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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Ind. Courts - Still more on "First Church of Cannabis could test RFRA"

Updating this ILB post from yesterday, Prof. Robert Katz, IU McKinney Law School, sends this note about the significance of the Internal Revenue Service granting the entity nonprofit status:

In analyzing the case of the First Church of Cannabis, it's key to see the relationship and distinction between Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which deals with tax exemption for nonprofit churches, and Section 8 of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration, which creates a claim for individuals and entities seeking an exemption from generally applicable laws that substantially burden their religious exercise.

In deciding whether to recognize the First Church as a "church" for 501(c)(3) purposes, the IRS considered several factors, including whether the First Church has a distinct legal existence (hence the relevance of being organized as a nonprofit corporation by the State of Indiana) and a recognized creed and form of worship.

To raise a valid claim under RFRA, those who violate drug laws don't have to belong to a church, much less a church recognized by the IRS as tax exempt under 501(c)(3). They simply have to persuade a court that prosecuting them substantially burdens their religious exercise. It's up to the courts to determine the relevance and import of the fact that the law breakers belong to a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt church.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 4, 2015 10:55 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts