However, government lawyers have shot back that atheist leaders can be ministers too, since atheism can function as a religion.

Gaylor replied:

“No, thanks. We are not ministers. We are having to tell the government the obvious: We are not a church.”

The legal status of parsonage has been challenged since the dispute between the IRS and Reverend Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California.

Warren attempted to claim $70,000 in housing allowances, which resulted in Congress having to intervene and clarify the rules for housing allowance.

The allowance is now limited to either fair market rental value of the house or the money actually spent on housing. Clergy can claim the tax break on one house.

In a briefing, the Justice Department argued that leaders of an atheist group may qualify for the exemption because belief in a deity is not required. Buddhism and Taoism were cited as examples.

The foundation on the other hand is not after the tax exemption, which is beside the point. Gaylor believes the government should not give any religious groups with any special treatment.


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