12. RFRA does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief. RFRA applies to all sincerely held religious beliefs, whether or not central to, or mandated by, a particular religious organization or tradition. Religious adherents will often be required to draw lines in the application of their religious beliefs, and government is not competent to assess the reasonableness of such lines drawn, nor would it be appropriate for government to do so. Thus, for example, a government agency may not second-guess the determination of a factory worker that, consistent with his religious precepts, he can work on a line producing steel that might someday make its way into armaments but cannot work on a line producing the armaments themselves. Nor may the Department of Health and Human Services second-guess the determination of a religious employer that providing contraceptive coverage to its employees would make the employer complicit in wrongdoing in violation of the organization's religious precepts."
IRS VOW OF POVERTY
CHURCH AGENT OF THE ORDER
IRS Publication 17 Catalog Number 10311G For use in preparing 2018 Returns
TAX GUIDE 2018
Chapter 5 Wages, Salaries, and Other Earnings Page 49
“Members of Religious Orders If you’re a member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty, how you treat earnings that you renounce and turn over to the order depends on whether your services are performed for the order. Services performed for the order. If you’re performing the services as an agent of the order in the exercise of duties required by the order, don’t include in your income the amounts turned over to the order. If your order directs you to perform services for another agency of the supervising church or an associated institution, you’re considered to be performing the services as an agent of the order. Any wages you earn as an agent of an order that you turn over to the order aren’t included in your income. Example. You’re a member of a church order and have taken a vow of poverty. You renounce any claims to your earnings and turn over to the order any salaries or wages you earn. You’re a registered nurse, so your order assigns you to work in a hospital that is an associated institution of the church. However, you remain under the general direction and control of the order. You’re considered to be an agent of the order and any wages you earn at the hospital that you turn over to your order aren’t included in your income. Services performed outside the order. If you’re directed to work outside the order, your services aren’t an exercise of duties required by the order unless they meet both of the following requirements. • They’re the kind of services that are ordinarily the duties of members of the order. • They’re part of the duties that you must exercise for, or on behalf of, the religious order as its agent. If you’re an employee of a third party, the services you perform for the third party won’t be considered directed or required of you by the order. Amounts you receive for these services are included in your income, even if you have taken a vow of poverty. Example. Mark Brown is a member of a religious order and has taken a vow of poverty. He renounces all claims to his earnings and turns over his earnings to the order. Mark is a schoolteacher. He was instructed by the superiors of the order to get a job with a private tax-exempt school. Mark became an employee of the school, and, at his request, the school made the salary payments directly to the order. Because Mark is an employee of the school, he is performing services for the school rather than as an agent of the order. The wages Mark earns working for the school are included in his income.”
IRS Publication 517 (2019) Page 5
“Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers
For use in preparing
Members of Religious Orders Services you perform as a member of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by the order are ministerial services. The services are considered ministerial because you perform them as an agent of the order. For example, if the order directs you to perform services for another agency of the supervising church or an associated institution, you are considered to perform the services as an agent of the order. However, if the order directs you to work outside the order, this employment won't be considered a duty required by the order unless: • Your services are the kind that are ordinarily performed by members of the order; and • Your services are part of the duties that must be exercised for, or on behalf of, the religious order as its agent. Effect of employee status. Ordinarily, if your services aren't considered directed or required of you by the order, you and the outside party for whom you work are considered employee and employer. In this case, your earnings from the services are taxed under the rules that apply to employees in general, not under the rules for services performed as an agent of the order. This result is true even if you have taken a vow of poverty.
Example. Pat Brown and Chris Green are members of a religious order and have taken vows of poverty. They renounce all claims to their earnings. The earnings belong to the order. Pat is a licensed attorney. The superiors of the order instructed her to get a job with a law firm. Pat joined a law firm as an employee and, as she requested, the firm made the salary payments directly to the order. Chris is a secretary. The superiors of the order instructed him to accept a job with the business office of the church that supervises the order. Chris took the job and gave all his earnings to the order. Pat's services aren't duties required by the order. Her earnings are subject to social security and Medicare tax under FICA and to federal income tax. Chris' services are duties required by the order. He is acting as an agent of the order and not as an employee of a third party. He doesn't include the earnings in gross income, and they aren't subject to income tax withholding or to social security and Medicare tax under FICA or SECA.”