Thursday, September 11, 2014
Forming a Church without Agony
In 1971 CE Gavin worked in the aerospace industry designing and later selling military armaments of various sorts: a death industry, if you will. A very good friend of his was a high-powered corporate lawyer. When it came time for the Church of Wicca to go public, Gavin consulted with that lawyer on the best approach to take. Gavin's thinking was that the Church of Wicca was entitled to all the rights and privileges of, and should have the same structure as, any major Judeo-Christian letterhead. After several months of investigation, it became apparent that the Church should be a religious association: not a not-for-profit, not a foundation. The reason for the decision was that any other organizational structure would require constant reporting to various federal agencies--including the IRS (cue dread music.)--whereas religious associations do not have to report anything. Most especially, they don't have to reveal their membership or any financial information. Forming a religious association turned out to be extremely simple ... and inexpensive. Still today it will cost you a couple of first-class postage stamps and a phone call. The religious-assocation format gives you all the protection that any other church enjoys. Obviously you cannot do anything illegal; you cannot, for instance, borrow money without repaying it. When the late Jesse Helms of North Carolina (Senator "No") learned there were Witches in his constituency, he asked the IRS to investigate. The IRS put the Church of Wicca through the wringer and concluded that that the Church of Wicca was totally legitimate. After that time, two inmates in Virginia started a lawsuit to insist that they get the same religious rights Inside as their fellow inmates got: whether Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, Buddhist, or any of the others. This is the famous Dettmer-v-Landon case, in which Judge Butzner ruled for the Fifth District Court that Wicca was a genuine religion and that its adherents should enjoy the same rights as the adherents of any other religion enjoyed. Today several other, later Churches of Wicca are religious associations. Unfortunately, a couple of groups who went the not-for-profit route have been denied religious rights because various courts have held that they were a philosophy, not a religion. If you want to learn how to form a religious association, please send a Number 10 self-addressed envelope to Church of Wicca / PO Box 297 / Hinton WV 25951 bearing enough postage for a two-ounce package. If other questions occur to you pertaining to the topics above, write them in a separate letter, again enclosing appropriate postage. We'll share what we've learned in life's bitter school.