What is the Future of the Church in America? – 11.05.2013

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This is a mission statement from taxthechurches.org;

“It was the fervent hope of the founders of our great nation that its government would not trespass on the province of religion, and that religion would find neither refuge nor condemnation from a secular government. The founders’ commitment to this idea was unequivocal. The very first words of the Bill of Rights read: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Whether you interpret that statement as an originalist, papist, feminist, or any other -ist, exempting religious organizations from paying taxes is a clear case of our government “respecting an establishment of religion,” precisely what the framers intended to prohibit.

This is not to suggest that you abandon your church or your faith. For one thing, any religious organization that lives up to its commitments to its congregation and community would have nothing to fear from filing a tax return, just like every other non-profit. For another, when these institutions pay taxes like every other non-profit, each citizen’s tax burden is significantly lessened and consequently, he or she may better endow a worthy institution with individual support.

It is the flip side of the same coin as your right to practice a religion must be respected by the government, it may not support churches by tax subsidies or any other means”.

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” (James Madison)

It could be said that in the last 50 years, Americans have been becoming more and more secular in our culture. There are fewer moral absolutes. The creator God has been pushed out the back door of schools and government buildings

The term “separation of church and state” is the buzzword used to keep religious symbols and ideals out of mainstream government. I am not a historian, but the aforementioned quote from James Madison was never included in the Constitution of the United States. But his words were from the original gathering debating on how to frame the government.

As it is well known, these men were painfully aware of the tyranny and oppression the Church of England exerted in the British government. The debate on how to proceed in the writing of the document bogged down for days in endless arguments. At one point Benjamin Franklin proposed “that we should pray to the God of Lights, to give us illumination on how to proceed”. That motion was never adopted. You could say this was the very first instance of including God in secular affairs in America was debated.

At this time in history, local, state and federal governments are going broke, and desperate for tax revenues

Again, this is quoted from taxthechurchs.org; “Because it costs you and me billions. We are not talking about chump change here. Consider that for every tax dollar a religious organization does not pay, you and I pay it on its behalf. Many are among the wealthiest organizations in the world: by 1971, the amount of real and personal property owned by U.S. Churches was approx. $110 billion. In New York City alone, the amount was $3 billion in 1989. A 1986 estimate showed religious income in that year of approx. $100 billion, or about five times the income of the five largest corporations in the U.S. All tax-free”.

Could we be at a crossroads of a perfect storm when the tax-the-church movement gains steam?

When governments are desperate to increase revenues will they look at the tax-free loopholes religious organizations have? Will a majority of the people resent all the tax-free benefits and properties religious organizations own? Not to mention all the moral issues a secular society disagrees with religion on a multitude of issues?

We must not forget we live in a Republic, not a democracy. We elect representatives to be our voice in government. In that light, people who wish more religion to be included in public debate deserve a voice and a place at the table as much as any other group.

Freedom of speech is a precious right. No one wants to lose it. Including those who support such things as gay rights, women’s rights, and atheist rights. But could free speech in religion be muzzled when the majority of the people vote against it?

For purposes of U.S. tax law, churches are considered to be public charities, also known as Section 501(c)(3) organizations. As such, they are generally exempt from federal, state, and local income and property taxes”. (Legal Encyclopedia)

That leaves another beachhead the church or other religious groups in America cannot stop. The argument that everyone has to pay their fair share of taxes. And the argument of separation of church and state supporters to sever tax-free status to religious groups.

When this happens, the church comes into the control and oversight of the Internal Revenue Service. Does anyone remember when it came to light, the IRS was involved in blocking political tea party groups from obtaining not for profit status? If the tax-free status of the church is revoked, the church will have some hard decisions to make. Do we follow draconian measures and requirements to keep our church buildings and land? What happens when we disagree with the government in such issues as gay marriage? Do we cower in fear to raise objections? If we do, are we shouted down and investigated as domestic terrorists? Is this a case of taxation without representation for the ordinary taxpayer?

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The old institutional church will attempt to cling to her old ways and co-operate with the new laws. They may even condemn and criticize any new religious movements that do not. Perhaps to not lose what they have obtained, and the status they have achieved.

Whoever hears these teachings of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell with a loud crash” (Matthew 7:26-27)

The point may come when the true church of Jesus Christ will draw a line in the sand and abandon tax-free status. This new movement will be similar to the church in the Book of Acts. The church moving in step with her Lord, despite persecution. These are like “Jason and certain brothers before the city judges, crying, These who have turned the world upside down have come here too!” (Acts 17:6)

There is someone shouting in the desert: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. Make the road straight for him. Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be made flat. Crooked roads will be made straight, and rough roads will be made smooth. Then everyone will see how God will save his people!” (Luke 3:4-6)

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