Advancing Religious Liberty
10/22/12 at 01:17 PM 0 Comments

Must Religious Organizations Be Required to Admit Non-Adherents as Members?

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This opinion column originally appeared on townhall.com on 10/20/2012.

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull

About five years ago, I had the privilege of making a presentation before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a European intergovernmental organization established to protect, among other things, international “human rights.” While there, a prominent European atheist group also did a presentation claiming that churches across the world are violating the rights of atheists by excluding them from church membership.

Of course, this was news to me. So I listened.

Their argument went this way: governments subsidize churches directly through tax support, such as in Europe, or indirectly through tax exemptions, such as in the United States (which is false, of course). Since atheists pay taxes, they argued, they can’t be excluded from full church membership and participation, at least not on the grounds that they don’t believe in God. To do so constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of religion and a violation of their human rights—again, at least according to them.

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