In Theory: The IRS gave nonprofit status to a satanic church. Will all hell break loose?
Earlier this year the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, meaning it has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
According to the church’s website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”
Yet perhaps because the group describes itself as a “nontheistic religious organization” and maintains an openness about taking political stances, the IRS decision has brought some controversy.
According to an article on Rewire.News, a pro-life petition online states, “This egregious decision runs counter to everything America stands for,” and a Catholic commentator argued that without God or a literal Satan, there is no “real religion.”
Q. How do you feel about the Satanic Temple’s designation as a tax exempt religious organization? Should the group’s open political aspirations prevent the government from recognizing it as a church?
Jesus Christ described Satan, otherwise known as the devil in John 8:44: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Even the most casual consideration immediately uncovers lie upon lie which saturates the Satanic Temple and disqualifies them from being considered a legitimate church. The lie begins in their own hearts. Satanists actually claim they don’t believe that there is a real “Satan”, nor do they claim to worship him. In fact, worship is antithetical to their philosophy. But yet they proclaim Satan’s name and do the deeds that promote his agenda. Even as they declare their independence they are enslaved by the most real, sinister and deceptive spiritual being in creation.
The lies continue: Satanists deny God, but in fact Satan owes his existence to God. God created Satan, afterwards Satan fell and became the twisted, wicked being he is today. It is only by God’s forbearance and according to his sovereign will for the span of history that Satan is allowed to do anything at all. And Revelation 20:10 describes Satan’s ultimate fate of damnation and incarceration at the direct judgment of God: “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The Satanic Temple’s stated mission is rife with lies. Satan encourages strife, hatred, exploitation and the elevation of self above others. Satan himself is the ultimate tyrannical ruler. Satan’s ways defy the simplest common sense. Satan thrives on injustice and evading rules and whatever is correct or proper. Satan promotes ever increasing corruption that makes the human conscience callous and unresponsive. His pursuits are shameful and worthy of condemnation, and the only will that matters to him is his own — and everyone else’s subjection to it.
The Satanic Temple is not, and can never be, a church. Our word “church” translates the biblical Greek word “ekklesia”, or literally “called out ones”. That is, the church is the body of people who have been called out of the profane and worldly by God to be set apart to serve him above all others. That is most certainly not a description of the Satanic Temple, whether or not they express any political aspirations. Could a group that opposes sports ever be called an athletic association? Could a group that burns books rightly be labeled a literary society? Then how could a group that is self-described as nontheistic ever be described as religious? And if by nature this group is not religious, as is the case, then no tax exemption is warranted for them.
Pastor Jon Barta
The word “church” refers to the whole body of Christian believers throughout the world, and when any meet in a local building for worship, we designate that steepled structure and call it “a church” (because that’s where “the Church” meets). To co-opt “church” for use by atheists or another religion nullifies its meaning.
“Satan” applies to a powerful demon in the Bible. His name means, “adversary” and/or “accuser.” Jesus taught that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we should ask, “deliver us from the Evil One.” That would be Satan. Jesus described Satan, aka the Devil, as a liar and murderer (Joh 8:44) an evil enemy (Mat 13) and that hell was made for him and his minions (25:41). Satan will not rule hell as king, he will rue it as convict, and so will all who do not repent their membership in the Satanic Temple.
Imagine a Church of Isis Terror, of Holocaust Denial or of Treason. Do these sound socially beneficial? Are these the things we legalize and baptize calling them by the Christian designation, and that merely for tax benefit? Don’t let the Satanic Temple’s altruistic mission statement fool you. They have taken Christians to task, use our evil nemesis as their mascot, and headquarter in Salem, Mass. (which has become a haven of modern witches, and everything occultist and Christianly abominable). The funny thing is, they don’t even believe in Satan; he’s a thought, a rally cry, just a model for living that eschews God. It’s not a positive religion, but a deliberate adversary to ours.
Some time ago they launched After School Satan Clubs nationwide, but they couldn’t keep them running — presumably because sane parents didn’t wish to gamble their children’s eternal destiny. I would say that this group’s hate-crime use of things Christian, as well as its political aspirations, should automatically nullify its status, but this world is getting bad and nobody can distinguish right from wrong anymore.
Rev. Bryan A. Griem
I’m fine with the ruling, based on the finding that the Temple’s attributes — unique tenets, regular congregations and religious services — meet the IRS guidelines for a tax-exempt religious organization, i.e., a church. Neither God, gods nor Satan are required to be a “real religion” under these guidelines, contrary to the commentator quoted in this month’s question.
As to the “open political aspirations” of the Satanic Temple — another objection raised by a Catholic writer in the Rewire News article — churches such as those in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Methodist Church denominations leap to mind as about as openly political as they come, not to mention the bodies led by, say, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Ralph Reed.
What “runs counter to everything America stands for” is the further weakening of the principle of separation of church and state. President Trump himself eased the Satanic Temple’s path into the public sphere with his 2017 executive order directing the IRS to, as he stated, “alleviate the burden” on clergy of the Johnson Amendment, a law which prohibited tax-exempt organizations from participating in political campaigns or supporting particular candidates.
I understand that the Satanic Temple is playing the long game by becoming an official religion, a mocking game heavily laced with satire and with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. Much as I like their mission of benevolence, empathy, common sense and justice, I do not buy the Satanic Temple’s imaginary being any more than I do God, and I suspect Temple “believers” don’t either.