Post by BTR1701 Post by shawn
. . .
the KKK no longer exists as a national organization. So it would have to
be a local group claiming such protection. Since none have even tried
to claim tax exempt status due to their being a religion I don't see them
claiming to fit in as a protected class.
Tax exempt status and the freedom to worship are two very different
things. One is protected by the 1st Amendment, the other is statutory in
There are plenty of splinter sects and minor religions that would not
qualify for tax exempt status, but whose members still enjoy the
constitutional freedom to worship as they please and whose right to do
so cannot be infringed.
I disagree with you here. Tax law does not define what a church is, for
that would be an unconstitutional establishment of religion, nor does it
define worship, which would be an unconstitutional prohibition on free
exercise of religion. That an organization is a church is self declared.
The tax code and civil rights under the constitution are not very
different, not at all.
The controlling Supreme Court opinion is Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), in which
late 1960s laws in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania subsidizing nonpublic
schools were found to be unconstitutional. The states were supplementing
teachers' salaries and other operating costs. Rhode Island's law was
an Establishment Clause violation as the record showed that 95% of the
monies went to Catholic schools. Pennsylvania's was a Free Exercise
violation because grant compliance was for the secular aspects of
education at a religious school, which meant that the state had to
determine when religion was being exercised during audits.
It's a Berger opinion in which there is a three-part "Lemon Test" to
determine what a church is. If the government wishes to object to a
self declaration that an organization is a church, IRS itself cannot
initiate the challenge. An inquiry or examination (depending on how
significant the challenge is) must be approved by a higher level Treasury
bureaucrat. Treasury procedures are in accord with the Lemon Test.
For the purpose of tax law, all congregations are "churches" regardless
of the correct religious term.
An organization that isn't religious that's qualified to receive
charitable contributions that are deductible under Section 170(c) must
be determined by IRS that it is described in 501(c)(3). An application
is required (with a hefty fee) if over a certain threshold to receive
the determination letter.
A church is listed in 170(c) and 501(c)(3) but it is not described.
There is no required application, although some churches apply for
recognition voluntarily. Furthermore, a church isn't subject to filing a
tax return annually, although some do so voluntarily.
Churches are subject to the same restrictions as other organizations
that are "organized and operated as" described in 501(c)(3), including
prohibitions on support or opposition to political candidates, and
severe limitations on lobbying.
To the extent that a KKK organization incorporates worship, there is no
reason why a contribution wouldn't be deductible under 170(c) and the
church wouldn't be subject to 501(c)(3). Over the years, KKK organizations
were sued for torts and indicted for criminal activities. What was the
federal case you were thinking of that recognized its free exercise