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The Satanic Temple gets IRS nod as official house of worship

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2018

    The Satanic Temple unveils its statue of Baphomet, a winged-goat creature, at a rally for the first amendment in Little Rock, Ark. The Internal Revenue Service has granted the same non-profit status given to churches, synagogues and mosques to The Satanic Temple, an organization in Salem, Massachusetts, that calls itself America’s first devil-worshiping church.

Many Americans regard paying taxes as a necessary evil. If they want to worship Satan, now the IRS has officially given them a tax-exempt place to do so.

The Internal Revenue Service has granted the same non-profit status given to churches, synagogues and mosques to The Satanic Temple, an organization in Salem, Massachusetts, that calls itself America’s first devil-worshiping church. It is now protected by federal laws governing churches that operate as charities.

In a statement this week announcing the status, the group called itself “a non-theistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights.” Based in the town that hosted the Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century, the statement added that the group “understands the Satanic figure as a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.”

Before the ruling, the IRS regarded the group as a “religious organization,” not as a full-fledged church with a place of worship. Churches are generally exempt from filing federal returns under the tax code.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment. Public IRS data on tax-exempt organizations reflect that The Satanic Temple has church status.

The move comes as some Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence have promised to roll back the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 Internal Revenue Code provision that prohibits tax-exempt groups, including churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates or engaging in political activities.

That call hasn’t been included in an $11.3 billion IRS funding bill for fiscal 2020 that’s stalled over arguments about funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

The Trump administration has criticized the IRS’s granting of nonprofit church status to the Church of Scientology.

Last year in Little Rock, Arkansas, The Satanic Temple placed a statue of the goat-headed creature Baphomet at the state’s capitol to voice support for the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments.

Still, the Temple’s mission appears to have some mainstream religious strains. The goals are “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will,” the statement said.

Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the church, said in the statement that the group’s effort to seek tax-exempt status as a church was inspired by the efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

“As ‘the religious’ are increasingly gaining ground as a privileged class, we must ensure that this privilege is available to all, and that superstition doesn’t gain exclusive rights over non-theistic religions,” Greaves said. Greaves, whose phone number contains a 6-6-6-, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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