Atheist Group Sues to Stop Special Tax-Exempt Consideration for Churches

By:  Dave Bohon
01/04/2013
       
Atheist Group Sues to Stop Special Tax-Exempt Consideration for Churches

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the atheist group that has carved out a niche in the legal game by suing school districts and municipalities for supposedly violating the First Amendment, has turned its harassment on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for giving churches and religious organizations “preferential treatment” in filing for and maintaining their tax-exempt privileges.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the atheist group that has carved out a niche in the legal game by suing school districts and municipalities for supposedly violating the First Amendment, has turned its harassment on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for giving churches and religious organizations “preferential treatment” in filing for and maintaining their tax-exempt privileges.

On December 27 the atheist club, which claims to have some 19,000 “nonreligious” members nationwide, filed suit in a western Wisconsin U.S. District Court, complaining that while the IRS requires non-church tax-exempt groups like itself to file “detailed, intrusive, and expensive annual reports to maintain tax-exempt status … such reports are not required for churches and certain other affiliated religious organizations.”

An aggrieved FFRF spokeswoman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, wondered: “Why should churches be exempt from basic financial reporting requirements? Equally important, why would churches not wish to be accountable?” Gaylor argued that being granted tax-exempt status from the IRS “is a great privilege, and in exchange for that privilege, all other groups must file a detailed report annually to the IRS and the public on how we spend donations.” Her assumption was that churches should enthusiastically do the same.”

The IRS' Form 990 for non-profits requires a detailed accounting of a group's revenue and expenses, including an explanation of how much is spent on programs, administration, and fundraising. In its lawsuit the FFRF complains that the IRS gives “preferential treatment” to churches while discriminating against groups like the FFRF “solely on the basis of religious criteria.” The atheist attack group asserts that this “results in obligations imposed on secular non-profits, including the plaintiffs, that are not imposed on churches.”

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