Court Halts Illinois from Taxing Religious Ministry to Children

State agency decided By the Hand Club for Kids no longer qualified as a nontaxable charity in 2015…

Cook County Courts Says Religious Charity Can Remain Tax Exempt

By the Hand Club for Kids/PHOTO: Alliance Defending Freedom

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The Illinois Department of Employment Security tried to tax a not-for-profit Christian charity that serves underprivileged children, but an Illinois court upheld its tax-exempt status on Wednesday.

By The Hand Club for Kids operated as a tax-exempt entity since it began in 2001, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented the charity in the lawsuit.

IDES decided the organization no longer qualified as a nontaxable charity in 2015 and tried to charge it unemployment compensation taxes.

The department said it changed its policy because “things were run a little bit differently around here” in the past.


“Not only is the government wrong on the law when it attempts to tax a non-taxable entity, it is doing no one any favors by improperly burdening the finances of a ministry motivated to serve needy children explicitly because of its Christian mission,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus.

The Illinois department rejected the idea that By The Hand Club For Kids “operated primarily for religious purposes.”

In other words, because it assists needy children with food and medical care, it was not religious enough for tax exemption.

But the Christian organization does much more than provide for physical needs.

“We are a Christ-centered, after-school program that takes kids by the hand and walks with them through college, helping them have abundant life—mind, body and soul,” the club’s mission statement said.

ADF said the group holds chapel services and Bible studies and teaches discipleship, prayer, and worship.

The Circuit Court of Cook County rejected the argument of IDES and ruled in favor of By The Hand Club for Kids on July 18.

“Plaintiff does indeed provide many services that could, in a different context, be considered secular,” the court decision said. “But that context is important. Analyzing an activity’s purpose requires looking not only at the activity itself, but why it is being undertaken.”