, donors, volunteers, and personnel; the IRS estimates it requires 211 hours to complete the Form 990, which is then public information. Religious nonprofits are exempted from filing the Form 990, so there is no public record about their finances, donors, volunteers, or personnel."

Sound fair to you?

@ Meckofahess

This is a challenge to religious privilege. As I've mentioned to you before, equality is a tradition in this country too.

Stormwalker
Cleveland , OH

Part of the problem, I think, is that religious organizations get special treatment.

Start a tax exempt organization to feed orphans and all your financials have to be available for public review. Start a church and you can keep most all of that secret.

Why?

sukiyhtaky
us, CA

When a church starts operating 'for profit' endeavors, it is time for that tax exempt status to be rescinded. That is unless they can show that the entire funds go to doing what Jesus would have them do...take care of the sick and poor. The only way to do this fairly is to have complete transparency so as to see what comes in and what goes out. It is the only fair and honorable thing to do. Now I'm sure some churches and non-profs will scream and holler, but when they do you have to ask yourself...what do they fear? As for the atheists, they need to get over the religion envy and concentrate on making sure their house is straight and they are concentrating their efforts on helping others.

higv
Dietrich, ID

I think the for profit businesses operated by churches pay required taxes. Even thrift stores I think pay sales taxes too. Money producing units pay taxes. Can get tax break for donations though.

Danny Chipman
Lehi, UT

sukiyhtaky and others of a like mind,

If a church's earnings from for-profit ventures are saved up so that it can continue to provide aid to the suffering during a disaster or other proverbial "rainy day", would you still support their keeping tax-exempt status, even though it is not immediately transparent that they are using the money to help others?

RLBaty
Fort Collins, CO

The article is a little outdated!

The FFRF case has been appealed and the Justice Department has filed its appeal brief with hundreds of religious organizations joining as amici to try and defeat Judge Crabb's ruling.

The FFRF brief is due later this week and FFRF amici should follow shortly thereafter.

I think Judge Bertlesman was very careful not to say anything to jeopardize Judge Crabb's ruling on the merits of IRC 107. He was able to deny American Atheists relief because they chose a poor litigating strategy and could not, as the case was framed, obtain "standing".

May the 7th Circuit rule quickly to sustain Judge Crabb's ruling and then it's on to the U.S. Supreme Court. Every candidate this year should be compelled to speak to their vision as to the future of IRC 107 that allows income tax free income ONLY to "ministers" (i.e., million dollar preachers and basketball ministers).

Congress and the President, if they would do their job, could simply repeal IRC 107.

greatbam22
andrews afb, MD

Karen R.

"This is interesting. If it's an accurate interpretation, the law makes these words meaningless.
Why should one type of non-profit be exempt from certain laws and reporting requirements if it is indeed no different than the others?"

So you aren't sure if it is an accurate interpretation but you are going to extrapolate on it anyways.

Ooook...I guess that is one way to do it.

UT Brit
London, England

Pops

Might not want to talk odds when speaking about the creation of life. There are 300 billion stars in our galaxy alone.

gmlewis
Houston, TX

@sukiyhtaky - Taking care of the sick and the poor wasn't the only thing Jesus Christ did. He also paid for Adam's transgression and suffered for all the sins of the whole world, providing salvation to everyone who accepts His gospel. The duty of His church is to invite all who have lived, are living, or ever will live to come unto Christ by having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

The Lord's church is much more than a soup line for the destitute, although that is consistent with His message of mercy, too.

scwoz
gambier, oh

It will make a great test to see if churches disappear and which ones will stay healthy if the exemption were to be removed. Remember, a tithing is God's money and not the IRS's so a believer should continue to pay even though they receive no exemption. I can't wait to see it happen because this will get rid of many of these money making churches whose sole purpose is to make money on the backs of its members and a false claim to God' grace.

Jamescmeyer
Midwest City, USA, OK

"The atheist groups say it would violate their conscience to apply for religious exemptions..."

Saving a few thousand dollars by frauding themselves would violate their conscience, but impeding billions of dollars of charity and aid by frauding the nation wouldn't? Hmm...

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