Pagans and Nonprofits

I seem to be making a few gentle waves in that fine, dry wine I mentioned last week. My article, “Balancing Liberty and Law: Religious Nonprofits in America and Britain,” published on Patheos.com last Thursday, was cited extensively today in an article in The Nonprofit Quarterly (and subsequently picked up by Jason Pitzl-Waters over at The Wild Hunt). NPQ reporter Rick Cohen writes:

Typically, debates about the tax treatment of faith-based organizations and of churches involve well-known and recognized religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. – and sometimes debates around whether more controversial “religions” such as Scientology really are what they claim and deserve comparable tax treatment. But how often do we read about the tax treatment of the “sacred centers” of [P]agan religious organizations?

Cohen goes on to quote several key aspects of my article, exploring issues of what does and does not qualify as a “church” under the IRS tax code and how Pagans and other religious minorities can circumvent, challenge and change antiquated laws to gain increasing freedom and acceptance.

On the heels of a recent email from TDN Chair of Trustees, Phil Ryder, complimenting me on my grasp of the subtleties (and obscurities) of English charity law, this article in The Nonprofit Quarterly has me feeling rather proud, I have to admit. I’m far from a seasoned tax expert, but my mother always said I’d make a good lawyer (gods forbid!). After my extensive coverage of The Druid Network’s newly granted charity status back in October, I’m pleased to be able to get an article out that focuses more on the particular quirks and special cases of nonprofit law in the United States.

As Cohen observes at the end of his article:

Lilly calls for [P]agans to be increasingly involved in national debates over what qualifies as a church to make it easier for “our covens, groves, temples, and sacred centers…[to] gain increasing freedom from government regulation.” With that advocacy message, the Druids sound just like a mainstream religion.

Well said, Rick. I think freedom from government interference and oversight for our religious organizations and communities is something we can all agree is well worth praying (and working) for!

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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