Announcing Diane Uhl Legal Fund actions

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is extremely delighted to announce that earlier this year it received $250,000 — the single largest gift to its Legal Fund from a living donor.
The modest donor prefers to be unnamed, but he asked to name the fund for Diane Uhl for whom the new legal wing in FFRF’s addition is also named. Diane and Stephen Uhl are among the most generous donors to FFRF’s building expansion, giving $250,000 to the Building Fund. The nearly completed TV and radio studio is named the Stephen Uhl Friendly Atheist Studio.

The FFRF Executive Board voted at its summer meeting to set aside part of the fabulous gift to create a paid one-year Diane Uhl Legal Fellowship. Ryan Jayne, who just graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School and who worked full time in the legal department with an unpaid externship this spring, has been named the Diane Uhl Legal Fellow.
Additionally, the board voted to reserve $100,000 of the Uhl Legal Fund to initiate two new federal challenges of the Internal Revenue Service’s provisions that favor churches and pastors:

• The IRS code explicitly exempts churches and denominations from filing annual tax returns known as Form 990, which all other 501(c)(3) organizations must file, including FFRF, in order to retain tax exemption. The forms ensure accountability to the public and the government. FFRF is working to refile the case after its challenge of the inequity was thrown out on “standing” last year.

• The code also contains housing allowance privileges uniquely benefiting ministers, as was recently highlighted by John Oliver on Comedy Central’s “Last Week Tonight.” “Ministers of the gospel,” under the 1954 law, may subtract from their taxable income money set aside from their salaries as a housing allowance, an enormous benefit.

FFRF won a resounding victory in 2013 in its federal challenge of the “parish exemption,” in a decision by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, Western District of Wisconsin. When the Obama administration appealed the controversial decision, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the case last year.

Although FFRF sets aside part of the salary of its Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker as a housing allowance, the law doesn’t permit them to claim it. The court ruled FFRF and the couple hadn’t established sufficient injury to continue the challenge. FFRF is in the process of reconfiguring the lawsuit. Stay tuned!

“This so-generous gift also made possible the ‘wish list’ purchase of a number of law books and texts requested by our team of young staff attorneys,” added Gaylor. The remainder of the generous gift remains in FFRF’s general Legal Fund.

Freedom From Religion Foundation