Sep 19, 2011
Date Resolved

AU successfully resolved a decade-long dispute between the Texas Comptroller’s Office and the North Texas Church of Freethought over a religious tax exemption. The church, which is comprised of atheists and freethinkers, first applied for a religious tax exemption in 1997, but was denied the exemption because the church’s belief system did not include belief in a “supreme being.” In 1999, AU wrote a letter to the state Comptroller on behalf of the church, explaining that the church met the requirements of the tax-exemption statute, and that denial of an exemption would amount to unconstitutional religious discrimination. The Comptroller’s office again denied the exemption request. But in 2003, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled in another case that the Comptroller’s conditioning of a religious tax exemption on the requirement that the religion espouse a belief in a supreme being was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. AU therefore wrote another letter on behalf of the church in December 2005. After months of stonewalling by the Comptroller’s office, AU sent a final demand letter in May 2006, threatening legal action if the Comptroller did not grant the exemption. After receiving that demand, the Comptroller’s office granted the exemption, allowing the Church not only to cease paying taxes but also to obtain retroactive reimbursement of the taxes it has paid since 2001.