Pagans and Nonprofits

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 18, 2011 — 2 Comments

The Nonprofit Quarterly points to a recent piece I seemed to have overlooked. In it Alison Leigh Lilly, coordinator of the No Unsacred Place blog, looks at the challenges faced by religious nonprofits in Britain and the United States.

“The rights and freedoms granted to religious practitioners in the U.S. and the UK are not, however, necessarily guarantees that they will also have access to all of the same benefits available to more mainstream faiths—benefits such as nonprofit status, state-recognized holidays, prison and military chaplaincy, clergy who are legally empowered to perform marriages and burials, and so on. Although both British and American law provides freedom fromdiscrimination for practitioners of all religions, the freedom to participate fully and equally in civil society is something that rests on a foundation of legal precedent. For many religious minorities, securing the latter means buckling down to a long process of challenging numerous individual instances of oversight and exclusion in order to push past the tipping point from legal tolerance into social acceptance and support.”

The article finishes with a passionate call for Pagan engagement.

“…as modern Pagan communities continue to grow worldwide, it becomes increasingly important for Pagans to participate in the legal negotiations for increased recognition and acceptance within larger mainstream society. As Pagan religious organizations grow and expand the social conception of what qualifies as a “church,” our covens, groves, temples, and sacred centers will gain increasing freedom from federal regulation. As cultural acceptance for Pagan religions continues to increase, outdated and convoluted laws such as those in the IRS tax code will be ever more likely to be challenged and overturned. Yet such change depends largely on the legal precedents set by those willing to confront these laws through the legislative and judicial processes. To gain religious liberty, the law itself must be confronted, expanded, and re-imagined from the inside out.”

I highly recommend reading the entire article. You may also enjoy the guest-post Alison wrote for The Wild Hunt, “Being a Druid is Good for Society, Says UK Charity Commission”, which analyzes the The Druid Network (TDN) being granted charitable status by the Charity Commission of England and Wales.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I second the recommendation that one read the whole article. It makes it clear that no matter how definitively we prevail in conflicts like the Maetreum of Cybele vs Catskill NY we will be a second-rank religion until we successfully challenge IRS barriers to full recognition.

  • Dennis Nock

    i agree ,at least now , w/ a more liberal administration in power pagans won't be butting heads w/ an unfriendly government for a while .. i belong to ADF , it is a 301 c organisation as is my grove . but we still need to pick away at the IRS's antiquated definition of a church . that precident will be helpful when dealing w/ local governments .tis a shame the constitional rights we all should have w/o question , pagans and anyone outside the mainstream have to fight for .do you think catskill NY would try to deny tax exempt status to a xtian church , dont think so . Kilm