For the first time in U.S. history, the Internal Revenue Service has approved the Satanic Church for tax-exempt status.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune: “That recognition means the group can now get the same benefits as religious organizations — including tax exemption and protection from discrimination.”
The Satanic Temple sent out a press release celebrating the IRS decision:
The Satanic Temple (TST), the world’s most eminent modern Satanic religious organization, is celebrating their recent approval to claim a world first – recognition as a legally protected Satanic church, receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the IRS. This status, elevated beyond previous designation as a religious non-profit, is a culmination of years establishing itself as a constitutionally protected class, completely encompassing all attributes designated to churches that are uniquely distinct from other charities and/or religious groups.
“To qualify as the first of its kind Church, as opposed to a religious non-profit, The Satanic Temple distinguishes itself from other non-theistic religious groups with its unique set of Tenets, as well as regular congregations and religious services, with an established headquarters located in Salem, MA,” the organization explained.
The group went on to complain about the “discrimination” it claims to have faced “from government officials and agencies alike.”
But the groups representative, Lucien Greaves, proclaimed that “Satan is here to stay.”
The church describes itself this way:
The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights. The Temple 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. The mission of The Satanic Temple is 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 debate over Satanism as a religion has long raged.
As the Tribune noted:
It’s a question that religion scholars have long debated, said Benjamin Zeller, associate professor of religion at Lake Forest College who studies new religious movements.
“Scholars who spend their lives researching and teaching religions still can’t agree on this,” he said. “When I teach this in class, I always compare it to art. Artists might spend their lifetimes doing art but couldn’t come up with a formal definition of what is art.”
Indeed, nearly every current world religion was thought of as a sort of cult early in their history.
The most recent is Mormonism, once seriously derided, now an “official” religion. In fact, Mormons were still being chased out of U.S. states less then 175 years ago.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.