Should Churches Really Be Tax Free?

Recently we have had a pastor, Rev. Cary Gordon, at a church in Iowa, one Cornerstone World Outreach Church, effectively dare the IRS to “do something about” his active encouraging of other church leaders and church goers to vote specifically for a measure on the 2010 mid-term election ballot.  Of course the issue he was taking up was the retention vote for Supreme Court Justices as well as the Constitutional Convention to modify the Iowa Constitution.  He was telling everyone specifically how to vote in the then-coming election and to vote NO on the retention of the judges. We all know how this travesty of judiciary policy was played out when these Justices were ousted by popular Iowan vote. However, that is not the issue here. The issue here is the separation of Church and State in the United States of America.

In our country we have tax codes that apply to any kind of organization. In particular organizations that are not-for-profit are exempt from taxes on the goods and services they purchase.  The trade of that they get from this tax-free status is that they pay no taxes, but they are unable to act as a political entity. In effect they have no status as political activists and can have no say in political affairs.  No taxes paid, no legal representation. Fair enough? Well, not when you actively tell people to vote one way or another.  Not when you pour hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell people how to vote. Not when you actively campaign against certain candidates based on religious grounds.

Everyone knows this, though, right? This isn’t news that non-profit organizations can’t do this, right? ISUAAS can’t go about soliciting donations to give to Jason Kelley to run for office. Not at all!

But it happens. Every. Single. Day. Every single day in our country when groups get together under non-profit status as churches, they advocate policies and instruct their patrons on how to vote. Now, they are not as blatant about it as Pastor Gordon up there in Sioux City. They don’t go so far to dare the IRS to come cracking down on them. I mean, could you imagine if these churches were no longer tax free?  The amount of money that would pour into the public coffers to help pay for things like education, roads, and infrastructure would be HUGE! Do these churches really have any idea how game-changing that losing a case to the IRS over the 1st Amendment could be? I don’t think they do, or if they do, they sure are quiet right now.

Now the main reason I writing this is because an interesting thought has been murmured about in the secular community. Why are churches taxes exempt? I mean, if we started taxing them, then they’d be able to participate in politics! That is no good, right? The thing is, they already do.  Taxing churches now would for certain close down a large percentage of religious institutions in this country. Even if we taxed only the ones that were demonstrably violating IRS codes (nearly all) we would see a rapid decline of the number of churches in our country.  The tough thing about this, is it possible for churches to NOT violate the IRS code? Many church teachings tell citizens how to live their lives in a “moral” way, and often that includes voting for certain policies or politicians in a certain way. Is it even possible for churches to be churches without swaying public policy? Can there really be a separation of Church and State when Churches can literally shape public policy?

I don’t think it is, and they should pay for the privilege like everyone else. They will shape public policy whether they are taxed or not.

 

Jason K.

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21 comments on “Should Churches Really Be Tax Free?

  1. Mike says:

    Jason,

    Let’s be fair about this. Where are the cries against politicians or unions preaching in churches and telling their members to vote Democrat? If we are going to cry foul, then let’s do it fairly and against every one that violates the law. I believe it is wrong no matter who does it.
    I also believe that a church should never even ask the government for permission to exist or to get tax exempt status.
    And again, there is no such thing as “separation of church and state.” It is a fallacy invented by the progressives and furthered by a progressive court. Its not in the Constitution, no matter how hard you look, you won’t find it.

    • jastiger says:

      So I assume you have no problem with a law that says we have to stone women if they are found to be adulterers or if we are not allowed to eat pork. Ever. Right?

    • Dan Reed says:

      The first amendment to the Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”.

      In an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, “Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

      Thomas Jefferson was a founding father correct? Don’t people like you hold those like him in high esteem, second only to Jesus? Just sayin…

      The Amendment to the constitution was obviously meant to protect the freedom of religion, but also to prevent the Government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion”. Tax exempt status seems pretty respectful to me, maybe it’s time to make churches pay uncle Sam just like any other company that sells bullshit products.

      Mike I actually agree with you – churches should not have to ask the government for permission to exist, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have to do they? I’m just wondering, because this is a wonderful illustration of the persecution complex common in Christianity.

      Unfortunately, in American politics we have everyone bringing their beliefs to the table, secular or religious, crazy or sane. The political system we have now is more of a popularity contest than a properly functioning system of goverment. But – it’s all we got.

      • Mike says:

        Dan, you are correct that Jefferson wrote that, but he did not mean that government could have nothing to do with religion. What he and all other founders meant, was that the government could not establish ONE particular denomination as the only religion for everyone to worship at – like what happened in Europe (Catholic and Anglican). The founders and especially Jefferson encouraged use of government buildings for Bible studies and even places of worship. They saw religion as a must if a Republican Form of government was to be maintained.
        You are correct that the system we now have is not functioning as it was intended. But that’s what happens when the sheeple let the fox run the henhouse without keeping tabs of how things are going. But thankfully, we can change it to the way it should be.

        • Dan Reed says:

          Only if you and those like you stay out of the mix. I think it’s funny how you mention sheeple and don’t realize that you are one of them.

          And I disagree, “thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” means that government should have NOTHING to do with religion. Please enlighten us to the source for your suggestion that Jefferson encouraged the use of government buildings for bible studies and places of worship? I dare say you are a liar making things up for the sake of your argument.

    • Deb Drummond says:

      You are right…it isn’t in the constitution. The phrase “wall of separation between the church and the state” was originally coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802. His purpose in this letter was to assuage the fears of the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists, and so he told them that this wall had been erected to protect them. The metaphor was used exclusively to keep the state out of the church’s business, not to keep the church out of the state’s business.
      The tax law for tax exempted businesses changed when Johnson after loosing an election got a bill through to hush them from speaking out against different politicians.
      Sorry but its about time these Clergy took a stand for what’s right…it wasn’t just about the law that judges passed it was about the fact that its not their place to make law.

      • jastiger says:

        I am very interested to see what law the judges made. Can you please tell me which law was created by the ruling and how the judges over stepped their bounds?

  2. Mike says:

    Well Dan, I’m sorry you don’t know your history. And thank you Deb for your insightful look into the purpose of Jefferson’s letter. I just love how Dan gets totally irrational when challenged. In “The Writings by Thomas Jefferson” Edited by Albert Bergh, (the same writings where the phrase “separation of the church and state” is found) Jefferson stated his deep satisfaction in the use of the local courthouse by several denominations that had no building to meet in, “The courthouse is the common temple, one Sunday each month to each.”
    If I may answer Jasons question – judges made law when they stepped outside their constitutional bounds to take away the sovereignty of the States. Justisdiction which the Supreme Court and Congress did not and do not have. As ALL the founders knew “without religion the government of a free people CANNOT be maintained.” Why? because without the Christian religion the morals of the people will slump into non existence.

    • jastiger says:

      Then how are secular countries not embroiled in constant warfare? Why does the United States have the highest crime rate and most incarcerated people? If what you said was true, the evidence would not be counter to your claim. I am not saying religion CAUSES crime, but it is certainly not a deterrent.

      As for the judges, when did any federal judge make a law taking away anything from churches? Are you saying you agree that churches should no longer be tax exempt?

      • Mike says:

        Jason, first of all we are speaking the United States, not other countries. Secondly, the reason the US has such a high rate is because of all the bleeding heart liberals who want the criminals to have rights, and they use them to their advantage. Our crime rate was not so high when crime was punished as it should have been. That’s not to say that crime will completely stop, because we do live in a world where people have a choice, and some will always choose to do evil (sin). That’s just the nature of the world.
        No one ever said that religion would be a complete deterrent, Even God knows that and said so.
        Judges took away the right of religion to be practiced anywhere, when it chose to rule and make law (separation of church and state), which it had no jurisdiction to rule on.

        • jastiger says:

          So does Gods law only apply to the United States? I didn’t think divine law really cared about borders made in the 1800’s.

          How does a criminal having more rights than you or me make them more likely to commit crimes? How would you advocate punishing criminals? I am curious to see what you say her.

          Lastly, I had no idea that religion cannot be practiced anywhere because of these bogeyman judges. Are you breaking the law every time you go to church? I didn’t think so, but you do. Whats going on here?

    • Dan Reed says:

      “Well Dan, I’m sorry you don’t know your history. And thank you Deb for your insightful look into the purpose of Jefferson’s letter. I just love how Dan gets totally irrational when challenged. In “The Writings by Thomas Jefferson” Edited by Albert Bergh, (the same writings where the phrase “separation of the church and state” is found) Jefferson stated his deep satisfaction in the use of the local courthouse by several denominations that had no building to meet in, “The courthouse is the common temple, one Sunday each month to each.””

      You caught me, I know absolutely nothing of history… Not that it was my favorite subject or anything, especially the World War 2 era. I just have not read or heard of the quote you provided here and would not have HAD I not challenged you. You have a way of not providing evidence unless in your own defense, in this case…being called out as a liar. That is not being irrational, that is pulling teeth to get you to actually cough up something solid to back up your statements. I applaud you for coming through, but I still pity you for your blindfold.

      “ALL the founders knew “without religion the government of a free people CANNOT be maintained.” Why? because without the Christian religion the morals of the people will slump into non existence.”

      A Moral is a sense of right from wrong. Are you saying that without the Christian religion, no one would be able to tell right from wrong? Do you have any proof? How does this work in areas of the world with NO Christian religion?

      Jason: “Then how are secular countries not embroiled in constant warfare? Why does the United States have the highest crime rate and most incarcerated people? If what you said was true, the evidence would not be counter to your claim. I am not saying religion CAUSES crime, but it is certainly not a deterrent.”

      Your first question isn’t really fair, the United States isn’t embroiled in constant warfare because of Religion. The US is in a strange spot in that we are looked to as the enforcer. Look at the recent wikileaks, where the Saudi’s are trying to get us to go after Iran by any means neccessary instead of actually doing something about it themselves.

      Regarding religion not being a deterrant, I am in complete agreement. Religion instills morals through fear. If you don’t follow these(10 commandments) you will go to hell. To take care of the crime rate all we would have to do is start public hangings back up when it comes to murder, and castrate a few rapists, problem solved. Not as easy as that I know, but it would surely be an effective deterrent, don’t you think? More so than 3 squares a day, TV time, free gym membership, and full access to the legal system.

      • Mike says:

        Dan, I’am just using the same argumentation that you and everyone has been using – make an accusation without support. I assumed that that was the way every “Free Thinker” argued, so I figured what was good for goose, was good for the gander.
        As for the “sense” of right or wrong, it is not Christianity that instills that, but God. We are all born with that sense. However that sense can only tell us that a thing may be right or wrong, we can’t know for sure until we turn to the manual – the Bible (New Testament). The reason that the Christian religion is superior to any religion in the world is because when it applied correctly it motivates its followers to look to the needs of others first and foremost, which is why Americans are always the first to help when disaster strikes. It is also the Christian religion that has given us the greatest nation in the world. Other religions only look to self and forget about everyone else, for “fate” has caused them to be in their condition and I can’t do anything about it.
        Poor religion (denominationalism) is built upon “fear.” True Christianity (undenominationalism) is built upon “love.”
        On the other hand, secular government is built upon fear – obey these laws or you will go to jail and be fined.
        I agree that public hangings immediately (not 20 years later) might deter crime. But no one ever said it would be erraticated. Also, stop the TV time and gym membership, and go back to chain gangs. If all jails were more like Sheriff Joes, the consequences of crime would not be as pleasant.

        • Dan Reed says:

          So,

          1. We are all born with an innate sense of right and wrong, given to us by God.
          This is a testable hypothesis but would require potentially messing up some kids – so has to be taken on faith.

          2. Love sells better than fear, thus undenominationalism(True Christianity) is “better” religion.

          3. All other religions only look to self and forget about others.

          4. The Christian Religion gave us the greatest nation on the earth.

          Did I get those right?

      • jastiger says:

        So does Gods law only apply to the United States? I didn’t think divine law really cared about borders made in the 1800’s.

        How does a criminal having more rights than you or me make them more likely to commit crimes? How would you advocate punishing criminals? I am curious to see what you say her.

        Lastly, I had no idea that religion cannot be practiced anywhere because of these bogeyman judges. Are you breaking the law every time you go to church? I didn’t think so, but you do. Whats going on here?

        To Dan: I didn’t mean to say the US was in a constant state of warfare. My point was that he said without religion and by becoming more secular you are more likely to be embattled in war or social anarchy. This is not the case obviously, because there are VERY secular countries out there that have LESS chaos than the United States. Its a perfectly fair example.

        • Mike says:

          Jason,

          Who said anything about God’s Law applying only to the US? All I have said, is that the focus of the discussion has been on the US.

          I never said that criminals have “more” rights than non-criminals, what I said is that they no longer lose their rights like they once did, and are in a way rewarded for crime. Many criminals say its better in prison than it is on the outside, so they commit more crime to be sent back.

          The punishment should fit the crime, and it should be immediate and equal for everyone. This business of the rich getting to remain out of jail until their appeals are exhausted is not equal justice. But I do believe in capital punishment if that’s what you want to know.

          • jastiger says:

            How are criminals rewarded for their crime? In what way should we “punish” criminals? This is a very complex question with a very complex answer, not one that you can give your personal opinion, cite religion, and be satisfied with an answer. I agree that the rich should not have the easy ride they do, but that has nothing to do with Gods law, and everything to do with a capitalistic system and the legal system therein.

            • Mike says:

              Criminals today are “rewarded” in the broadest sense of the word, with sitting around and doing nothing, watching TV, pumping iron, recreation, and even reduced sentences. They know how to play the system, a system that should not exist. You do the crime, you pay the time as they used to say.
              I don’t advocate stoning for capital crimes, but the death sentence is certainly one that needs to be used more with only one appeal, IF it is appealable and then quick punishment. All other crimes, not captial, the offender should serve their entire time, with hard labor.
              As for the rich getting break in the legal system, that has nothing whatsoever to do with a capitalist system. But everything to do with wicked men and women who worship the dollar.

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