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Atheists Take IRS To Court Over Preferential Treatment Given To Religious Organizations

by David Badash on November 26, 2013

in News,Politics,Religion

Post image for Atheists Take IRS To Court Over Preferential Treatment Given To Religious Organizations

American Atheists and other secular groups are taking the IRS to court over what they say is the preferential treatment the tax-collection agency gives to religious organizations.

Studies show that Americans subsidize religious organizations to the tune of an estimated $71 billion annually, in the form of tax-exemptions.

“This is about equality,” American Atheists President David Silverman said in a statement. “This is about the U.S. government holding everyone to the same standard and giving the same rights to all. No exceptions. We are seeing religions getting preferential treatment by our government, a government that is supposed to serve us and respect us all as equals, and that’s wrong. It’s not what this country is about and it’s unpatriotic.”

Dave Muscato, a spokesman for American Atheists, told Newsweek“We find it discriminatory, so we’re suing. The way that this is set up, we all pay for it. We’re all supporting churches for what they do.”

In court filings, the advocacy group argues that a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that “neither the federal government nor state governments can ‘constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God, as against those religions founded on different beliefs’” supports their claims. American Atheists is also arguing that church-only tax breaks, such as the “parsonage exemption,” which lets clergy members write off housing expenses from their taxable income, aren’t constitutionally kosher, since “non-religious entities may not take any deductions for the housing or living expenses of their employees or volunteers.”

Because religious organizations are automatically granted a tax-exempt status and are not required to file forms that non-religious organizations must, American Atheists claim secular groups are unfairly burdened, while religious organizations have a fundraising advantage that includes not having to reveal their donors.

Oral arguments began last week.

The same American Atheists organization has just began a billboard campaign denouncing so-called aid from religious organizations that includes spending money on prayer and bibles for victims of natural disasters, including Super Typhoon Haiyan.

In related news, as The New Civil Rights Movement reported last week, a federal district court judge has declared “unconstitutional” a portion of U.S. law that allows “a minister of the gospel” to not pay income tax on a specific portion of their compensation. That  tax exemption was estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers $2.3 billion from 2002-2007 alone, likely more in the years since.


Image by Joshua Doubek via Wikipedia

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Bronxboy47 November 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Long overdue.

Tommeh1737 November 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm


MiddleGrounds November 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm

It's about time! I should look into this Atheist group. They're sounding more and more sane by the day. Although I have a feeling that they would also go to extremes if given to much power.

attilatheblond November 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Am curious as to what 'extremes' you feel the Atheist group would go to "if given to[o] much power."

labman57 November 26, 2013 at 9:05 pm

The federal government should never have granted tax-exempt status to — and it should have long ago rescinded said status for — religious congregations and organizations that use their congregants' money to lobby for or against public policies or legislative proposals, as well as those that use the pulpit as a means to proselytize a specific political agenda.

smjaeger November 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

As far as I'm concerned the use of tax exemptions to organizations should go only to those of the public good, Any organization that is a 'church' should be required to follow allllllllll of the laws including non-discrimination statues to keep the tax exempt status. If they want to be allowed to not follow all the laws then they are not rendering unto Caesar and shouldn't be exempt. If an organization raises money or tells anyone the preferred voting, or threatens to ex-communicate members for having contrary social beliefs (pro-choice, pro-gay) especially when those beliefs are part of the law of the land, they cannot be exempt from paying taxes, AND not exempt from posting ALL Donations on a document (paper or website). Only if such churches follow all the laws of the land should they be able to apply for tax exempt status like the charities, museums etc can. This garbage of ignoring law and wanting exemptions should STOP NOW.

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