A Religious Organization, such as a church can be incorporated by filing Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State in which they reside
in. Most states require at least three directors. Some allow less than three when there are less than three members, and other states require only one
director. (The filing fee varies from State to State, but in most cases they vary between $35-$75.) To claim tax exemption, IRS form 1023 must be
filed within 15 months from the date of filing the articles of incorporation.
Articles of Incorporation are simply a statement of the following items:
ARTICLE I - NAME OF CORPORATION (Name of Church)
ARTICLE II - LOCATION - Mailing Address where the Church can be contacted.
ARTICLE III - FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES - The US Government doesn't rightly care what these are, just that you have stated them formally (exception is
with one particular judge in the State of Texas, but as you are from the UK, you'll probably state that this is "off topic" again).
ARTICLE IV - PURPOSES (This *IS* what the US Government since 1969 wants to hear...basically being a legally binding contractual agreement) "This
church is a nonprofit ecclesiastical corporation organized and operated exclusively for religious purposes within the meaning of Section 501 (c) (3)
of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue law) (the
Code). The church shall not carry on any activities not permitted to be carried on (a) by a corporation exempt from federal income tax under Section
501 (c) (3) of the Code or (b) by a corporation contributions to which are deductible under Section 170 (c) (2) of the Code. This church has not been
formed for pecuniary profit or gain. No part of the assets, income, or profit of the church shall inure to the benefit of its members, council
members, or officers. However, the church shall be authorized to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and
distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in this Article IV.
No substantial part of the activities of this church shall be the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.
This church shall not participate in or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any
candidate for public office."
ARTICLE V - CHURCH GOVERNANCE - Who runs the Church, i.e., who is legally liable and accountable.
ARTICLE VI - PROPERTY - How does the Church handle it's real property and who has legal right to that property if the Church divides into two
Churches, or the whole Church dies via Act of God, and so forth.
ARTICLE VII - POWERS - Who can do what in the Church's name? Basically, appointing who the legal representatives are who can open Bank Accounts,
Credit Cards, make legal binding contracts, etc. on behalf of the Church.
ARTICLE VIII - AMENDMENTS - Under what terms can these Articles of Incorporation be changed while remaining the same Incorporated entity.
ARTICLE IX - TERM - How long is your Church going to remain in existence. Is this for just a weekend, a year, a decade, the lifetime of the
Pastor/Prophet, or for perpetuity?
In many cases, Religious Organizations automatically acquire 501(c)(3) status upon filing of proper organizational documents (e.g., articles of
incorporation as a church), at least until annual income exceeds a statutory threshold. Others will not receive 501(c)(3) status until they file an
application and supporting documentation to the IRS and have a certification letter issued. The 501(c)(3) application must be accompanied by a $300
application fee if annual income for 1st 4 years is $10,000 or less ($750 if annual income is more than that).
So, if you have $335 ($35 to file with your State and $300 to file with the I.R.S.) and 3 individuals (some States only require 1) who are willing to
be legally liable for the Church, a physical address where the Church can be reached via mail, and can type up a simple Articles of Incorporation and
fill out a IRS Form 1023, then you are recognized by the government of the United States as a Church.
For more information see IRS Publication 557 (PDF Format)
So, unlike you in the UK, those of us here in the U.S. can be recognized Churches and Religions of 3 people (or sometimes just 1). Every wacko with a
couple of friends, and every cult, can be just as legitimate as the Catholic Church, or any other religion. That is what makes Freedom of Religion in
the US truly "free". Any poor sod that can write/type and scrounge up $335 in loose pocket change can found their own religion that is equal to and
just as protected as all other religions, big and small.
[edit on 4-6-2009 by fraterormus]