Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content at the RNS Archives website.

(RNS) "We are not a church," atheists say. Government lawyers disagree, saying atheist leaders can be considered ministers.

29 Comments

    • This is another Republican dirty trick, trying to save face. Non-theists recently requested to have a representative to function as a chaplain in one or both Houses of our Congress. They were denied. Now some group of deceitful Republicans is at work urging a governmental department to give a tax break to a genuine non-profit that hasn’t asked for one, doesn’t want one, and won’t accept one. This is just another Republican political trick to take attention away from the farcical action under Congressman Daryl Issa’s false claims of IRS “scandals” for investigating or refusing tax breaks to political groups that have distorted the original wording and intent of IRS law referring to groups that were to be “exclusively” non-profit and changing it to “primarily” non-profit. They were in no way non-profit at all, only “exclusively” political.

  1. Kudos to the groundbreakers of FFRF! Christians have too long had advantages that other groups have not had, including tax breaks, and that is wrong. Our founding fathers knew the dangers of theocracy, and that’s why they deliberately did not make this a Christian nation. Christians aren’t being discriminated against when they’re merely expected to be treated equally. Special treatment is not fair or constitutional.

    • More than not making ours a Christian nation, those wise Founders and Framers specified that there should be “no establishment of religion,” any religion. When government funds are used to support any religion or religion-sponsored activities, even Bush II’s and Obama’s “faith-based” violations, that is “establishment” and unconstitutional. History has shown that even those religions the provide humanitarian services out of concern for their fellows, do so to attract followers and, in many cases, proselytize in all sorts of clever ways and make fellowship a requirement for receiving their service.

      Consider the lesbian social worker who was fired several years ago from a Baptist children’s home in Kentucky–the same home in which my grandmother was placed in 1875–simply because she was homosexual–a grave sin in many Baptist circles. A federal judge just recently declared that action unconstitutional. Thank goodness someone is being constitutionally honest and making sense.

      But why should these things depend on individual interpretations? Why can’t conditions, situations, individuals be more secure? The history of this nation has been littered with flagrant violations of many constitutional protections like non-establishment, exaggerations to bear arms and form “well regulated militias,” and distorted invasions of our privacy. Our history is littered with violations of our Constitution.

      We have never really been a democracy, and we are fast following the path of every previous great power into extinction because we do not live by justice, we do not live by our own Constitution. And how can we brag about the original that protected slavery and prevented women from voting?

  2. Atheism IS a religion. A highly negative religion, but still a religion. So if Obama and Holder want to give you folks a tax break, you might as well accept it!

    • Atheism is not a religion, it is an awareness that humans commonly invent fictional characters, including gods. God is the name of organized crime’s most lucrative confidence scam.

    • Atheism is a world view and a way to look at data- certainly not a religion. Bald is not a hair style. The government should crack down on many of these “not for profit” businesses including churches. Both sides use tax free status for political activity.

      • Lobbying against a sport has none of the characteristics of following a sport, just as lobbying against religion has none of the characteristics of following a religion. Advocating that people should not follow a religion does not make me a preacher any more than advocating people not follow football would make me an athlete/coach.

  3. I don’t understand her claim of “unfair advantage”. Is there a game with a score that she’s worried about them getting ahead in? Advantage against what? How does this really affect her? Most ministers (guys like the Saddleback minister aside) make very, very little money and their housing allowance really is part of their “salary”. Not sure why she’s so upset over that.

  4. As a spouse of a Minister who lives in a manse, I can affirm that the ‘Housing Allowance’ is FICA tax free, but not SECA tax free.

    We have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes under SECA on the ‘allowance’ even though we don’t receive any money as we live in church supplied housing.

    As far as it being ‘unfair’ … well, you show me a job where someone who has a Master’s or Doctorate degree and still makes less than 40K a year.

    We’re lucky, my wife is ‘second career’ and didn’t have to worry about paying off college loans, we’re also childless, so we don’t have to worry about costs for raising a family.

    Many young ministers have to pay on loans, and raise a young family. They usually serve a congregation of anywhere from 50 to 150, and their annual salary is closer to blue-collar ($27,000 a year) than one that reflects the Master’s degree they may have. A tax-free housing allowance helps out with providing a roof over the family’s head, and not much else. These people become ministers not with dreams of being a mega-church pastor, but because they are called to the ministry.

    They often can’t afford to buy a house, so they rent. There’s goes any mortgage related exemption, they may not have enough medical bills to deduct, so no qualification of any other exemption at the 2% AGI level.

    Most often, the only income tax break they get is the Housing Allowance exemption, and as I mentioned, that’s only a partial exemption from FICA. As self employed, unless they get a (FICA taxable) SS allowance from their church, they pay a full 12.4% Social Security tax, and 2.9% Medicare tax on the Housing Allowance. (Unless they’ve opted out of Social Security, which fewer and fewer are.)

    And there are no exemptions from paying that 15.3% tax. In our case, we’re paying that on 10.4K, which comes out to an additional $1590 or so a year in taxes.

    • What in there is different than the average blue collar or new public school teacher? Everyone struggles, but the various exemptions clergy and churches receive are not justified anywhere in your post.

      • Here’s the deal: clergy are treated as “self-employed” when they manifestly aren’t. This legal fiction is necessary in order to avoid taxing the churches they serve, since “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” So clergy are treated with regard to Social Security in a way that no other taxpayers are–unlike the self-employed, who choose to be such, clergy are forced to accept a tax status that more than doubles their Social Security tax bill (because the assessment for it also includes the fair rental value of their house, which no other employee has to do). The housing allowance is essentially a way of balancing the scales while still maintaining the tax-exempt status of churches.

    • There are MANY social workers who have Masters degrees making well less than 40K a year.

      And if that isn’t answer enough – maybe you should have chosen a different career, really.

  5. Fr. John Morris

    All these people are really interested is in carrying out their persecution of religious people. They do not really care about fairness. The members of my parish have already paid taxes on every penny that I get as a priest. My megar housing allowance does not even cover the cost of my housing. Since the feds have offered this woman a clergy housing allowance as an atheist minister, she has no grounds for complaint. Her effort is merely a part of the war against religion being waged by a group of hate filled anti-religious fanatics. Thy do not realize it, but they do worship a god, themselves.That they even gain an hearing shows how dysfunctional our society has become. A functional society would ignore them and let them live their self-centered lives without bothering anyone.

  1. […] Feds offer atheists a clergy tax break that they don't wantReligion News ServiceAnnie Laurie Gaylor is co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, one of the few atheist/freethought organizations staffed by a majority of women. The federal government wants to give Gaylor a tax break for leading the …Atheists incensed after IRS grants them tax exemption as religious groupWashington TimesAtheists May Qualify for Same Tax Breaks as PastorsChristian PostFederal Government Wants To Give Atheist Group Religious Tax BreakCBS Localall 10 news articles » […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.