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Church of Atheism denied charitable status as court finds it isn't a religion

Last Updated Dec 5, 2019 at 12:22 pm MST

OTTAWA — A federal court has ruled that the so-called Church of Atheism is not a church at all, and can’t be treated like one for tax purposes.

The Ontario-based Church of Atheism of Central Canada has lost its appeal of the Minister of National Revenue’s refusal to register the not-for-profit corporation as a charity.

In a unanimous decision, three judges with the Federal Court of Appeal found the group lacks a specific set of religious beliefs and practices.

The judges say that the issue is not that the Church of Atheism doesn’t believe in a deity, noting that Buddhism, which is a recognized religion, “does not believe in a Supreme Being or any entity at all.”

However, the decision says the organization’s stated belief in “mainstream science” is not specific enough to constitute a “comprehensive system of doctrine and observances.”

The judges also shot down the group’s argument that refusing its charitable status is a violation of members’ charter right to practice their religious beliefs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.

The Canadian Press