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Are Atheist Leaders Clergy? E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Wednesday, 21 August 2013

An interesting twist in the cat-and-mouse game currently playing out between the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Department of Justice over FFRF's challenge to the IRS' housing allowance for clergy. Federal officials now argue FFRF leaders, including the plaintiff in the case, qualify for the housing allowance as well.

The Tennessean has more:

In a brief, the Department of Justice argued leaders of an atheist group may qualify for an exemption. Buddhism or Taosim don’t include a belief in God and are considered religions, the government’s lawyers argued, so why not atheism?

The Internal Revenue services does require, among other things, that a “minster” be seen as a spiritual leader and provide services for a religious organization.

Belief in a deity is not required.

“Plaintiffs may not presume that a law’s reference to religion necessarily excludes beliefs that are specifically non-theistic in nature,” the government argued in a motion to dismiss the suit.

If atheism is just another religion, that leaves everyone insulted pretty equally, right? But treating them the same may have the benefit of ensuring government neutrality. What do you think? Should the housing allowance for clergy extend to other non-profit leaders?

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