WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — An atheist group is fighting the federal government after officials granted the organization a religious tax break.
According to The Tennessean, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is petitioning a federal judge for assistance with distinguishing themselves from other, ecclesiastical groups receiving government assistance.
The exemption itself reportedly entitles clergy members to tax-free housing allowances. The foundation’s leader, Annie Laurie Gaylor, told the paper that the exemption is exclusionary, and therefore unconstitutional. Instead, they wish to be granted a tax break on a $150,000 housing allowance given to them by the foundation without the religious distinction.
“We are not ministers,” she was quoted as saying. “We are having to tell the government the obvious — we are not a church.”
Gaylor and her husband, Dan Barker, told The Tennessean that they have been trying to accomplish their goal since 2009 when they first filed suit in California. Several years later, a federal judge has now issued a ruling that the case is allowed to proceed.
The Department of Justice stated in a brief obtained by the paper that other religions, such as Taoism, don’t emphasize belief in God yet function as congregations of faith and are, as such, have been entitled to the exemption.
“Plaintiffs may not presume that a law’s reference to religion necessarily excludes beliefs that are specifically non-theistic in nature,” a motion for dismissal of the suit additionally said.