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

  • The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave his thoughts on the constitutionality of religion during a 2016 speech, and much debate ensued. A Supreme Opinion: Constitutionality of Non-Religion 12/14/2018

    What happened when one of the most influential judicial individuals in the country started discussing his position on a topic that was not currently in front of his court? Aside from making several reporters very happy to have a good headline, much speculation began to circulate about the state of the law surrounding that topic. Read More

  • The Department of Justice announced plans to ask the US Supreme Court to review President Trump’s ban on military service for transgender individuals. Department of Justice to Ask Supreme Court to Consider Military Transgender Ban 12/11/2018

    In a recent court filing, the Department of Justice announced plans to ask the United States Supreme Court to review President Trump’s ban on military service for transgender individuals. The Department of Justice announced that it plans to file a request before the Supreme Court by November 23, which means that the justices would be Read More

  • Fliers were posted at the University of California Los Angeles promoting a “white student group" that is not affiliated with the college. Fliers Prohibited for White Student Group 12/07/2018

    After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, a handful of fliers were posted at the University of California Los Angeles promoting a “white student group,” which was a group that was not affiliated with the college. The fliers, several of which were found taped to buildings, listed a website, a Twitter account, and an e-mail Read More

  • A complaint was recently filed against Muskegon Community College because it included a religious prayer at its 2018 graduation ceremony. Complaint Alleges Unconstitutional Prayer at College Graduation 12/05/2018

    A complaint was recently filed against Muskegon Community College because it included a religious prayer at its 2018 graduation ceremony. The complaint was initiated by the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists in response to a prayer that was delivered during the 2018 graduation ceremony by a master of ceremonies. The Content of the Speech Read More

  • To have a complete understanding of religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution, it is important to know how the framers viewed religion. Religious Freedom in the Constitution: Original vs. Amended 11/30/2018

    In modern day constitutional discussion, there is typically no argument about whether the Constitution protects individuals’ freedom to engage in the practice of religion regardless of which religion it is.  However, the discussion typically focuses on the First Amendment to the Constitution and not the original Articles.  Did the framers discuss religion, and if so, Read More

  • Read More