Atheists have long argued that atheism is not a religion as they deny the existence of God or any other form of deity. Atheists, starting with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, are the ones that led the efforts to remove the Bible, prayer and all aspects of Christianity out of the public schools, government buildings and property.
Christians have long argued that atheism is a religion as it is a belief in no God and that by removing Christianity from schools established atheism as the official religion of the public school system. It is impossible to have a vacuum of religious belief and when one religion is forcibly removed from a system, another religious belief will automatically replace it. But we have been unsuccessful in convincing the courts of this fact, but now, thanks to government lawyers, Christians may be able to make this argument in courts around the nation.
It all started in 2009 when Laurie Gaylor, Co-Founder and Co-President of the atheist organization Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in California to get the parsonage tax break taken away from clergy. Currently, ministers and clergy are allowed to take a percentage of their income as a tax-free housing allowance and Gaylor doesn’t believe that’s fair.
The California lawsuit was eventually dropped, but they later re-filed the lawsuit in Wisconsin in 2011.
However, her efforts have been turned in a direction that she did not expect. Lawyers for the federal government are now saying that leaders of atheist groups can function as ministers since atheism can be considered a religion and therefore, Gaylor and her husband would eligible for the tax-free housing allowance.
This has further rankled the atheist leader who has told the government attorneys that she does not want the tax break. She told them:
“We are not ministers. We are having to tell the government the obvious — we are not a church.”
Yet this mess started when Gaylor’s own board of directors voted to give her and her husband Dan Barker, also Co-Founder and Co-President of FFRF, a $15,000 a year housing allowance. Gaylor and Baker said they could not claim the housing allowance as tax free income because they were not clergy.
To everyone’s surprise, the federal government disagreed with them. The federal attorney’s filed a brief with the Justice Department in which they argued that Buddhism or Taoism does not include a belief in God but are recognized as religions. Therefore, atheism should also be recognized as a religion and that their leaders do qualify for the tax-free housing allowance.
Gaylor says she and her husband will continue to fight to do away with the exemption as they don’t believe any religious groups deserve any special treatment. I suspect that she realizes that if she and her husband accepted the tax break that it would be their admission that atheism is a religion and they can’t allow that to happen.
But if the federal government is arguing that atheism is a religion, then how do they justify public schools teaching that there is no God – aka atheism. Science classes all across the country fight to prevent biblical creation from being taught because it is a religious view. Instead, they push evolution, which says there is no God and thus, according to the federal government, is a religion and therefore should not be allowed to be taught in public schools either. Christians around the nation need to jump on this precedent and fight to get evolution out of the public schools or force them to allow the teaching of both evolution and creationism side by side.