Helms, Senator Jesse
Helms, Senator Jesse(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
In the mid-1980s, then-Secretary of the Treasury James Baker declared that any religious group that was sincere in its beliefs and that conformed to "clearly defined public policy" could claim tax-exempt status. This included all Wiccan churches, should they have decided to apply for such status. However, Baker's "freedom of religion" policy did not, apparently, satisfy conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. In 1985, together with equally conservative Representative Robert Walker of Pennsylvania, Helms introduced bills that would specifically remove Wiccans and Pagans from tax-exempt status.
The American Civil Liberties Union immediately opposed the bills, as did various Witchcraft and Pagan organizations. Even the IRS itself opposed the Helms Amendment. The ACLU called the bill "the crudest example of First Amendment infringement."
The Church and School of Wicca owners Gavin and Yvonne Frost were alerted to Helms's attempt to tack the anti-Wiccan amendment onto a House Bill. Among those who brought the bill to the Frost's attention was noted evangelical preacher Billy Graham, who immediately saw that such a limitation could affect Christian churches as well as Pagan ones. As a result of all the ensuing resistance, the Helms Amendment was shelved.