A federal court has ruled in favour of Canada Revenue Agency’s denial of charitable status to an organization that promotes atheism.
Last week, a three-judge panel at the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Minister of National Revenue’s decision to deny the “Church of Atheism of Central Canada” charitable status, saying the group failed to meet the legal definition of a religion.
“It did not demonstrate that its belief system is based on a particular and comprehensive system of doctrine and observances,” Justice Marianne Rivoalen said in the decision.
While the group cites its “Ten Commandments of Energy” as a sacred text and claims to worship “mainstream science,” the court ruled that nothing the organization has produced constitutes a “comprehensive system of faith and worship.”
The court made it clear that a belief system does not have to worship a supreme entity in order to be considered a real religion, citing Buddhism as an example. However, the judges found that the Church of Atheism failed to hold any practices common to all religions.
“Given the scope and vagueness of what was asserted here, it was reasonable for the minister to deny the appellant under the heading of ‘advancement of religion.’” Rivoalen said.
Rivoalen also found that denying the Church of Atheism charitable status does not discriminate on the personal beliefs of the group and that the group may continue to operate freely.
While the Church of Atheism is free to continue its practices without charitable status, it is still not entirely certain if the group actually has any members.
The Church of Atheism in Central Canada does not have a website, and the group’s Twitter account has no followers and has not posted since 2016.
The group’s address is a single-family home in rural eastern Ontario.
The group was represented in court by Christopher Bernier, who lives at the organization’s address. Attempts by the media to reach him have been unsuccessful.