This story is bound to raise a few eyebrows: The IRS just gave the Satanic Temple (ST) full tax-exempt status. The ST, not to be confused with the Church of Satan, has only been around since 2013. According to its website, members don’t actually believe in the supernatural or worship Satan. In fact the organization’s leader, Lucien Greaves, calls it more of a “resistance movement,” one that, like its more benignly named counterparts such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), opposes what it sees as Christianity being too cozy with government.
In other words, it’s a secularist group that strongly supports the “separation of church and state” and sees a theocracy under every high school football game prayer or Ten Commandments monument. It’s basically just another anti-Christian group with a penchant for litigation and garnering media attention.
So why did the ST apply for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) designation as a “church?” In its own words from an announcement on its website: “This [IRS] acknowledgment will help make sure the Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations, affirm our standing in court when battling religious discrimination, and enable us to apply for faith-based government grants.” Not exactly a blood sacrificing, howling at the moon sort of organization.
The IRS has criteria it applies when deciding whether an organization can be called a church, including a creed, doctrine, literature of its own, a religious history, established “places of worship,” etc. An organization attempting to qualify needs to meet most, but not all, of the criteria. We’re not sure how the ST qualified, but if an online store where you can buy satanic mugs and hoodies is a factor, they’ve got that covered.
The ST likes to make publicity waves by offering statues of Baphomet to state and local governments which have monuments like the Ten Commandments on public grounds, or offering to start an “After School Satan Club” at public schools that have Christian clubs. They make outlandish offers to gain media attention.
The latest IRS news, therefore, is just another attempt to get attention (and attract tax-deductible contributions, no doubt) rather than act as a signal that the U.S. government is endorsing satanic worship.