Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
Email: info@ulccaselaw.com
ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006

IRS Fourteen Points

What defines a church? This question has bedeviled tax courts for years. The IRS has adopted a list of 14 criteria set out in De La Salle v. United States. Commonly referred to as the “fourteen points test”, it is important to note that the judges in the case did not intend for there to be a minimum number of criteria an organization must meet in order to satisfy the definition of a “church” as enumerated in their opinions.

In applying the Fourteen Points analysis to determine whether a religious organization may properly be characterized as a church, the IRS considers whether the organization has the following characteristics:

  1. Distinct legal existence
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline
  5. Distinct religious history
  6. A membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  7. An organization of ordained ministers
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies
  9. Literature of its own
  10. Established places of worship
  11. Regular congregations
  12. Regular religious services
  13. Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young
  14. Schools for the preparation of its ministers

Scholarly analysis of the Fourteen Points by Robert Louthian and Thomas Miller recognized that the determination of what defines a church cannot be made solely on the number of the Fourteen Points a church meets. To quote: “Given the variety of religious practice… Attempts to use a dogmatic numerical approach might unconstitutionally favor established churches at the expense of newer, less traditional institutions.”

The Monastery adheres to the Fourteen Points as we think it is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with the IRS as the 2010 Church and Non-Profit Tax and Financial Guide book recommends. This is not, however, a tacit endorsement of the exclusionary and discriminating character of the Fourteen Points.

Recent Posts

  • In July 2019, more than 200 businesses signed a brief that was filed with the Supreme Court in support of three LGBTQ workers who were terminated. Over 200 Businesses Sign Brief Supporting LGBTQ Individuals 08/06/2019

    In July 2019, more than 200 businesses signed a brief that was filed with the United States Supreme Court in support of three LGBTQ workers who were terminated as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The brief was organized by several LGBTQ civil rights organizations including the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Read More

  • This past spring, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will hear three cases concerning LGBT discrimination in its upcoming term. Supreme Court Prepares to Hear LGBT Discrimination Cases 08/02/2019

    In April 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will hear three cases concerning LGBT discrimination during its fall term. Each of these cases addresses the question of whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from terminating workers as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation. These Read More

  • The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case concerning a Montana law that allowed for tax credits to be used to send children to a religious school. United States Supreme Court Poised to Hear Religious School Case 07/30/2019

    The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case concerning a 2015 Montana law which allows tax credits to be used for religious school instruction. Montana’s highest court has already struck down the program on the basis that it violates the state’s constitutional ban on providing state aid to religious organizations. The outcome Read More

  • A florist who declined to create floral arrangements for a same sex wedding has announced plans to appeal her case to the United States Supreme Court. Washington Florist Plans to Appeal to US Supreme Court 07/26/2019

    A florist who declined to create floral arrangements for a same sex wedding has announced plans to appeal her case to the United States Supreme Court after a Washington state court held that the woman violated the state’s civil rights law.  As a result, the Supreme Court of the United States now has the chance Read More

  • Last month, New York became the fifth state to end religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccinations, amid an ongoing measles epidemic. New York Removes Religious Exemption for Vaccinations 07/23/2019

    New York legislators in June 2019 passed a bill that will end religious exemptions to vaccinations. This decision came after a series of debates among legislators concerning this exemption, which was used by parents to justify sending unvaccinated children to school or daycare. This bill represents a strong example of how religious rights can come Read More

  • Read More