The Satanic Temple (TST) announced Friday that the IRS has recognized it as a “church” with tax-exempt status.
“We are pleased to announce that for the very [first] time in history, a satanic organization has been recognized by the United States federal government as being a church,” the group posted on Instagram.
“This acknowledgment will help make sure The Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations, affirm our standing in court when battling religious discrimination, and enable us to apply for faith-based government grants,” the organization continued.
According to a report by the Associated Press, TST, based in Salem, Massachusetts, received a letter that used a code that categorizes the group as a “church or a convention or association of churches.”
“The group is now listed in an IRS database for tax-exempt organizations,” reported AP.
[N]or do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural. The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.
Regarding the question of how TST is a “religion,” the group states:
The idea that religion belongs to supernaturalists is ignorant, backward, and offensive. The metaphorical Satanic construct is no more arbitrary to us than are the deeply held beliefs that we actively advocate. Are we supposed to believe that those who pledge submission to an ethereal supernatural deity hold to their values more deeply than we? Are we supposed to concede that only the superstitious are rightful recipients of religious exemption and privilege? Satanism provides all that a religion should without a compulsory attachment to untenable items of faith-based belief. It provides a narrative structure by which we contextualize our lives and works. It also provides a body of symbolism and religious practice — a sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values.
According to Rolling Stone, TST had previously rejected the idea of pursuing tax-exempt status.
TST president Lucien Greaves, however, reportedly reversed this position in 2017 after President Trump signed a “religious freedom” executive order.
“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 or non-belief,” Greaves reportedly wrote in the group’s newsletter.
Greaves added that the group should move to ensure that “atheistic and secular non-profits, advancing a distinct religious opinion and/or opinion upon religion, are themselves rightful beneficiaries of religious tax exemption as well.”
According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), “IRS regulations draw a clear distinction between “churches” and other religious organizations”:
A church must have certain characteristics, according to IRS requirements, including: a recognized creed and form of worship; distinct ecclesiastical government; formal code of doctrine; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study; established places of worship and regular religious services.
“The apparent recognition of the IRS comes after members of the Satanic Temple have had to defend themselves against accusations that their ‘church’ is essentially a political stunt,” CNA stated.