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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Definition of "Religion" and "Religious"

Volume 4 . Chapter 14 . § 14-10
Key point 14-10. The courts have defined the terms "religion" and "religious" broadly.

Occasionally it is important to know how the courts have defined the term religion. The First Amendment expressly prohibits the "establishment of religion" and protects its free exercise; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of an employee's religion; the Internal Revenue Code and several state tax laws exempt certain religious organizations from taxation; and many other federal, state, and local laws and regulations use the term.

The term religion is not easily defined. Early court decisions generally limited the term to belief in God. For example, in 1890, the Supreme Court observed that the term religion "has reference ...

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