Friday, February 10, 2023

Federal Circuit Hears Arguments By Organization Seeking "Church", But Not Non-Profit, Tax Status

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments on Wednesday in an unusual appeal, Alearis, Inc. v. United States. (Audio of full oral arguments.) In the case, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims dismissed a challenge by Alearis to the refusal by the Internal Revenue Service to pass on its application to classify it as a "church". (Alearis, Inc. v. United States, (Ct. Fed. Cl., Jan. 11, 2022)). "Church" status would exempt the organization from various restrictions otherwise imposed on "private foundations." IRS forms require organizations seeking classification as a church to first apply on Form 1023 for an exemption as a non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3).  Alearis says it does not seek non-profit status, only "church" status. It contends that completing Form 1023 would violate its religious tenets, presumably because it would require disclosure of elements of the religion that its doctrines require to be kept secret. The Court of Federal Claims opinion described Alearis as follows:

Plaintiff, Alearis, Inc., is an organization incorporated in the state of Delaware. Its sole member, “the Church,” was “founded at time immemorial when the Old Ones placed the Game into ecclesiastical trust for such purpose.” Plaintiff is “organized exclusively for religious purposes to perform or carry out the functions of the Church.”