As Alternative Groups Push Boundaries, Churches Tax Exempt Status Questioned

First Church of Cannabis

The First Church of Cannabis is based in Indiana and, as you may have guessed, is not your typical church. Founded in March 2015 by Bill Levin, the church has a set of guidelines called The Deity Dozen (#5: Do not take advantage of people. Do not intentionally hurt anything.) and monthly dues are $4.20. Levin said that First Church of Cannabis was a “direct response” to the Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The church was granted IRS tax-exempt status a month after its inception.

Levin’s ‘church’ joins an alternative group of organizations moving into the comfy positions traditionally enjoyed by religious institutions, and include but are not limited to tax exempt status. And has nonbelievers and religious alike wondering if it’s time to rethink tax ememption.

Traditionally, a 501(c)(3) organization allows churches to deduct their donations with the IRS, which over the years has led to rampant levels of abuse  – most publicly by televangelists. HBO’s John Oliver covered this particular group with delightful on Last Week Tonight :

While a 501c3 is excluded from politics or lobbying unless they inform the IRS of their intentions, 501c4 are allowed, but only if it’s related to their cause.

So, will more groups like First Church of Cannabis spurn lawmakers to bring revoking tax exempt status for churches to law? Only time will tell.