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DC church asks to intervene in atheists’ lawsuit that seeks to force churches to file tax returns

ADF attorneys represent The New Macedonia Baptist Church
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WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a church in Washington, D.C., have filed a motion in federal court to intervene in an atheist group’s lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorneys on behalf of Nonbelief Relief, Inc., seeks to more greatly entangle the government with religion by unconstitutionally forcing churches to file annual tax returns that contain sensitive financial disclosures with the Internal Revenue Service.

As ADF attorneys explain, because of the First Amendment, the government would be overstepping its constitutional bounds to require churches to file such forms.

“Activist groups with an axe to grind against religion shouldn’t be allowed to entangle the government with religion in ways the First Amendment prohibits,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley. “Requiring churches to file tax returns with the IRS places too much power—and too much sensitive information about church operations and finances—in the hands of the government. That’s why the First Amendment legitimately blocks any requirement that churches file such returns. Because The New Macedonia Baptist Church has an obvious interest in the outcome of this case, we are asking the court to allow the church to intervene in defense of its existing constitutionally protected freedoms.”

As the motion to intervene filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Nonbelief Relief v. Kautter explains, “Although the federal government is likely to defend the constitutionality of the [Form 990] exemption [for churches], its particular interest in doing so is necessarily broad and nonreligious. The New Macedonia Baptist Church, in contrast, has very specific and religious interests in upholding the exemption—interests that it alone can articulate and adequately defend. Indeed, the church intends to defend the exemption by explaining how forcing it to file detailed and intrusive annual returns with the IRS would burden its religious exercise in violation of the First Amendment.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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