Home / News / Is Atheism A Religion? Dept. of Justice Argues Yes. Atheists Say No.
Is Atheism A Religion?  Dept. of Justice Argues Yes.  Atheists Say No.

Is Atheism A Religion? Dept. of Justice Argues Yes. Atheists Say No.

Atheist leaders meet the same IRS criteria of being ministers as other clergy leaders and so should receive the same tax exempt status for housing allowances as ministers, according to a Department of Justice filing for an upcoming hearing.

The Tennessean reports in "Feds grant religion tax break to atheists" that this legal argument came about because of atheist group challenges to a "parsonage exemption" tax law and the fact that "The Internal Revenue services does require, among other things, that a 'minster' be seen as a spiritual leader and provide services for a religious organization. Belief in a deity is not required."

Atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation(FFRF) have opposed the "parsonage exemption" in IRS Section 107 for a number of years, noting that religious leaders are able to qualify for a housing allowance exemption that the non-religious cannot obtain, and which they claim is unfair and should be discontinued. God Discussion recently interviewed FFRF's co-president Dan Barker on the topic, and retired IRS appeals officer Robert Baty joined the discussion.

FFRF requested a parsonage exemption in an effort to bring about a formal challenge to the law. FFRF filed a formal complaint in Wisconsin in September 2011 with the aim of challenging the fairness of the law. The Department of Justice has agreed to hear the atheist leaders' case and in brief requesting a motion to dismiss the suit, argued that atheist leaders are in fact not currently excluded from the parsonage exemption.

Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty seemed interested in the concept, saying that "if atheism is just another religion, that leaves everyone insulted pretty equally, right?" and asked whether instead of doing away with the housing allowance for clergy, which appears unlikely, it should instead be extended to other nonprofit leaders.

About Heather

I have a bachelors of liberal arts in English and political science from the University of New Orleans and a masters degree in public policy from Brandeis University's Heller School. I blog at Becomingworldly.wordpress.com and am a blog partner for No Longer Quivering and for Homeschoolers Anonymous. I am a co-founder of Homeschooling's Invisible Children (hsinvisiblechildren.org). I blog about being raised within a movement now known as Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy and its connection to the Christian homeschooling movement. I advocate to raise awareness child maltreatment stemming from the legal deregulation of homeschooling, which is pushed for largely by Christian Reconstructionist elements within the Christian homeschooling movement. While today I do not subscribe to any particular faith myself, I believe that faith which helps and does not harm should be respected, that people should be able to freely choose their beliefs and non-beliefs for themselves, have equal protection and respect whenever possible, and that open discussion facilitates knowledge and tolerance.
  • extral

    …the spaghetti monster =]

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    Pffft! What a stupid thing to get upset about. I'm more upset that a bunch of people get tax exemptions and tax free status for 'believing in invisible people who have no effect on us physically or spiritually'.. That makes no sense whatsoever and it should be revoked ASAP.

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    Just found this article from this blog: Creation Science Hall of Fame now a (tax free 501(C) charity | God Discussion – http://bit.ly/18PKcTN

    If an absurd 'business' like this can be a 501(C)..Then it's only fair the atheists can be as well.

  • cobalt100

    For a long time, I thought the IRS was a legitimate business. I was wrong. With its 90,000+ hirelings, who make $60-120,000 per year, they are really a crime syndicate stealing money from people under the guise of a tax.

  • Peter

    Of course Atheism is a religion and they even have sacred scripture: The Book of Dawkins, The Book of Hitchens and the Book of Harris. Hard-core are on a Crusade to convert what Al Stefanelli called “the borderline retarded” true believers. They are as rigid in their thinking as the worst Christian Fundamentalist. Soon, they’ll have their own Churches, I suspect. Not for me.

  • Edward Silha

    FFRF did not file a request for a parsonage exemption. The IRS asked the judge to dismiss the suit because the FFRF did not file the request and so had not been rejected. The judge responded: 29th day of August, 2012. – BARBARA B. CRABB District JudgeHowever, there is no plausible argument that plaintiffs could make that they qualify as “ministers of the gospel,” so it would be pointless to require plaintiffs to jump through the hoop of filing a claim to prove that they are not entitled to the exemption.

  • Pingback: Unspirituality: Being Human and the ‘Religion’ of Atheism (Friday, September 6, 2013) | God Discussion Shows | Live talk shows

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