IRS Says the Satanic Temple Qualifies as a Real Religious Organizations

The Satanic Temple unveils its statue of Baphomet, a winged-goat creature, at a rally for the First Amendment in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 16, 2018. The Satanic Temple wants to install the statue on Capitol grounds as a symbol for religious freedom after a monument of the biblical Ten Commandments was installed in 2017. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The Almighty may not think the Satanic Temple is a church.

But the taxman has given it the thumbs-up.

The Satanic Temple, which is featured in a documentary called “Hail Satan?,” announced this week that the IRS now recognizes it as a church.

That recognition means the group can now get the same benefits as religious organizations — including tax exemption and protection from discrimination.

In a statement, Lucien Greaves, founder of the media-savvy group, said that “accepting religious tax-exemption — rather than renouncing it in protest  — can help us to better assert our claims to equal access and exemption while laying to rest any suspicion that we don’t meet the qualifications of a true religious organization.”

“Satanism is here to stay,” he added.

Lucien Greaves speaks in front of the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., in August 2018, next to a statue of Baphomet. The Satanic Temple wanted to install the statue as a symbol for religious freedom. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

A member of the Temple made a similar claim in the trailer for “Hail Satan?,” which details the nonprofit’s attempts to put up a statue of Satan on public grounds.

“I am following a code of ethics, having fellowship with brethren. Why can’t I be a religion?” he said.

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.”

As courts wrestle with the First Amendment implications of what is — and isn’t — a religion, scholars who study religion agreed that the term is slippery.

One person’s religion is another’s hogwash. Even religions with centuries of seniority, which are grandfathered into the “real” religions club, often have adherents in the pews (or online) who disagree over who can say what it means to be part of a faith group.

Even Satanists disagree over who the true faithful are. The Satanic Temple’s website features a section that contrasts its work with the Church of Satan.

Meanwhile, grandfathered-in religions were once denounced as cults.

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Source: Religion News Service