- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The leader of an atheist group reportedly is incensed that the U.S. government has granted it a tax exemption, citing allowances for religious organizations — and she’s even angrier at learning that she’s considered a minister under the Internal Revenue Service code.

“We are not ministers,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, who heads the Freedom from Religion Foundation in The Blaze. She added: The organization doesn’t want the tax exemption if it’s based on codes granting allowances to religious groups.

“We are having to tell the government the obvious – we are not a church,” she said.

Most people might welcome the chance to bypass paying taxes to the IRS. The Justice Department even filed a brief in court arguing that Ms. Gaylor is eligible for the exemption, which gives her tax-free housing, because she heads the group and atheist organizations are eligible for some of the same benefits granted churches.

But Ms. Gaylor’s group is suing, saying the federal government’s tax exemptions for religious groups does not apply to the atheists — and that the federal government’s insistence on giving the benefit is actually tantamount to a tax-free housing award, The Tennessean reported. Ms. Gaylor and her husband, Dan Barker, initially were awarded a government housing allowance of $15,000 per year in 2009. They’ve been arguing they don’t deserve the benefit — because they’re atheists and proud to claim no religious affiliation — ever since.

The Justice Department’s view: Buddhism and Taoism are affiliations that don’t believe in God, but they’re still considered religions and are qualified for the benefit.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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