Should Churches Be Tax Exempt?

May 10, 2012

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The Washington National Cathedral, also known ...

The passing of Amendment One in North Carolina yesterday got me thinking about a long-standing law in the United States that gives tax-exempt status to recognized religious institutions. The basic idea is that the US was founded on religious freedom and the surest way to prevent the free exercise of religion is to tax it . Exempting a church from taxes is also one of the best ways to keep the “separation of church and State” as described by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. This nation was founded on the basis that people should be able to practice whatever religion they’d like, and the government should have no ability to prosecute or privileged individuals for religious reasons – it’s supposedly why the Pilgrims came across on the Mayflower.

Over the past few months many churches in North Carolina have taken a rather active stance in favor of Amendment One, from simply putting up signs in favor of the amendment to having their pastors actively speak to the media that they are supporting the amendment. Beyond that I’ve heard quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that some churches are even telling their congregation that they should vote for Amendment One. One of the biggest Holy Rollers of all time, Billy Graham, came out enthusiastically for Amendment One. By taking an active stance for such a politically divisive issue, these churches are without a doubt getting political – if that’s the case, shouldn’t the rewards for staying politically neutral, tax exemption, be taken away?

A tax exemption is not a right, there is no constitutional mention at all of a religious institution’s right to not pay taxes. In fact, there are forms and qualifications to submit to the IRS that any tax exempt organization has to complete to show that they get the privilege of paying less or no taxes. The whole purpose of the tax exemption in the first place was because churches were believed to “fill in the gaps” in terms of charity and helping the poor and destitute, the gaps that the government was unwilling or unable to take care of. If a church is taking a political stance, then they are intrinsically swaying voters and changing outcomes and results regardless of the original intentions.

The right to not pay taxes is fine for charities, but when a church decides to speak out against individual rights the IRS has the right to veto that church’s application for tax-exempt status.

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Separation of Church and State

July 8, 2010

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I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Those 31 words are filled with both patriotism and controversy.  I’m sure that when the Pledge of Allegiance was originally written by Francis Bellamy (a preacher) he would never have thought so much controversy would surround his passage.  Interestingly enough, the “controversial” words (under God) were not added until 1954.  (The original writing was completed in 1892)

The argument stems from the concept of separation of church and state.  The Constitution in the 1st Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The religion portion of the 1st Amendment has become known to us as the separation of church and state.  When I closely read the Amendment, I have a different opinion than what I did ten minutes ago.  It doesn’t say anything about not being able to mention God which was a big portion of what our founding fathers based our ideals on.  It doesn’t say that we shouldn’t display any historical items that relate back to our patriotic history.  It certainly doesn’t say that Christians (or Jews, or whatever religion) are barred from expressing their religion publicly.  In fact, I tend to believe that it means just the opposite.

The last couple of weeks I’ve read a lot about a Massachusetts school banning the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The principal indicated that it was because they have a diverse group of students and he wanted to be respectful of that.  Rather than allowing the majority of the students to uphold an American tradition, Mr. Skidmore is catering to a small minority of his students by taking away the rights of the majority.  Why not just tell the few that may choose not to participate to NOT PARTICIPATE?  There were over 700 students that signed a petition asking that the Pledge of Allegiance be allowed in this school.  The school also received letters of support for the Pledge of Allegiance from Senator John Kerry and Senator Joe Liebermann.  (Neither of these Senators has a Republican R behind their name FYI).

On March 11, 2010 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling about the phrase “In God We Trust” as printed on our currency. (

 This court has two locations, one in San Francisco, CA and the other in Pasadena, CA.  This court is located in the heart of the land of fruits and nuts—“Liberal Land, USA”.  However, this court can even see the common sense and returned an opinion that said two things:

  1. The plaintiff (a US citizen that happens to be an atheist) has no standing to sue the government over the phrase.
  2. The phrase “In God We Trust” is not a violation of the Constitution because it is a “National Motto”.  The ruling had previously been made in Aronow vs. United States (Aronow v. United States,” 432 F.2d 242 (1970)) that read: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency (In God We Trust) has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of a religion.  Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”

My opinion is much simpler.  If you don’t like what is printed on US money, don’t use it.  If you don’t want to say the Pledge, don’t say it.  However, we’ve become a country of wimps more concerned with the feelings of the minority.  Rather than offend the few we take away rights of the many.  Why?  All in the name of being PC. 

However, we can’t forget our heritage or where we came from.  Why would we give up the values that our country was built on?  We may not have the perfect country, but we’re by far the best one that exists.  Why do liberals keep trying to give up our traditions and values for those from other countries?  Our ancestors came here to get away from other country’s values.  We can keep our values and traditions while allowing others to live here.  I don’t think that if we moved to France, Australia or Afghanistan they would stop flying their flag, stop singing their national anthem or make any religious changes to accommodate our believes and traditions.  Be proud and be an American—a patriotic flag loving American. 

We are still:

  •  “one nation under God” and
  • “in God we trust”