A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.
Copyright © November 25, 2017
The answer to the question depends on the type of church. Is the church a spiritual entity built by the Lord Jesus Christ only or is the church a temporal earthly legal entity organized and built according to the laws of man. I will answer this question as to the church which is a legal, earthly, temporal entity such the corporate 501c3 or 508 church. I will also answer it as to the church which is a spiritual eternal entity only. I will describe how OPBC is the latter—a spiritual eternal entity—which operates in the light and proclaims to the world exactly what they are doing.
A church that chooses to become a legal entity such as a corporate 501c3 or 508 organization will need a tax number.
A legal entity is an entity that can sue, be sued, act legally, enter into contracts and so forth. A corporation is a “person” in that sense. The essay, Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status gives some insights on the legal fiction that makes a corporation a legal “person.”
Unlike a church who chooses to become a temporal earthly entity such as a corporation with 501c3 or 508 status, the New Testament church, a church which has not voluntarily given up her New Testament and First Amendment status, cannot have an EIN or TIN. Why? Because by doing so that church is acting as an earthly temporal as opposed to eternal spiritual organization. That church is putting money in the bank, for example, in the name of the church.
What is wrong with that? First, the church is acting temporally, legally, earthly. Believers are to give to God, not to an earthly temporal organization created by man. When church members give to an incorporated church, the money is put in the corporate bank account. If the church is not incorporated and the money is put in a bank account in the name of the church, the money is put into an earthly account which belongs to the church. Legally and temporally, the money belongs to the church, not to God. I realize that many people who are in such churches believe in their heart that they are giving to God and I believe that God honors that. However, he is grieved by the fact that they are proceeding without knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
A church that is a New Testament Church, a spiritual entity only, cannot have a Tax or Employment Identification Number. Having a TIN or EIN makes a church a legal entity.
OPBC members give to God, not to the church. The money they give is put in a trust bank account which does not belong to OPBC. The true owner of the money in the trust bank account is the Lord Jesus Christ. OPBC openly proclaims this without fear. The pastor of OPBC showed the bank the trust papers which established the Lord’s trust. The bank opened the account.
OPBC does not lease or own the facility they meet in. OPBC does not have insurance on the meetinghouse; but the meetinghouse is insured. The pastor/trustee of OPBC showed the insurance company the paperwork which makes this possible, the paperwork which declares to the world what OPBC is doing. The insurance company sold a policy, not to OPBC, but to the trust relationship with property created by the church in accordance with Bible principles.
Why can a church do this in America? Because American law recognizes the type trust established by OPBC. OPBC established the trust relationship, but the trust is not OPBC nor is OPBC the trust. The trust is simply a fiduciary relationship with property. See, for more information and links to more resources on the trust relationship, Is Old Paths Baptist Church a Spiritual or Legal Entity?
The trust is not a legal entity, like a business trust or charitable trust. The highest man-made law in America, the First Amendment, and also corresponding state constitutional provisions honor the Bible principle of separation of church and state. Those laws guarantee that churches and non-Christian religious organizations such as the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholics, the Moslems, the Hindus, the Buddhists and so forth can choose to operate outside government intervention.
You see, the legal system in America recognizes, but did not create, the fiduciary relationship with money and property which OPBC uses in order to remain a non-legal, eternal, spiritual entity.
As a lawyer and a believer, I proclaim these matters to the world. I would not utilize the tactic of lying so as to displease the Lord, mislead other believers, and lose my law license. Not only that, if OPBC members found that I intentionally or unknowingly lied to them or misled them, they would point out my error and give me a chance to repent. I will not knowingly disgrace God’s churches.
Recommended resources for further study:
Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities. This is online PDF form of the 2nd edition of the book. OPBC plans to print this in paperback form.
Links to articles on these matters: