> Articles from the Abolitionists of North Idaho > 02/25/2015

Are Churches Neglecting Justice Because of their Tax Status?

I want to start this article with an example of a Church Constitution from a Christian fellowship in Sagle, Idaho. Here is a section of the Consitution of a local baptist Church:

  • SECTION 2 – POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT: No substantial part of the activities of the Church shall be the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation. The Church shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.

First, let's define propaganda from the dictionary: 1) information and ideas deliberately spread widely to help a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. The origin of this word comes from Latin around 1720 and had the idea behind it of propagating the faith. The word was originated in the religious sense.

If you have studied the ideology of abolitionists of human abortion, then you would know that one of our primary ideas is that opposition to child sacrifice needs to be driven by the Body of Jesus Christ. The opposition also needs to be vocal, because it is by declaration of the Word of God against the evil of child sacrifice that we expect to effect the moral persuasion necessary to overturn the evil. We say that human abortion abolition is a work of the Church because it is the Church, alone, that possesses the power and authority to cast down strong holds and wield the Sword that is the offensive weapon against evil, that sword being the word of God, as identified in Ephesians 6:17.

Consider the words Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10, "3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

Jesus said in some of His final words to His disciples that all power on heaven and earth had been given to Him (see Matthew 28:18). He followed this by saying that we are to go into all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe whatsoever He commanded. The constitution of this local church specifically contravenes the commands of Jesus Christ. Let me explain.

Jesus is declared to be the Word in John 1:1. So, all words of God were declared by Jesus. Those words include everything in the New and Old Testaments of Holy scripture. Many of the words in scripture are commands. So, these are the things Christians should obey. Some examples of those words are:

  • Proverbs 24:11-12 - If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; 12 if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it?

    The death spoken of in this scripture is physical, not spiritual damnation. We are to rescue those being put to physical death.

  • Proverbs 31:8-9 - Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. 9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

    Notice the word "plead" in this scripture. Or even the whole concept of "open thy mouth" is to make utterance. It is to SPEAK. We are to speak out on behalf of those appointed to destruction and plead their cause.

    From Webster's 1828 dictionary, let's examine the word plead: To discuss, defend and attempt to maintain by arguments or reasons offered to the tribunal or person who has the power of determining. To obey this scripture requires written and oral communication.

  • James 1:27 talks about pure and undefiled religion to include visiting orphans in their affliction. Orphans are those abandoned by fathers and mothers by whatever reason. Children being aborted are being abandoned by their fathers and mothers and fit the definition of an orphan. We should therefore attend to them in their affliction, which is their imminent death.

  • Jesus also said love your neighbor as yourself. He then gave us practical advice that love is an action, which he demonstrated with the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37. The preborn are as much our neighbors as the born, and they merit as much action on their behalf as the born. Jesus illustrated elsewhere that when you do something for the least of our neighbors, you do it for Him (see Matthew 25:34-40).

    The preborn are the least of these from Matthew 25:40. They are the least capable of our neighbors, and those with no voice in the culture. Who but the righteous can speak on their behalf?

Even though we know that at it's core abortion is a spiritual problem and great spiritual warfare, its legalization was a "political" act. It was an act of magistrates. The ultimate solution of which will require a political solution. If the courts and the government, with guns and authority, enforce the acceptance of legalized child sacrifice, then how, but by politics, can there be a solution? Ultimately, we abolitionists believe the solution will come about by peaceful political revolution or through the means of the doctrine of the lesser magistrates, which we will be elucidating in great detail this year.

So, we now ask - how can a Church of the Lord Jesus Christ fulfill His commands in relation to the slaughter of the preborn when they are binding themselves in their own constitution to not follow His commands? How can they speak out on a matter so important as the slaughter of preborn children, which is treated as a political issue by many, when they are binding themselves not to speak out? Of course, the real issue is, why are they binding themselves by their own constitution to not obey Jesus?

We suspect the reason for this church constitution is that the church likely has non-profit status with the federal government's Internal Revenue Service. You will see below the regulations the IRS imposes on churches that select a non-profit status for tax purposes. The language of the constitution of the church in question closely mirrors that of the IRS regulations below. And, even though this church made the regulations explicit in their consitution, all churches that select non-profit status are encumbered by the IRS regulations as a result of their selection.

A church selects non-profit status for certain perceived tax benefits. That is to say they believe there is financial benefit to the church or to its contributors for having the non-profit status. But, does not Jesus have something specifically to say about attempting to serve both God and financial interests in Luke 16:13 - "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon".

Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

The problem is not only one of church constitutions.

The following are the rules for 501(c)(3) organizations as listed in IRS publication and on their web site:

  • The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations

    Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

    Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

    On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

There you have it - any church that has registered as a 501(c)(3) organization with the government is bound by the same restrictions. This is a problem in that scripture also declare that believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Accepting non-profit status for the sake of tax deductible contributions is the yoking of oneself to a federal government engaged in unrighteousness and binding oneself against the fulfilling of the commands of Christ.

Now, though it is beyond the scope of this article, let us also state that 501(c)(3) status is not the only problem churches have. If a church foregoes that status in the IRS code, but acts as a non-profit and allows its contributions to be tax deductible, which is all legal under section 508(c)(1)(A) of the tax code, then it is still subject to the restrictions of 501(c)(3). A good write-up on the tax code aspects of corporations can be found here.

The bottom line remains. Will Churches obey Jesus Christ and abolish human abortion through speaking out and other action, or will they treat abortion like the third rail of American politics and not love their neighbors as themselves?

For more information on the legal situation and tax status of speaking the word of God against political positions and related to the great moral issues of our day, read this document from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

On the issue of tax status for Churches, we want to conclude with this advice from a tax accountant and CPA.

  • How many churches are actually turning a profit subject to income tax if they were not tax exempt? If they were collecting more than their expenses (thus a profit), they could simply ask their contributors to stop giving until an expense (a need) arises. That would maintain the balance of inflow versus outflow, resulting in no profit.

  • The standard deduction for married filing jointly is so high that NONE of my tax clients even give enough to deduct their charitable contributions. Keep in mind that in order to deduct charitable contributions, the total of their itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction for their personal income tax return. Since this almost never happens, it is wrong to solicit contributions with the idea of deductibility being touted as another reason to give.

  • Besides, Jesus said don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. If people are keeping their receipts and are itemizing, they and the church are not following the command of Jesus in this regard.

Hence, tax deductibility is a moot point. Christians should give charitably, unconcerned with tax deductions, whenever and wherever there is a need. And churches should form as for profit C corporations if there is a need for corporate status.

More evidence from scripture that Churches should establish justice in civil government.

Let's examine the admonitions for God's people in Amos chapter 5. Amos 5:7 talks of God's people leaving off judgment: "Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth". The judgment referred to is clear later in these scriptures as verse 15 clarifies, "Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate". At that time, civil government and justice took place at the gates of the cities. This is where government met and decisions were made and justice was established or perverted.

Amos 5:24 goes on to declare "But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream". This is instruction for God's people. WE are to be the ones to seek justice and righteousness in government of the nation. And, when we leave it off, God warns that if we leave off judgment, He will, Amos 5:21 "hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols".

Isaiah 1:16-17 makes this point as well "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow". Again, how can we avoid these clear instructions of God to establish judgment in the form of righteous government? We are commanded to establish judgment and justice that extends to our neighbors and most especially to the poor and weak and the least of us. To do that, we MUST be involved in the political machinations of our present age. We must urge the civil magistrates with the Word of God to do the will of God.