General Question

crisedwards's avatar

How do organized religions go about getting "approved" as such by the US government?

Asked by crisedwards (329 points ) April 7th, 2012

How did, say, Scientology go from being the ideas around a book by L. Ron Hubbard to being recognized/approved as an organized religion (with all the rights of any other organized religion) by the US Government? If I wanted to start my religion, how would I go about getting it from being an “idea” to being approved for tax and rights purposes?

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12 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

The don’t approved as religions. They get approved as 501(c) organizations. This gets around the First Amendment by creating a broad category under which religions can “just so happen” to fall, which keeps the government from officially recognizing or making any laws respecting specific religions.

Brian1946's avatar

I wonder into what goals Scientology funnels its surplus revenues. E-meters, L Ron boox, defending against lawsuits, paying judgments?

My ex was involved with it in the 1980’s, and IIRC, a purification rundown sold for $1200, so I imagine they have mucho surplus revenue.

However to their credit, AFAIK, they haven’t promoted any anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, or forced-prayer campaigns.

PhiNotPi's avatar

It seems that (non-profit charitable nonpolitical) religious organizations are automatically a 501(c)(3) organization without even needing to file as such or pay the $400+ filing fee. You may want to look here to make sure. I think that subsection c renders churches exempt from having to file or at least paying the fee.

ragingloli's avatar

@Brian1946
“However to their credit, AFAIK, they haven’t promoted any anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, or forced-prayer campaigns.”
That is only because their stated goal is covert infiltration of government and corporate leadership positions.

Brian1946's avatar

@ragingloli

And if they did, they could lose their cash-cow, publicity-pimp celebrities.

crisedwards's avatar

OK. So this has turned into a snarky commentary just like all of the other information I found online. Does anyone want to legitimately answer this question in earnest?

Brian1946's avatar

@crisedwards

I don’t see anything snarky or illegitimate about @PhiNotPi‘s or @bkcunningham‘s answers.

crisedwards's avatar

I wasn’t being all-inclusive. His answer was just links I already found and not an answer speaking from expertise or experience.

amujinx's avatar

I would think short of going to a lawyer, you are going to have a hard time finding anyone with real expertise or experience in having a religion officially recognized by the US government.

ETpro's avatar

I hope the answer emerges, @crisedwards. I have a religion in mind and a book to launch it. But like you, I have no idea how to proceed.

bkcunningham's avatar

The short answer, you start at the local and state level and follow the laws for forming a corporation and then file for tax-exempt status, if that is what you so desire. I know many people who worship and study the Bible together who haven’t gone this route.

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