The IRS loves churches.
How do I apperceive this? On Pulpit Freedom Sunday aback in October, added than 1,500 churches aboveboard defied the law and accustomed a applicant for President. The IRS sat aback and did annihilation about it. Why? Bureaucracy. There was no one in the appointment who had the ascendancy to admit the audits, they said. It didn’t complete like they were in a blitz to acquisition addition to ample that position, either.
Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the IRS over this. They said that Douglas Shulman, the IRS Commissioner, was actionable the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by not accomplishing his job and administration the “you can’t endorse a applicant from the pulpit” rule. (They additionally said Shulman abandoned their Equal Protection rights.)
The best tax-exemption that churches and added religious organizations obtain, admitting contravention with backroom restrictions, amounts to added than $100,000,000,000 annually in tax-free contributions fabricated to churches and religious organizations in the United States.
In added words, if churches are demography in so abundant money, tax-free, they should not be accustomed to breach the law and endorse political candidates. It was the IRS’ job to accomplish abiding that happened, and alike back the churches boastful their violations of the law, the IRS affected like annihilation was happening.
We’re still cat-and-mouse to see how that accusation plays out.
Tonight, American Atheists appear that they, too, are suing the IRS, but for a altered reason: They say Shulman is giving best analysis to churches and religious organizations (PDF):
[American Atheists, Atheists of Northern Indiana, and Agnostic Archives of Kentucky] seek an admonition and declaratory abatement to stop Defendant in his accommodation as Commissioner of the [IRS], and appropriately the IRS, from giving best analysis to religious organizations and churches beneath I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) in abuse of Plaintiffs’ rights to the Equal Protection of the Laws appropriate by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the Religious Test Clause of Article VI, § 3 of the Constitution to the United States of America.
Ok… let’s put this accusation in English (courtesy of a algebraic abecedary who has no acknowledged training but claims to apperceive how to read):
Religious groups (including churches) are tax-exempt, aloof like non-profit groups. Usually, groups that are tax-exempt accept to abide an appliance to accept that account (Form 1023) or pay a ample fee ($850). Religious groups don’t accept to do that.
Furthermore, churches don’t accept to acquaint the IRS what they do with the money they booty in. So are they accomplishing things that absolutely account the accessible and, thus, accreditation a tax-exemption? Who knows. Added non-profit groups, on the added hand, accept to book that paperwork meticulously.
Churches additionally get added appropriate allowances the blow of us don’t: Pastors, for example, can abstract the amount of mortgage payments and homeowners allowance from their taxable income. Churches don’t accept to abstain assets tax from salaries paid to pastors. There’s no absolute to the admeasurement of these deductions, either. Considering how abounding pastors there are who alive in multi-million dollar mansions, it’s appealing accessible a lot of churches booty advantage of this rule.
American Atheists has apprenticed the IRS to allocate them as a religious accumulation so they can get admission to those aforementioned benefits, but the IRS has said no anniversary time.
That, AA claims, is discrimination:
… American Atheists was affected to abide amount to administer for 501(c)(3) tax absolved cachet that churches and best religious organizations are not affected to undergo.
… American Atheists is affected to expend time and money authoritative authentic anniversary filings with the IRS anniversary year or accident accident tax-exempt cachet or actuality accountable to added sanctions for non-compliance. Best religious organizations and churches are not.
It would breach the aboveboard captivated acceptance arrangement of American Atheists to seek allocation as a “religious alignment or church” from the IRS. It, therefore, files its advisory acknowledgment anniversary year while constant abominable treatment.
Thus, American Atheists is affected anniversary year to acknowledge advice about its employees, volunteers, and donors — associates of the best hated boyhood in America today that is subjected to abundant ageism and bigotry — admitting churches and abounding religious organizations charge not accomplish such disclosures.
Overall, AA argues, the IRS gives arbitrary best analysis to religious groups and discriminates adjoin atheists.
It prevents AA from accepting donations beyond than $5,000 because they would again accept to acknowledge the donors’ names, article churches don’t accept to do. This gives churches a “fundraising advantage.”
The filing fees to absorb 501(c)(3) cachet are big-ticket — article churches don’t accept to pay but agnostic groups must.
Atheist groups accept to pay their agents added money back they can’t abstract annihilation for apartment costs like churches can.
AA is allurement the Court to aphorism that all tax codes alleviative churches abnormally from added non-profit groups are unconstitutional.
Do they accept any adventitious of winning? Dave Silverman and AA’s Acknowledged Director Edwin Kagin are action on it:
“American Atheists receives tax-exempt cachet beneath Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3),” said American Atheists President David Silverman, “but because the alignment is not classified as religious it costs American Atheists, forth with all added civil non-profits, decidedly added money anniversary year to accumulate that status. In this lawsuit, American Atheists and the added plaintiffs are ambitious that all tax-exempt organizations, including those characterized as religious by the IRS, accept the aforementioned requirements to accomplish tax-exempt status.”
“Religious organizations and churches are advised abnormally from civil organizations,” explained American Atheists National Acknowledged Director Edwin Kagin. “The exemptions are activated in a way that discriminates alone on the base of whether an entity’s associates accurate behavior and practices accustomed as religious. The IRS treats your alignment bigger if you acknowledge acceptance in a abnormal deity.”
For what it’s worth, these kinds of lawsuits don’t consistently go actual far, but the altercation makes sense. It’s a lot easier for religious groups to operate, beneath our accepted laws, than agnostic ones. If the government is giving alternative to religious groups over non-religious groups, for any reason, there’s a problem.
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