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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There's an atheist organization called "Sunday Assembly" that meets once a month in a similar-to-a-church fashion, where they have a speaker, songs, and community events. My understanding is that they are tax-exempt as a non-profit, but I'm not sure if they have any sort of religious status. Some friends of mine were discussing checking it out next month. Many non-religious folks I've encountered tend to lean pretty far to the left, so they may actually try to prosecute if I'm caught carrying. Thoughts?
 

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If they are organizing like that then they are religious.
 

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worship?

Do athiests worship?
Or do they gather together to do things that are a substitute for worship?
The law used to say "church or church functions."
Now it says "in... a place of worship."

A good argument could be made that the legislature did not intend any substantive change by substituting "place of worship" for "church," but that they only intended to clarify that non-Christian places of worship that are not called "churches" are subject to this law, too. I see that as a clarification, not a change. Jewish temples and synagogues. Muslim mosques. Jehovah's Witness halls. Tabernacles (not sure what faith calls their buildings that...)

But in any event, even under the old law, would an athiest meeting place be considered a "church"?

If their group is considered the equivalent of a "church" for federal and state tax purposes, then that would be some persuasive (but not dispositive) evidence that they should be considered churches for the purposes of other laws, too.

Years ago, the question would have been easy. "Churches" were just one example of a "public gathering." And they were off-limits as part of a legislative plan and scheme to ban guns at public gatherings. Now that we don't have any "public gathering" restrictions anymore (THANK YOU, GEORGIA CARRY. ORG!) I'm not sure WHAT logic or rationale there is behind keeping the church / place of worship ban.
 

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no definition

Many terms that are used in the Georgia Code are defined in the Georgia Code, right there in that same section, part, article, title, or chapter.
But when a term is NOT defined anywhere in the law books, then the law presumes that such a word or phrase will be given its ordinary meaning as used in our country by speakers of the English language.

And if that's the definition we'll use, a "place of worship" will never apply to where atheists meet, because no "worship" happens there. To "worship" means to honor and praise a deity-- God or some number of gods.
 

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all worship is religious

While the 2nd Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers the liberal zones of the northeastern United States including New York, is not even close to controlling authority here in the Republican Bible Belt, here's what that very high level federal court had to say about the definition of "worship" and how one party to a First Amendment civil rights suit claimed that there was a difference between how the law treated religious worship versus some other type of worship.

"...The argument might be made that, because the rule prohibits use of facilities for " religious worship services," it excludes religious worship services while permitting non-religious worship services. This argument is a canard. The presence of the word "religious" in the phrase is superfluous and does not change the meaning. There is no difference in usage between a "worship service" and a "religious worship service;" both refer to a service of religious worship. See Bronx Household I, 127 F.3d at 221 (Cabranes, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) ("Unlike religious 'instruction,' there is no real secular analogue to religious 'services,' such that a ban on religious services might pose a substantial threat of viewpoint discrimination between religion and secularism."). We think, with confidence, that if 100 randomly selected people were polled as to whether they attend "worship services," all of them would understand the questioner to be inquiring whether they attended services of religious worship. While it is true that the word "worship" is occasionally used in nonreligious contexts, such as to describe a miser, who is said to "worship" money, or a fan who "worships" a movie star, the term "worship services" has no similar use; meetings of a celebrity's fan club are not described as "worship services." Worship services are religious; the rule describes the entire category of activity excluded. The meaning of the rule's exclusion of "religious worship services" would be no different if it identified the excluded activity as "worship services."


CITATION of where this quote came from:
BRONX HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH, Robert Hall, and Jack Roberts v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the CITY OF NEW YORK

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Decided: June 2, 2011.
650 F. 3d 30

That's what I think, too. A "place of worship" must be where religious services or other religious worship goes on. Worshiping something or some principle or doctrine outside of the religious context is not "worship" and the location is not a "place of worship" under the law. (Probably. But until an appellate court IN GEORGIA or in the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals says so... lesser courts could take a different view).
 

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If this is an organization of Atheists, to charge you with carrying in a "Place of Worship" would require them to accept that what they are doing that one Sunday a month is worshiping. By definition, I don't think Atheists can worship. Is my thinking correct here?

I mean no offense to the OP. It is just that, my understanding of Atheism is they don't believe in any deity and therefore, to worship, would admit that there is a presence superior to their own. Please correct me if I am wrong. I have never researched Atheism.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for your awesome answer; I was thinking along the same lines. In my mind, there has to be some aspect of awe towards a higher power to consider it worship, and I don't see that in atheist communities. I feel like Sunday assembly falls under a similar category as a lecture by a non-school program. If I ever go, I'll probably just conceal and never have a problem, I was just curious about what y'all thought.
 

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An Atheist, by definition, does not believe there is a God at all.

a·the·ist
ˈāTHēˌist/
noun
noun: atheist; plural noun: atheists
1.
a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
Does that mean they can't "worship"? I don't know, they could say they are worshiping life, or nature, or reason, or science or Barack Obama (j/k) or whatever. The GA Code doesn't say a house of worship that is worshiping a diety (though, I would assume that is what they meant).

I've never heard an atheist use the word worship for anything they do (and I know a few) but I could imagine if they wanted to go after someone for carrying at a gathering of theirs they could at least attempt to make the argument that they deserve the same "protections" as do religious groups.

All of that said, most of the atheists I know are libertarians and would not object to someone carrying at a gathering and would no sooner go to the gov't to stop someone from carrying than they would pray that God keep them safe. ;)
 

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If this is an organization of Atheists, to charge you with carrying in a "Place of Worship" would require them to accept that what they are doing that one Sunday a month is worshiping. By definition, I don't think Atheists can worship. Is my thinking correct here?

I mean no offense to the OP. It is just that, my understanding of Atheism is they don't believe in any deity and therefore, to worship, would admit that there is a presence superior to their own. Please correct me if I am wrong. I have never researched Atheism.
The broadest, most general definition that fits every atheist is one who has not been convinced that the claim for [a] god has met its burden of proof. That's it. That's atheism in a nutshell. Under that category is a panoply of beliefs. On one end you have those who absolutely believe there are no gods. On another end are those who would believe, if proof were ever to present itself. It's not that atheists cannot believe in superior beings. They just tend not to believe in supernatural ones (though even that is not a requirement to wear the label of atheist). I'm sure if one looked, a person could find atheists who believed in a race of superior aliens.

The idea of worship is an interesting one because even if an atheist were to be shown incontrovertible proof of the existence of a god, that doesn't automatically mean they would worship it. On the other hand, an atheist could worship any number of things (money, spouse, car, themselves, etc). It would be very difficult to prove that a monthly meeting where atheist got together to play poker or watch football or even talk about the evils of religion was a worship service.
 

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IRS says Atheist Leaders Are Clergy

Per this USA Today news article, a group of atheists complained about the IRS rules for the tax breaks on a parsonage that some religious group gives to its clergy for housing.

The atheists thought they were being discriminated against because they were not a religious organization and their leaders could not be considered clergy or ministers.

But the IRS said they WOULD qualify for such a tax break, if they asked for it. All they had to do was claim to be an atheist church with atheist clergy, and the IRS would let 'em have the write-off.

The atheists declined. They don't view themselves as any sort of church and their leaders are not any form of clergy or ministers.
So they pressed forward with their lawsuit, which they initially won, but the lower court's decision is currently being appealed.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/20/atheist-religion-tax-breaks/2678367/
 
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