American Atheists files suit against IRS


American Atheists and two co-plaintiffs today filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky a lawsuit demanding that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stop giving preferential treatment to churches and religious organizations via the process of receiving non-profit tax-exempt status under the Internal Revue Code (IRC) procedures and definitions.

“American Atheists receives tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3),” said American Atheists President David Silverman, “but because the organization is not classified as religious it costs American Atheists, along with all other secular non-profits, significantly more money each year to keep that status. In this lawsuit, American Atheists and the other plaintiffs are  demanding that all tax-exempt organizations, including those characterized as religious by the IRS, have the same requirements to achieve tax-exempt status.”

For example, 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. 

“Religious organizations and churches are treated differently from secular organizations,” explained American Atheists National Legal Director Edwin Kagin. “The exemptions are applied in a way that discriminates solely on the basis of whether an entity’s members express beliefs and practices accepted as religious. The IRS treats your organization better if you profess belief in a supernatural deity.”

Written By: American Atheists
continue to source article at


  1. The argument will probably boil down to separation of religion and state.  You can hardly be deemed separate if you pay taxes to government.  In the UK we have the perversion of head of state being head of church and they still don’t pay taxes.

  2. Taxation secures representation. As long as the church represents political power, it can not be given that validation… but it would be funny.

    “Tax the churches.”- Frank Zappa

  3. Hi ‘Meme,

    I’m confused.  Taxation secures representation for citizens – not institutions.

    Are you saying that if churches are taxed, they should get the vote?


  4. Hi Vorlund,

    I don’t get it.  Plenty of institutions pay tax (businesses, clubs, professional bodies, universities, etc.) – but they’re not promoted to government departments because of it … ?


  5. I think the key is non-prophet.


    seriously, I think the argument against will be that atheism is NOT a religion,
    therefore it falls under a different criteria. It will be interesting to see
    how this plays out.

  6. I was feeling hopeful by the title, then I read “Eastern District of Kentucky.”

    I think it would be great if someone can look into the claims of the LDS church spending tithes on business ventures. It would be difficult to prove, but I’m starting to believe some of the claims made on the internet.

  7.  I’d like to know why a religion is treated differently to any other non-profit org, As the AA say, religions are exempt from paying tax because they worship a supernatural being. Why should that create a different criterion than for an org that doesn’t worship a supernatural being? Reason and logic should prevail here.

    Sounds very unconstitutional to me!

  8.  Stephen,

    It’s not my argument, but I agree with it. I throw it into the thread because I hadn’t seen it represented yet.

    Not allowing them to pay taxes cuts them off, disallows the entitlement argument from being made. I believe historically this was a tactic to assure the separation of Church and State, not a concession to the Church.

    There are conditions where taxing churches can give them more power, and I believe the US is still in that mess. As the experiment began here, it was very difficult to erect that wall of separation. I don’t think there has ever been a time where theocracy would not result from a popular vote. This was Jefferson’s argument for the Electoral College, the population was too stupid and religious to be trusted with power… thus we only allowed land-owning men to vote, and only technocrats were allowed to pick the president. As soon as we allowed women to vote (not that women are flawed, but it extended the vote to the majority of people) the result was Prohibition… which was disastrous, capricious moralism that scarred the Constitution as the only Amendment to restrict freedom.

    My point being, taking churches out of the tax system is a strange tool for making democracy work for an unenlightened population. It might be more cultural than legislative, helping to normalize the separation. When BushII attempted to funnel tax money into churches (Faith Based Initiatives), he came up against this standard as an obstacle, even amongst traditional Conservatives. If they paid taxes, BushII’s plan would have had a better argument. The perceived entitlement that comes with taxes is a precious inch that I fear granting them…

    … but it would be funny as hell.

    I say Christian churches should pay voluntarily as a matter of doctrinal consistency to ‘render unto Caesar’.

Leave a Reply