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Atheists Go to Court Against IRS

Covington, KY—Oral arguments begin on Thursday at 10 AM CT in the case of American Atheists v. IRS. The nonprofit organization is suing the government tax-collection agency for discrimination, alleging that churches receive unconstitutional preferential treatment over other nonprofit organizations. If the IRS loses, it could mean churches would then have to publicly disclose the names of donors and staff, the amounts of pastor salaries, and more.

The atheist organization will host a rally outside the courthouse beginning at 9 AM CT to show support for the fight for equal treatment in the tax code.

“This is about equality,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “This is about the U.S. government holding everyone to the same standard and giving the same rights to all. No exceptions. We are seeing religions getting preferential treatment by our government, a government that is supposed to serve us and respect us all as equals, and that’s wrong. It’s not what this country is about and it’s unpatriotic.”

American Atheists receives tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3), but because the organization is not classified as religious, it costs American Atheists, along with all other secular non-profits, significantly more money and time each year to keep that status because it must file a Form 990. In this lawsuit, American Atheists and the other plaintiffs are demanding that all tax-exempt organizations, including those characterized as religious by the IRS, have the same requirements to achieve tax-exempt status.

One difference between religious and secular classifications by the IRS is treatment of donations. While churches are under no legal obligation to disclose the names of their donors, secular non-profits such as American Atheists must disclose the names of donors who give more than $5,000, and that information becomes public record. This is problematic for American Atheists and many other non-profits because there is a stigma associated with atheism and many atheists remain in the closet about their lack of faith. As a result, would-be donors may be pressured into giving much less than they otherwise would in order to keep their information out of the public eye.

American Atheists has established a $100,000 Matching Challenge to cover the costs of this legal battle. All donations to the Fair Taxation Legal Fund will be doubled, dollar for dollar, up to the $100,000 goal.


Fair Taxation Matching Legal Fund:

Facebook Event for Rally:

Twitter Hashtag: #IRSequality (IRS equality)

Read full text of suit here

American Atheists’s Twitter account:


American Atheists’s Facebook page:

American Atheists’ 40th National Convention will feature such speakers such as NFL star Chris Kluwe, Survivor®: Philippines grand prizewinner Denise Stapley, Grammy-winning Spin Doctors bass player Mark White, Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Maryam Namazie of the Council of Ex-Muslims, popular bloggers PZ Myers and Greta Christina, and American Atheists President David Silverman. The convention will also feature a costume party, live music, stand-up comedy, an art show and silent auction, national and local exhibitors, and childcare options for attending families. The convention takes place the the weekend of April 17-20, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) organization that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of religion and government; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

American Atheists, Inc.
P.O. Box 158
Cranford, NJ 07016
Tel: (908) 276-7300
Fax: (908) 276-7402

Keywords: American Atheists, IRS, Internal Revenue Service, discrimination, Equal Protection, taxes, tax, separation of religion and government, separation of church and state, SOCAS, atheist, skeptic, humanist, freethinker, skepticism, atheism, humanism, freethought