General Question

crisedwards's avatar

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

Asked by crisedwards (329points) 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

“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


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


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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