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The History and Meaning of “Establishment of Religion” in America

A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry

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Jerald Finney
December 18, 2017

This article will succinctly answer several questions:

  1. What did “establishment or religion” mean in the colonies?
  2. What did “establishment or religion” mean at the time of the adoption of the First Amendment?[i]
  3. What happened with the remaining forced religious establishments after the adoption of the First Amendment?
  4. What does “establishment or religion” mean today?


I. Introduction: Meaning of “Establishment of Religion”
II. The Path to Multiple Establishments in the American Colonies
III. State Establishments
IV. Conclusion

I. Introduction: Meaning of “Establishment of Religion”

First Amendment Religion Clause

To understand these issues, one must first define “establishment of religion” and understand the meaning of “law ‘respecting’ an ‘establishment of religion.” At the adoption of the First Amendment, “No law respecting” meant “no law concerning or touching the subject of.” That still leaves unresolved the meaning of “establishment of religion.” Prior to colonization and for some time thereafter, “establishment of religion” meant one officially recognized church which worked with, over, or under the state, the civil government. The original meaning of “establishment of religion” which existed prior to and at the founding of America, was replaced by a “multiple establishment” understanding long before the adoption of the First Amendment. “The evidence demonstrates that by an establishment of religion the framers meant any government policy that aided religion and its agencies, the religious establishments.”[ii]

“After the American Revolution, seven of the fourteen states that comprised the Union in 1791 required establishments of religion by law. The other states which originally had established churches, had already done away with forced establishment in favor of chosen establishment and they all provided for multiple establishment. No state maintained a single or preferential establishment of religion. An establishment of religion meant to those who framed and ratified the First Amendment what it meant to the states: support of religion on a nonpreferential basis. It was specifically this support on a nonpreferential basis that the establishment clause of the First Amendment sought to forbid.”[iii]

In 1833, Massachusetts became the last state to replace forced establishment of religion with establishment of religion by choice. The First Amendment forbade establishment of religion in federal jurisdiction.

II. The Path to Multiple Establishments in the American Colonies

Establishment by choice and the free exercise of religion (soul liberty) took different paths in America. Almost all the colonies started out with single establishments of religion. Due to a variety of factors, by the time of the adoption of the First Amendment, all state establishments, whether by force or choice, were general or multiple establishments.

In the conventional sense, before the colonization of America as well as in most of the original colonies when founded, an establishment of religion meant the legal union of government and a single church or denomination such as Catholicism (numerous European countries), Calvinism (Geneva), Presbyterianism (Scotland), Lutheranism (Germany), or the Church of England.

With the founding of the colonies, conventional establishments existed in the southern colonies of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In 1778, South Carolina created an establishment or religion endorsed by William Tennent. “He called it a ‘general establishment’ because it recognized and nurtured the legal equality of all Protestants without preferring one denomination over others.” These general establishments were replaced by multiple establishment.

New England, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut at first had single establishments, Congregationalism. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire were founded and ruled by the Puritans, who came to American for freedom of religion “for themselves only.” The Puritans felt that they were the right people, at the right place, at the right time to establish a “city on a hill” to light the world, to show the world the rightness and resulting blessings of doing things God’s way (according to their Calvinist theology). Their experiment was well on its way to self-destruction by 1660. Gradually, the exclusive establishments in these New England colonies were replaced by multiple establishments.

Persecutions of “heretics,” those whose conscience prohibited them from bowing down to the colonial establishments were well documented. Those who supported establishment of their church were persecuted when in a colony with another established church. For example, Anglicans in New England were persecuted when they went to Massachusetts, and Presbyterians and others were persecuted to one extent or another in Virginia and other southern colonies. However, in opposing the persecuting establishment, they never favored complete separation of church and state and combined church and state when in the majority or in control.

A minority remnant of the Baptists were the only ones who consistently stood against union of church and state. That most Baptists by that time did not oppose total separation of church and state became clear when most of them sought certificates and compromised on the issue when the move toward multiple establishments had taken force.

Among those who stood their ground and led the fight against any establishment were Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, Isaac Backus, and John Leland. In New England, Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, and later, Isaac Backus wrote extensively against establishment and chronicled the persecutions which continued until the eve of the American Revolution and after, to a lesser extent.[iv] On the eve of the American Revolution, in 1774, eighteen Baptists were jailed in Warwick, Massachusetts for refusing to pay taxes in support of the town’s Congregational minister. To be exempted from paying the ministerial tax, a Baptist had to obtain a certificate that he regularly attended a church of his own denomination. For a copy of the certificate, he had to pay a tax of four pence. Isaac Backus, and some of his followers opposed the tax and the certificate and maintained that they were persecuted by the Congregational majority. John Adams, a Congregationalist (Puritan) leader stated that the establishment was “but a slender one” that did not infringe religious liberty.

In 1774, Baptists still paid ministerial taxes in Virginia and other colonies for building churches and were imprisoned for preaching in unlicensed Houses, preaching without Anglican ordination, and for other infractions.  Virginia Baptists were beaten by mobs, fined, and imprisoned for their religious beliefs which prevented them from obeying the laws of the established Anglican Church. The Virginia establishment originated with the colonies first charter in 1606.

Rhode Island not only never had an establishment of any kind, but also commanded complete religious freedom of soul liberty for all. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey had no establishment of religion, but did not allow complete religious freedom for all. For example, Pennsylvania did not grant freedom of religion to Catholics.

In New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, the pattern of establishment was diversified and unique. New York was the first example of an establishment very different from the European type, a general establishment without preference to one church over others.

III. State Establishments

The First Amendment, which until 1947 applied only to the federal government, forbade establishment of religion and guaranteed soul liberty at the national level only. After the First Amendment was adopted, states which still had laws requiring establishment gradually amended their constitutions to do away with the requirement that churches be “established.” All state constitutions allow churches to became established, but also provide that a church can make the choice not to become established. State constitutional provisions regarding church and state do not require establishment and also mandate soul liberty or the free exercise of religion.

A remnant of the Baptists continued to stand against any kind of establishment, including establishment by incorporation until all states had done away with forced establishment. John Leland was notable Baptist preacher, writer, and activist against union of church and state during a period starting in the 1780’s in Virginia and later in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The efforts and writings of earlier Baptist leaders, especially those of Isaac Backus, continued their influence during this period. Most Baptists had already been severed from their roots and betrayed God and their historic Baptist forefathers who had stood against the establishment to the death.[v]

New Jersey (1776), Pennsylvania (1776), New York (1777), and Delaware (1776 and 1792) made clear in their Constitutions that there would be no coerced establishment of religion.

North Carolina, by its constitution of 1776, became the first southern state to enact preferential establishment. “In Maryland, Georgia, and South Carolina, ‘an establishment of religion’ meant very much what it did in the three New England states that maintained multiple establishments. However, those three southern states merely permitted but did not create establishment.”[vi]

In six other states, pro-establisment parties were forced to make concessions to the growing sentiment against any forced establishments. Four other states replaced single establishments by authorizing multiple establishments, and two substituted multiple establishments for dual ones. “The evidence relating to each of these six proves that an …an establishment of religion was not restricted in meaning to a state church or to a system of public support of one sect alone; instead, and establishment of religion meant public support of several or all churches, with preference to none.”[vii]

Three of these states—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut—were in New England. The 1780 Massachusetts Constitution allowed for the possibility that a Baptist or some other minority minister might be elected by a town and receive the taxes of his congregation. This happened in several towns where the Baptists became the majority. In those towns, the Baptist ministers, by law, were supposed to receive their salaries from the town treasuries. As the Reverend John Leland pointed out, in towns where Baptists formed a majority, they might “tax all in the town or precincts to part with their money for religious uses,” thereby violating Baptist principles.[viii] A minority of Baptists stood on Bible principles and followed Isaac Backus in refusing to compromise their beliefs; but a majority followed men such as Hezekiah Smith and compromised on the important doctrine of separation of church and state. The conflicts continued until 1833, when Massachusetts became to last state to do away with required establishments.

New Hampshire’s establishment of religion after the Revolution did not significantly differ from that of Massachusetts. Article VI of its 1784 Declaration of Rights created a multiple establishment. The majority of New Hampshire’s Baptists, sometimes sought the incorporation of their churches, as in Massachusetts, to insure tax exemption of their congregants from a local Congregational church. But, says William G. McLoughlin, most of the petitions to incorporate “seemed to originate from the Baptists’ desire to enable their congregations to levy religious taxes on their own members which could be binding in law,” the Baptists as well as Congregationalists also accepted from the state ministerial lands regardless of the demands of some of them for a separation of church and state.[ix] The establishment of religion in New Hampshire fell victim to state politics, not to the drive to separate church and state because of the principle of voluntarism. “Voters, increasingly non-Congregationalist, rallied around the Democrats’ condemnation of the tax system as having promoted an establishment of religion that supposedly favored the prevailing denomination at the expense of the religious liberty of others.” The Democrats passed a Toleration Act in 1919 that ended the system of tax support for religion.[x]

In 1784, Connecticut passed its Toleration Act which allowed certain Protestant denominations to publicly worship “in a way agreeable to their consciences” and be exempted from taxes if they produced certificates. Due to continuing protests and changes in the law which did not satisfy many dissenters who continued to protest, a law was passed that allowed nonconformists to write their own certificates attesting membership in a different religious society which they supported, thus exempting them for the support of the town church. John Leland, in a tract describing the evils of an establishment of religion, did not doubt that Connecticut had one, even though one’s contribution to religion went to the church whose worship one attended.[xi]

The battle in Connecticut continued. In 1802, the Baptists petitioned the legislature to repeal the system of compulsory religious taxes; held a statewide convention remonstrating against Connecticut’s establishment because it favored the Congregationalists and because religion should be left to voluntary support, petitioned the government in 1804 because the required certificates did not apply to the Congregationalists as well as others. The consistent argument of the Baptists, except for a minority led by Isaac Backus, was that the existing church-state relationship preferred Congregationalism and that private donations should be the only source of support to religion, despite Baptist participation in the establishment’s largess. In 1816, Connecticut received a windfall repayment from the United States for its costs incurred in the War of 1812 and divided 6/7 of it among the denominations and the Baptists accepted their share. The Baptists, except for a remnant who stood for complete separation of church and state, compromised when it became “practical.” In 1818, Connecticut provided that no one could be compelled to support any religious society, yet allowed any religious society to tax itself and privately collect the assessment from each member. As with every state, Connecticut provided for voluntary incorporation by churches.

“Maryland’s constitution of 1776 ended the former supremacy of the Episcopalian church, which had an exclusive establishment during the colonial period; but allowed the legislature to legislate multiple or nonpreferential establishment of “Christian,” to include Roman Catholic churches. In 1810, Maryland amended its constitution to remove any taxation for support of any religion. Churches could still incorporate under state law, but no religious taxes were to be collected from anyone.

When the First Amendment was adopted, South Carolina’s constitution permitted multiple establishment and collection of taxes for religious support of the established churches. Under the constitution of 1778, all Protestant denominations were treated equally. “Any religious society of a Protestant denomination might therefore be incorporated and become ‘a church of the established religion of this State’ on condition of subscribing to articles of faith: a belief in God, a promise to worship him publicly, profession of Christianity as ‘the true religion’ and reliance on the Scriptures as divinely inspired.” No one was required to pay toward any church that he did not “freely join.” This was the first religious establishment ever that “did not exact religious assessments.” [xii] The 1790 South Carolina constitution did away with religious taxes altogether, but still allowed incorporation of churches.

The Baptists led the fight for religious liberty in Virginia. Many were abused and jailed for their refusal to bow down to the established church/state in Virginia. They influenced statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison to fight for religious liberty in Virginia. The result was the 1776 Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty.

Although Virginia still had single establishment before 1776, no state or colony had a statute that included every religion. Three of the states with multiple establishments authorized by law established Protestantism and three established Christianity. The establishments of all six included all denominations and sects with a sufficient number of members to form a church. Protestantism was synonymous with religion because Jews and Roman Catholics were nonexistent or too few to make a difference; “and where Christianity was established, as in Maryland which had many Catholics, Jews were scarcely known.” “Clearly the provisions of these six states show that to understand the American meaning of “an establishment of religion” one cannot adopt a definition based on European experience.”[xiii]

Georgia’s constitution of 1777 permitted multiple establishment without exception, thereby replacing the exclusive establishment of the Anglican church. The establishment of religion meant government tax support of all churches, with preference for none. The 1789 constitution permitted multiple establishments. In 1798, Georgia finally guaranteed nonpreferential establishment of religion and that no person should be “obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or any other rate, for  … any place of worship, or for maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right, or hath voluntarily engaged.”

Vermont became the fourteenth state in 1791 and had a multiple establishment. Due largely to the stand of Baptists in Vermont, that state repealed all laws concerning taxation for religion, thus doing away with forced union of church and state.

IV. Conclusion

Every church has a choice – either under God only or under man (civil government).

As establishment became available to all churches,  many or the majority of churches incorporated. Today the overwhelming majority of churches, to include Baptist churches, incorporate in order to obtain perceived temporal earthly benefits for the state governments. After the addition of 26 United States Code §§ 501(c)(3) and 508, churches sought perceived benefits from the federal government as well by obtaining “tax exempt” status.

All church state establishments which have ever existed came about as a result of a civil government law which combined church and state. In all cases, a church or churches combined with the state under man’s law for perceived benefits from the state. That is the case in America. Even today, one of the reasons for choosing such arrangements is financial. All reasons given by churches for joining with the state are based upon man’s temporal, fleshly, earthly and legal reasoning. All such reasons, by their very nature, circumvent God’s eternal, spiritual, heavenly, and Biblical principles for His churches. [xiv]


[i] See, for list of source authorities, List of Scholarly Resources Which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True History of Religious Freedom in America.

[ii] Leonard W. Levy, The Establishment Clause/Religion and the First Amendment (London: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1986), p. xiv.

[iii] Id., p. xvi.

[iv] See, e.g., Isaac Backus. A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Volumes 1 and 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, Previously Published by Backus Historical Society, 1871)(originally published in the late 1700’s); Williams, Roger and Underhill, Edward Bean. The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered. London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848 (Reprint)(originally published in 1644); Clarke, John. Ill News from New-England or A Narative of New-Englands Persecution. Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., Reprint: 1stprinted in 1652; List of Scholarly Resources Which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True History of Religious Freedom in America.

[v] See, for more information, A Brief History of the First Amendment. That brief article gives links to more resources for the interested student.

[vi] Levy, The Establishment Clause/Religion and the First Amendment, p. 47.

[vii] Levy, p. 26.

[viii] “The Yankee Spy” (1794), in L.F. Greene, ed., The Writings of John Leland (New York, reprint 1969), pp. 225, 227, cited in id., p. 40. John Leland (May 14, 1754 – January 14, 1841) was an American Baptist minister who preached in Virginia,, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, as well an outspoken abolitionist. He was an important figure in the struggle for religious liberty in the United States.

[ix] William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent 1630-1833: The Baptists and the Sepration of Church and State (Cambridge, Mass., 1971, 2 vols.), II, pp. 874, 886, cited in Levy, The Establishment Clause/Religion and the First Amendment, p. 40.

[x] Levy, p. 40.

[xi] John Leland, “The Rights of Conscience Inalienable,” in Writings of John Leland, p. 186.

[xii] Levy, p. 50-51.

[xiii] Levy, p. 60-61.

[xiv] See, for a complete understanding of church incorporation and church 26 United States Code §§ 501(c)(3) and 508 status, Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities?


A Call to Anguish: Churches Reject God’s Authority

Recommended sermon which further explains this preliminary article:
Authority, the Greatest Thing in the Universe
Dr. Greg Dixon 2005.
This sermon explains the two meanings of power as used in the Bible and the importance of authority and power and correct doctrine to a church. It explains how great men of God can proceed according to some false doctrine and the consequences thereof.

Recommended: listen to this 7 min. 24 sec. excerpt from a sermon, in conjunction with this article:
A Call to Anguish

Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 21, 2017

A Call to Anguish: Churches Reject God’s Authority

1God grieves because His people neither understand nor honor His authority and His precepts. God’s grief calls churches and believers to anguish, but few grieve, few cry, few pray, few even know that there is a call to anguish. The call started a long time ago. Authentic churches in the colonies and then the new nation, even though warned by God’s remnant, betrayed their roots and compromised the authority of God. Their betrayal passed on to future churches. The betrayal of God increased exponentially for 225 plus years to this very day. This article points out one proof of the consequences of this betrayal that should call believers and churches to anguish.

God ordained civil government and laid out its jurisdiction. God gave civil government no authority or ability to define “church.” God defines “church” in the New Testament.  God also made clear that church and state were to remain totally separate. Yet, that was never the case, except for a remnant, in either the American colonies or the states.

How far off base would civil government go in the definition of “church” as multitudes of organizations sought and continue to seek non-profit corporation and tax exempt status? Let us look at an illustration. “A New Religion Forms That Will Worship A ‘Godhead’ Based On AI” states in the introduction:

“Anthony Levandowski has already filed paperwork with the IRS for the nonprofit corporation that is going to run this new religion.  Officially, this new faith will be known as ‘Way Of The Future.’” The article goes on to explain the tenets of the “Way Of The Future,” which include a faith in science which will create a “Godhead” which will make things better and a denial of the existence of God.

Had God remained the sole authority for churches, organizations  like “Way of the Future” could have existed, but they could not have received official sanction and “benefits” from any authority, earthly or heavenly.

Religious Americans, to include many Baptists alongside obviously heretical or apostate Protestants and Catholics, gave civil government the power, the authority to define “church.” Civil government took to the task, first in issues involving state non-profit corporate status; then, later in the twentieth century, income tax exemption status.

As to federal tax exemption law, the authority has developed a process and rationale to determine whether an organization applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is a “church.” When determining whether an organization is a “church,” a “religious organization,” or a “religious society,” the IRS (and court, if the IRS ruling is appealed), has a 14 part criteria, which—though not all-conclusive since other factors will be considered when deemed appropriate by the IRS—is a man-made definition; a definition which is partially contrary to the Word of God. En 1 gives the IRS definition of church with link to online IRS webpage; En 2 discusses a sample IRS ruling; En 3 briefly discusses some cases which have attempted to define church and links directly to those cases.

The IRS agency makes initial determinations, but the ultimate authority is the judiciary. Regardless of the ruling of the IRS, the losing party can appeal to the appropriate court asking for reversal and laying out their arguments for their position. Ultimately, the case could go all the way to man’s highest authority on issues such as this, the United States Supreme Court.

What is wrong with this? God made clear that Christ in heaven is to be the only authority (power or head) “over all things to” His churches. Put another way, a church, the spiritual body whose feet walk and work on earth, is to be connected to only one spiritual head, Christ in heaven. This connection was made after Christ ascended to heaven and filled the members of the church with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (Ac. 2.4). God the Son, before his ascension, walked with his disciples and apostles. God the Holy Ghost now indwelt them, thereby giving them a direct spiritual link to their God-ordained Head who was now in heaven.

  • “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ep. 1.19-23).
  • “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.19-23).
  • “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1.18).

From the above verses, and many more that could be quoted, one sees that God desires his churches to be spiritual entities or bodies (See also, e.g., Ep. 4 and the whole book of Ep., Col., and 1 Co. 12 for more on churches as spiritual bodies) connected to their only God ordained Head, the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, while walking and working for the glory of God as heavenly, spiritual, eternal entities only here on the earth. Churches are to be “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” not built together as corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 organizations according to man’s earthly, temporal, legal laws.

Most of the credit for the door being opened to Godless “religions” to gain the ability to be labeled as “churches” lies with not only with Protestants and Catholics but also with the progenitors of those martyrs who gave their lives standing for New Testament principles, one of which is separation of church and state. Once they had an opportunity to do so, the majority of even authentic Baptist believers and churches who honored and even died standing for the principle of separation of church and state while persecuted betrayed their head, their authority, the Lord Jesus Christ. They incorporated, and with the advent of tax exempt law, they applied for tax exempt status; along with many new breeds of “churches.”

All incorporated and/or 501(c)(3) and 508 “churches” operate under the authority of both the state government of incorporaton and the federal government, even those who also have or once had some connection to the Lord Jesus Christ. The latter sometimes operate partially under Jesus Christ and partially under civil government; sometimes solely under the authority of civil government.

New Testament churches who obtain state non-profit corporation status and get federal tax exempt status partially or totally lose the power of God.  They are no longer spiritual entities only under the authority, headship or power of Christ alone. They have chosen to become earthly legal entities partially or totally connected to earthly heads, the government of the state of incorporation and the federal government. Without the power of God, they are ill-equipped to do their work: the perfecting of the saints (inside the assembly), the work of the ministry, the edification of the body of Christ, going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature (Mk. 16.15), and performance of other duties outside the assembly. They no longer resemble the spiritual bodies described in the New Testament:

  • “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ep. 4.11-16)[Bold emphasis mine]
  • See also, e.g., 1 Co. 12.

Aditionally, by mixing church and state, churches opened the door to the untenable situation where an earthly temporal civil government which has neither the authority nor the ability to understand spiritual matters is granted power over the church and put in charge of defining “church,” “religious organization,” “religious society,” etc. This mixing of the holy with the unholy has resulted in the inevitable consequences we see shaping up as a result of civil government definition of “church.”

2In conclusion, should the IRS and/or the court decide that “Way Of The Future” is a qualified tax exempt religious organization or church, true churches will coexist as earthly legal entities alongside not only already existing corporate 501(c)(3) organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Church of Wicca, and the Church of Satan, but also another Godless and God-defying organization which directly challenges God and His existence. Because they do not remain under their God-ordained authority (power or headship)—the Lord Jesus Christ—they will possess either no power of God or, at best, a watered down power of God. They betray their Lord, they lose God’s power, God grieves, and they could care less!

Churches have betrayed God, lost the power of God, and caused our Lord who loved the church and gave himself for it to grieve by incorporating and getting 501(c)(3) status.  Where is the anguish?

Listen to the powerful clip from sermon A Call to Anguish.

[For complete studies which cover all issues (such as the Ro. 13 issue, the incorporation issue, etc.) see the resources linked to in En 4.]


En 1 Churches Defined

“The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code. With the exception of the special rules for church audits, the use of the term church also includes conventions and associations of churches as well as integrated auxiliaries of a church.

“Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches.  These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions.  They include:

  • Distinct legal existence
  • Recognized creed and form of worship
  • Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  • Formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • Distinct religious history
  • Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  • Organization of ordained ministers
  • Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  • Literature of its own
  • Established places of worship
  • Regular congregations
  • Regular religious services
  • Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
  • Schools for the preparation of its members

“The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.

“Source:  Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations.”

See DEFINING “CHURCH” – THE CONCEPT OF A CONGREGATION by Robert Louthian and Thomas Miller for a discussion of court application of the above criteria.

En 2: Internal Revenue Service Private Letter Ruling 8833001, 1988 PRL LEXIS 1594:

Just one illustration of what can happen when the civil government determines if an organization is a church, when IRS officials determine what constitutes a church within the meaning of IRC § 170(b)(1)(A)(i), follows. The threshold question in determining whether an organization is a church described in § 170(b)(1)(A)(i) is whether the organization qualifies as a religious organization described in § 501(c)(3). Using the 14-part IRS test to determine whether a religious organization was a church, IRS officials held that an organization with the following purpose as stated in its articles of incorporation and bylaws was a church: “[T]o establish an ecumenical church to help people learn to pay attention, wake up, and discover what both Christ and Buddha referred to as one’s true self.

The ruling stated:

“The organization was established to develop an ecumenical form of religious practice, place greater significance on the modes of religious expression that would unify western and eastern modes of religious practice, place greater significance on the mystical or interior experience of religious truth than that of most western church denominations, and be more spiritually satisfying to members than other existing church organizations.”

In other words, the IRS determined that an organization whose purpose was directly contrary to the principles for a church laid down by the Lord in His Word was a church.

Note. The above ruling is available on LEXIS, a legal website which charges for its services. The website can be assessed in some public law libraries and law firm libraries.

En 3: A small sampling of cases which have attempted to define church and links directly to those cases. These cases cite many other cases which deal with the definition of “church”:


A family organized as an incorporated 501(c)(3) “religious society” and claimed property tax exemption. “People may not transform their families into religious organizations and thereby obtain exemption for property over which their dominion and use remain unaffected. Granting tax exempt status to PCO would exalt form over substance and violate the rule of construction that exemption statutes are strictly construed.” The case cites and discusses various cases from other jurisdictions.

Ideal Life Church of Lake Elmo v. Washington County, 1981, 304 N.W.2d 308 (Supreme Court of Minnesota)

Purported religious organization which was organized and operated primarily for motive of tax avoidance by private individuals in control of 501(c)(3) corporation, had no formally trained or ordained ministry, had no sacraments, rituals, education classes or literature of its own, had no liturgy other than simple meetings resembling mere social gatherings or discussion groups and did not require a belief in any supreme being or other being, and whose doctrine and beliefs were intentionally vague and nonbinding upon its members and whose members freely continued to practice other religions, was not a “church” as such term was used in state’s tax exemption laws.

In re Collection of Delinquent Real Property Taxes, State of MN v. American Fundamentalist Church, 1995, 530 N.W.2d 200 (S.Ct. Minnesota) rehearing denied

Threshold question in determining whether real property is “church” entitled to tax exemption is whether entity claiming exemption is “church” within meaning of statute…. The organization in this case was an incorporated 501(c)(3) church. Test for determining whether organization is “church” entitled to tax exemption is subjective one, focusing on sincerity of belief and taking into account evidence on objective issues. … Principal motivation for organizing religious corporation was tax minimization and therefore, organization was not “church” and, therefore was not entitled to real property tax exemption in view of evidence that most of financial contributions to organization came from individual founder, that most of founder’s income came from taxpayer, that founder was primary beneficiary of organization’s financial actions, and that founder and his wife, who was co-founder, dominated meetings of organization’s board of trustees.

FELLOWSHIP OF HUMANITY (a Nonprofit Corporation) v. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, 153 Cal.App.2d 673 (California Court of Appeals. First Dist., Div. One1957)

The precise question involved in the instant case–whether the reverence of a deity is a prerequisite to the receiving of a tax exemption for church property. A humanist organization organized as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of California, Fellowship of Humanity, applied for property tax exemption on the ground that the property was used “solely and exclusively for religious worship….” The fundamental question–is a belief in God or gods essential to “religious worship,” as those terms are used in the state Constitution? The answer of the court: “No.”

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reviewed the evidence and concluded that “The evidence indicates that Basic Bible was established to evade taxation. Basic Bible failed to meet its burden of proving that it is a “church” or “religious association” under [Wisconsin law]. The court held that Basic Bible was not property tax exempt.” The fact that the church held “in trust” the property for which a property tax exemption was sought was not a factor in the decision. The Court concluded that incorporation and 501(c)(3) status is not a prerequisite for church property tax exemption; and, again, made clear that the fact that the church held the property “in trust” did not disqualify the church from property tax exemption.

En 4 For further study for the interested believer:

·  Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses

·  The Biblical Doctrine of Government

·  The Biblical Doctrine of the Church

·  The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State

·  The History of the Religious Freedom in America

·  God Betrayed/Union of Church and State in America (covers church incorporation and 501c3 and 508 status, among other things)

·  Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities?

· The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/A Case of Premeditated Murder: Christian Revisionists on Trial

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 157 Wis.2d 539 (1990), 461 N.W.2d 143, Court of Appeals of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs December 8, 1989. Decided August 2, 1990

The complete opinion may be accessed online by clicking here.

This case was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. To go to my brief of that case click: WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated, in its opinion, that:

  • The court of appeals had no obligation to look beyond the issues raised by Bible Baptist, but had the discretion to do so. The “church” was organized as a trust. The principle issue which it in its discretion addressed was the circuit court’s conclusion that for a ‘church’ to claim a tax exemption, it must be incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin or another state. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed with the conclusion of the appeals court that the church need not be incorporated to claim a tax exemption.The Court stated: “We need not reiterate the excellent discussion and analysis underpinning that conclusion that appears in the court of appeals opinion. 157 Wis. 2d at 539-49” [the citation for this case].

This page will look at only the circuit courts analysis that led to the conclusion that a church, which was organized as a trust, need not be incorporated to claim a tax exemption. The following excerpt is from  the opinion of the court of appeals, 157 Wis. 2d at 539-49, on that matter:

We hold only that the church was not required to show that it was incorporated as a religious society or corporation under ch. 187, Stats., or otherwise, to establish that its property is exempt from taxation under sec. 70.11(4).


We recognize that “[o]ne who seeks to have his property exempt from taxation is required to bring himself within the terms of the exemption statute…. The taxpayer has the burden of demonstrating that it is entitled to tax-exempt status…. This is especially true in situations where, as here, there is a great potential for abuse because a church is controlled by an individual, a family or a small group of individuals. Id. The church must come forward with candid disclosure of the facts bearing on the exemption application. Id. What the ninth circuit said with respect to the Church of Scientology’s request for exemption from income tax under sec. 501(c)(3), I.R.C., is equally applicable to the Basic Bible Church’s claim of exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. However, the county, on appeal, does not argue that the church has not brought itself within sec. 70.11(4), Stats., except for the insufficiency of its organization.

We turn therefore to the issue of whether the Basic Bible Church was required to show that it was incorporated to establish that it was an “entity” which could claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. The statute does not impose the requirement. Ordinarily, this finding would end the case. A combination of factors, however, creates an ambiguity which persuaded the circuit court that to be exempt from taxation under sec. 70.11(4), a church or religious association must be an incorporated entity.


The first factor is the church’s failure to take formal action under state or federal law to “charter” the church. The court cited ch. 187, Stats., and I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3). Ambiguity may be created by the interaction of separate statutes. State v. Kenyon, 85 Wis. 2d 36, 49, 270 N.W.2d 160, 166 (1978).

The second factor is the church’s failure to seek exemption from federal income tax under I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3). Section 501(c)(3), I.R.C., however, does not provide for the incorporation or chartering of churches or religious organizations. Tax exemption thereunder is limited to a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. The Basic Bible Church does not claim it qualifies as one of the enumerated organizations. No significance can be attached to the church’s failure to seek tax exemption under I.R.C. sec. 501(c)(3).

The final factor is the decision in In re Zarling, 70 Bankr. 402 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. 1987). In Zarling, the court voided a transfer by the debtor of his interest in his farm to the Universal Life Church Charter No. 22406. The court found that the transfer was fraudulent. The court held that because a certificate acknowledging the existence of the Church as a corporation was not filed pursuant to secs. 187.01(2) or 187.09, Stats., prior to the conveyance, the Church-grantee was “a non-existent entity.” The court’s holding must be viewed in context. The debtor, Zarling, filed a certificate of incorporation under sec. 187.09 five years after the transfer, and attempted to make the filing “nunc pro tunc” the transfer. If Zarling is limited to its holding that the filing did not incorporate the Church “nunc pro tunc,” it is good law. To the extent that the decision declares all unincorporated churches or unincorporated religious associations “non-existent entit[ies],” we reject it.

We conclude, however, that these factors are sufficient to make it uncertain whether a church or religious organization must be incorporated for its property to be exempt under sec. 70.11(4), Stats. We therefore examine the legislative history of the pertinent statutes. “One of the most valuable extrinsic aids of judicial construction is legislative history.” [Citations omitted}.

The first exemption from taxation of the property of churches and religious organizations appears in sec. 24, ch. 47, Revised Statutes of 1849. Chapter 47 prescribed the procedure by which persons belonging to a church congregation or religious society, “not already incorporated,” could incorporate. Section 24 exempted from taxation every church, parsonage and schoolhouse belonging to any religious society, with the land belonging thereto, not to exceed three acres in any one town, village or township, or one city lot. The exemption was not limited to religious societies incorporated under ch. 47.

Chapter 130, Laws of 1868, provided for the assessment of property for taxation and for exemptions therefrom. Section 2, 3d exempted “[p]ersonal property owned by any religious, scientific, literary or benevolent association, used exclusively for the purposes of such association, and the real property necessary for the location and convenience of the buildings of such association . . . not exceeding ten acres. . . .” Chapter 130 did not define “association.”

Section 2 of ch. 130, Laws of 1868, was incorporated, without substantial change, in sec. 1038, subd. 3, Wisconsin Statutes of 1898. Section 1038, subd. 3 was renumbered sec. 70.11(4), Stats., by sec. 16, ch. 69, Laws of 1921. Throughout its history, the exemption from taxation of property of churches and religious associations has been accorded in substantially the same language. No “linkage” has existed between the exemption statutes and those affecting the organization of churches and religious associations or societies.

Chapter 411, Laws of 1876, provided for the incorporation of religious societies. Apparently this act replaced ch. 47 of the revised statutes of 1849. Chapter 411 is silent as to the taxation or exemption of the property of religious societies incorporated thereunder.

The procedures for the incorporation of religious societies were included in ch. 91, Revised Statutes of 1878. Nash’s Wisconsin Annotations (1914), sec. 1990, ch. 91 at 753, states:

The revisers of 1878 in their note said: “Chapter 411, 1876, is taken to have been intended as a revision of the law for the incorporation of religious societies. The privilege of organizing a corporation is extended to all classes and denominations, it not being supposed the law means to be intolerant of any religious belief or to be partial in its offer of privileges.”

The same annotation at page 755 states:

“Church” and “Congregation.” A church consists of those who are communicants, have made a public profession of religion and are united by a religious bond of common spiritual welfare. It is the spiritual body, not the legal one. But a religious society or congregation, under the statute, is a voluntary association of persons, generally but not necessarily in connection with a church proper, united for the purpose of having a common place of worship and to provide a proper teacher to instruct them in doctrines and duties, etc. [Citations omitted.]

Thus, the legislature distinguished a church, as the spiritual body, from a religious society, incorporated under the statute, as the legal body of a voluntary association of persons united for religious purposes.

Decisions interpreting ch. 91, Revised Statutes of 1878, make plain that failure of a church or religious organization to incorporate thereunder did not affect the power of the church or religious organization to hold title to property.Under the repeated decisions of this court, we must hold that the mere fact that [a] church or religious society had not yet been incorporated at the time of the delivery of [a] deed in no way frustrated the trust thereby created, if such trust was otherwise valid.” Fadness v. Braunborg, 73 Wis. 257, 278-79, 41 N.W. 84, 90 (1889) (emphasis in original). The county does not claim that the trust pursuant to which the subject property was conveyed to Sherri L. Graf and Barbara J. Pogue as trustees for the church is invalid.

In Holm v. Holm, 81 Wis. 374, 382, 51 N.W. 579, 581 (1892), the facts included that the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Roche-a-Cree was a voluntary association until February 7, 1889. The court noted that “[p]rior to that date the title to the churches in which the members of the association worshiped was vested in trustees named in . . . deeds, and their successors in office. . . . The trusts imposed by such deeds appear to have been valid upon the principles stated by this court in Fadness v. Braunborg. . . .” Id.

In Franke v. Mann, 106 Wis. 118, 131, 81 N.W. 1014, 1018-19 (1900), the court said that the power given to trustees of a religious corporation formed under ch. 91, R.S. 1878, was limited to the particular purposes expressly or impliedly named in the act of incorporation. The court further said that “[w]hat has been said is in harmony with the law regarding trusts for religious useswhether the trustees be officers of a religious corporation or of an unincorporated ecclesiastical body. . . .” Id. at 131-32, 81 N.W. at 1019 (emphasis added).

It is plain from these decisions that the court did not consider that the legislature, by offering to ecclesiastical bodies the advantages of incorporation, intended to impose corporate structure upon such bodies. The property of unincorporated ecclesiastical bodies was commonly held in trust for the benefit of the members.


The Basic Bible Church established that title to the real estate subject to foreclosure was held in the name of the trustees for the benefit of the church. We conclude that the trust constituted an “entity” which could claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats., for the benefit of the Basic Bible Church. We further conclude that the legislative history of the pertinent statutes does not disclose a legislative intent to require that a church or religious association be incorporated before it may claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4).

By the Court.—Judgment reversed.





An Informed Christian Response to the Article, “IRS Again Pressured To Hammer U.S. Churches”

Jerald Finney
August 25, 2017

This brief article is an informed Christian reply to an articles, IRS Again Pressured To Hammer U.S. Churches, and Trump Relaxes 501(c)(3) Political Activity Rules. Churches who violate the rules that come with Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) status should – subject to challenge presented to their chosen authority, the government court – have their tax exemption revoked. They agreed to the rules when they voluntarily and contrary to First Amendment and Bible principles sought and obtained 501(c) status. President Trump has no power to cancel the rules that come with 501(c)(3). Only the legislature can do so, subject to Presidential agreement and signing of legislation. The issue is one of authority. Christ wants to be the only Head of His churches (See, e.g., Ephesians and Colossians).

This article is written and being disseminated to both sides for the glory of God. I have contacted Freedom From Religion Foundation and encouraged them to go to this article for Biblical, historical, and legal arguments which support their position. It is time that Christians face the consequences for their hypocritical betrayal of our Lord by seeking and gaining legal entity status of any kind (incorporation, 501c3 or 508 status, unincorporated association status, etc.). This is being done in accordance with Bible principles.

I have covered the reasons – Biblical, historical, and legal – for this position in my writings which are available online. The following articles deal with the issue and link to materials which give more in depth analysis of Bible principles, history, and law:

A complete listing of articles is on the Articles tab of Separation of Church and State Law website.

For a short book on this, see Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entitiesor, for more complete analysis, see God Betrayed/The Biblical Principles and the American ApplicationBoth are available online free in both online form (which has the all additions and minor revisions), and PDF, or may be ordered. The second edition of Separation of Church and State is available in PDF only.

Here are some specific writings that explain church 501c3 status:

A good law review article on the tax exemption for churches is:

“Prohibition in Search of a Rationale: What the Tax Code Prohibits; Why; to What End?” (Deirdre Dessingue, Prohibition in Search of a Rationale: What the Tax Code Prohibits; Why; To What End?, 42 B.C.L. Rev. 903 (2001), at Each Presidential election renews the thorny debate over the appropriate role of churches and other religious organizations in American political life. Although churches are subject to other restraints on political activity, the prohibition on church political activity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code is the harshest in terms of penalties. Faced with the extraordinary scope of the prohibition as interpreted by the IRS, and perceived non-enforcement of egregious violations, churches tend toward one or two extremes: they either ignore the prohibition and endorse candidates or they avoid legitimate involvement with important policy issues.)”

For links to more Law Review Articles, click here.

FELLOWSHIP OF HUMANITY (a Nonprofit Corporation) v. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, 153 Cal.App.2d 673 (California Court of Appeals. First Dist., Div. One, 1957)

Click here to go to complete case online.

1. FELLOWSHIP OF HUMANITY (a Nonprofit Corporation) v. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, 153 Cal.App.2d 673 (California Court of Appeals. First Dist., Div. One, 1957) Fellowship of Humanity was a nonprofit corporation organized under the laws of California. The precise question involved in the instant case–whether the reverence of a deity is a prerequisite to the receiving of a tax exemption for church property. In this case, a humanist organization applied for property tax exemption on the ground that the property was used “solely and exclusively for religious worship” within the meaning of article XIII, section 1 1/2 of the state Constitution. The trial court below determined that the Fellowship did use its property” solely and exclusively for religious worship” and was entitled to the claimed exemption. The basic problem involved is whether or not, under the findings, the respondent is entitled to this tax exemption. The solution to this problem turns upon whether or not the conclusion that respondent uses its property “solely and exclusively for religious worship,” as these terms are used in article XIII, section 1 1/2, is supported by the findings. Appellants contend that the term “religious worship” necessarily requires reverence to, and adoration of, a Supreme Being, and that under the findings the respondent organization does not require as a condition of membership that its members believe in God, and that such an organization does not use its premises “solely and exclusively for religious” The fundamental question–is a belief in God or gods essential to “religious worship,” as those terms are used in the state Constitution?

In this case, born again students of the Word of God can easily see how preposterous putting secularists (courts) in the position of defining “church,” “religion,” “religious practice,” etc. All man’s laws which give benefits to religion and churches make necessary the definition of such terms. That is one very good reason that a church should remain under the First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions and laws. Incorporating, getting 501c3 status or becoming a legal entity of any kind takes a church out from under such provisions and from under God thereby violating New Testament Church Doctrine and grieving our Lord.

Notes from the case:

If this strict rule of construction is applicable in the instant case it can reasonably be argued that the words “religious worship,” in their strict and limited sense, and in their commonly accepted sense, include the concept of a Supreme Being governing the universe. [4] Generally speaking, “religious worship” is expressed by prayers, reverence, homage and adoration paid to a deity, and include the seeking out by prayer and otherwise the will of the deity for divine guidance. This is the generally accepted dictionary definition of the term. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (2d ed.) includes within its definition of the term the following: “Worship: … 5. Act of paying divine honors to a deity; religious reverence and homage; adoration, or reverence, paid to God, a being viewed as God, or something held as sacred from a reputed connection with God.” “Religion: … 1. The service and adoration of God or a god as expressed in forms of worship … 6. An apprehension, awareness, or conviction of the existence of a supreme being …”

It is not necessary to cite other dictionary definitions. Many dictionaries contain similar definitions.

Some of the decided cases, in various situations, have interpreted the terms “religion,” and “religious,” and “worship” as including the recognition of a deity. One of the leading cases is Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 [10 S.Ct. 299, 33 L.Ed. 637], which approves the restrictive interpretation of the word “religion.” That case involved a prosecution for conspiracy. Under federal law citizens of the territory of Idaho were required to swear when registering as electors that they did not practice bigamy or polygamy, and that they were not members of organizations which held as a tenet the practice of polygamy. The Mormon Church, at that time, advocated polygamy, and defendants were members of that church. The question involved was whether the advocacy of polygamy was protected as a “religious” tenet under the federal Constitution. In the course of its opinion the court stated (133 U.S. at p. 342): “The term ‘religion’ has reference to one’s views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will.” This was probably dicta because the actual holding of this case was that “however 682*682 free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation.” (P. 342.)

There have also been several cases interpreting the “religious training and belief” exception to the draft act. In Berman v. United States, 156 F.2d 377 (cert. den. 329 U.S. 795 [67 S.Ct. 480, 91 L.Ed. 680]), the court was required to construe a provision of the Selective Service Act of 1940 which granted an exemption to persons conscientiously opposed to participation in war “by reason of religious training and belief.” It was held by the majority that the defendant, who was a humanist, did not qualify, because [fn. *](156 F.2d at p. 380): “It is our opinion that the expression ‘by reason of religious training and belief’ is plain language, and was written into the statute for the specific purpose of distinguishing between a conscientious social belief, or a sincere devotion to a high moralistic philosophy, and one based upon an individual’s belief in his responsibility to an authority higher and beyond any worldly one. … It would be quite ridiculous to argue that the use of the word ‘religion’ (in section 1 of the First Amendment) could have been understood by the authors of this part of our national charter or by those having to do with its adoption as meaning to be inclusive of morals or of devotion to human welfare or of policy of government. Congress has and does make laws respecting the establishment of all of these subjects. … There are those who have a philosophy of life, and who live up to it. There is evidence that this is so in regard to appellant. However, no matter how pure and admirable his standard may be, and no matter how devotedly he adheres to it, his philosophy and morals and social policy without the concept of deity cannot be said to be religion in the sense of that term as it is used in the statute.”

As will later appear there were contrary interpretations of the language of the 1940 act. But Congress apparently approved the definition of the majority in the Berman case when it passed the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948 by providing that “[r]eligious training and belief in this connection means an individual’s belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising 683*683 from any human relation, but does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.” (50 U.S.C.A. App. 456(j).) In George v. United States, 196 F.2d 445, 451, the court said of this definition that it “comports with the spirit in which ‘Religion’ is understood generally, and the manner in which it has been defined by the courts. It is couched in terms of the relationship of the individual to a Supreme Being, and comports with the standard or accepted understanding of the meaning of ‘Religion’ in American society.” The court also pointed out that even if the statutory definition were unduly restrictive, this was a matter for Congress to determine.

There are other cases recognizing that a belief in a Supreme Being is essential to the concept of religious worship. In United States v. MacIntosh, 283 U.S. 605, 633 [51 S.Ct. 570, 75 L.Ed. 1302], in a dissent by Chief Justice Hughes, is to be found an approval of the definition of religion given in Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 [10 S.Ct. 299, 33 L.Ed. 637]. The Chief Justice stated: “The essence of religion is belief in a relation to God involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation. … [Here follows the quotation from Davis v. Beason.] One cannot speak of religious liberty, with proper appreciation of its essential and historic significance, without assuming the existence of a belief in supreme allegiance to the will of God.”

The statement of Chief Justice Hughes limiting religions to those faiths who venerate a Supreme Being has not gone unchallenged. In a dissent in the Berman case, which will be discussed more fully later in this opinion, Chief Judge Denman wrote that Chief Justice Hughes was only concerned with MacIntosh’s belief in his personal “God” and was not attempting to give an all-inclusive definition of “religion.” “To attribute to such highly educated men as Hughes, Holmes, Brandeis and Stone [the four dissenters] an ignorance of Taoism or Comte’s humanism, or their denial that either is a religion if the question had been presented to them, would be an unwarranted assertion of their ignorance of the history of religious beliefs.” (156 F.2d 384, n. 2.)

There are several state decisions holding or implying in various situations that the commonly accepted and generally understood meanings of “religion” and of “religious worship” include as an essential element the recognition of a deity, and the concomitant obligations which that recognition imposes. (See Nikulnikoff v. Archbishop etc. of Russian 684*684 O.G.C.Ch., 142 Misc. 894 [255 N.Y.S. 653]; In re Opinion of the Justices, 309 Mass. 555 [34 N.E.2d 431]; People v. Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische, etc., Confession, 249 Ill. 132 [94 N.E. 162]; People v. Board of Education of Dist. 24, 245 Ill. 334 [92 N.E. 251]; see also cases collected 76 C.J.S. pp. 727-730; see the following annotations: 168 A.L.R. 1222; 83 A.L.R. 773; 22 A.L.R. 907; 81 A.L.R. 1453; 34 A.L.R. 1067, for discussion of related subjects)

These authorities, if a strict, limited interpretation is to be given to the exemption in article XIII, section 1 1/2, would support the conclusion that a belief in a Supreme Being and adoration of that Supreme Being are essential elements of “religious worship”

These cases and definitions do not stand unquestioned. [5] In the first place there are forms of belief generally and commonly accepted as religions and whose adherents, numbering in the millions, practice what is commonly accepted as religious worship, which do not include or require as essential the belief in a deity. Taoism, classic Buddhism, and Confucianism, are among these religions. In the second place, there are dictionary definitions and decided cases holding that the terms “religion” and “religious worship” do not necessarily import a belief in a deity.

The same dictionary cited by appellants (Webster’s Unabridged, 2d ed.) contains the following definition of “religion”: “8. a. A pursuit, an object of pursuit, a principle, or the like, arousing in one religious convictions and feelings such as great faith, devotion or fervor, or followed with religious zeal, conscientiousness or fidelity as, patriotism was to him a religion. b. Acceptance of or devotion to such an ideal as a standard for one’s life.”

Funk and Wagnalls (1915 edition) contains this definition of “religion”: “Any system of faith, doctrine and worship; as the Christian religion; the religions of the Orient.”

Webster also contains a broader definition of the word “worship” than the one relied upon by appellants. It is: “1. To treat with the reverence due to merit or worth; to respect; honor. 2. To revere with extreme respect and veneration.”

The Oxford Universal Dictionary, 3d edition, 1955, also contains broad definitions of the terms in question: “Religion … 4. A particular system of faith and worship …” “Worship” is defined as “b. … Veneration similar to that paid to a deity” 685*685

The Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences includes at least Taoism and classic Buddhism as among “those religions which lack the conception of an omnipotent and transcendent God.” (Vol. 13, p. 237.)

There are also a series of cases holding or implying in various situations that the terms in question should not or constitutionally cannot be limited to those faiths revering a deity, and holding that a belief in a deity is not essential to religion, or religious worship.

In Estate of Hinckley, 58 Cal. 457, the income of a trust was to be devoted to foster “Religion, Learning and Charity.” The court was called to pass upon whether “religion” was a valid charitable purpose. In holding that it was the court stated (p. 512): “In its primary sense (from religare, to rebind, to bind back), it imports, as applied to moral questions, only a recognition of a conscientious duty to recall and obey restraining principles of conduct. In such sense we suppose there is no atheist who will admit that he is without religion.”

In Ex parte Jentzsch, 112 Cal. 468 [44 P. 803, 32 L.R.A. 664], the court held a statute requiring barbershops to be closed on Sundays and legal holidays to be unconstitutional. The court stated that a Sunday closing statute should not be considered as a religious enactment, but as a civil and secular enactment, and reasoned as follows (p. 471): “Under a constitution which guarantees to all equal liberty of religion and conscience, any law which forbids an act not itself contra bonos mores, because that act is repugnant to the beliefs of one religious sect, of necessity interferes with the liberty of those who hold to other beliefs or to none at all.”

“Liberty of conscience and belief is preserved alike to the followers of Christ, to Buddhist and Mohammedan, to all who think that their tenets alone are illumined by the light of divine truth; but it is equally preserved to the skeptic, agnostic, atheist, and infidel, who says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ”

In United States v. Kauten, 133 F.2d 703, and in United States v. Downer, 135 F.2d 521,the Second Circuit gave a much broader interpretation to the phrase “religious training and belief” in the draft act than was given by the majority in the Berman case, supra, written by the Ninth Circuit. In the Kauten case the court held that the phrase in question did not require a belief in a deity to entitle the registrant to the exemption. Justice Augustus Hand, speaking for the court, defined the type of belief that would qualify the registrant 686*686 for the exemption as follows (p. 708): “We are not convinced by anything in the record that the registrant did not report for induction because of a compelling voice of conscience, which, we should regard as a religious impulse, … Religious belief arises from a sense of the inadequacy of reason as a means of relating the individual to his fellowmen and to his universe–a sense common to men in the most primitive and in the mostly highly civilized societies. It accepts the aid of logic but refuses to be limited by it. It is a belief finding expression in a conscience which categorically requires the believer to disregard elementary self-interest and to accept martyrdom in preference to transgressing its tenets.”

Just three months later the same court in the Downer case, supra, found one Randolph Phillips to be a conscientious objector. Phillips “received his early religious training in the Presbyterian Church, although he stated that he was not now a member of any religious sect or organization. He is opposed to killing men, or assisting directly or indirectly in the killing of men … He would not fight even to repel invasion, but believes that ‘war is ethically and invariably wrong.’ … ‘[F]rom whom I derived my opposition to killing men … I cannot specifically say. …’ … His further sworn assertion that ‘my opposition to war is deep-rooted, based not on political considerations but on a general humanitarian concept which is essentially religious in character,’ appears, therefore, borne out by the record.” (135 F.2d at p. 523.) The exemption was granted.

The definitions thus given by the Second Circuit were disapproved by the majority opinion in the Berman case, and were apparently disapproved by Congress when it amended the draft act in 1948 and adopted the limited definition of the Berman case. However, as already indicated, the Berman decision was not unanimous. Chief Judge Denman wrote a strong and convincing dissent. He was willing to adopt the broad definitions of “religious training and belief” found in the Kauten and Downer cases. The dissent is entitled to particular consideration because the appellant in that case was a humanist. There is much worthy of note in the opinion, but the following quotation is particularly relevant (156 F.2d at p. 384): “It is true that there is no evidence that Berman’s religious conviction that he should not kill his fellow man flowed from the command of some god or gods of one or another of the world’s many religiouscongregations, and 687*687 we may assume that such was not its source. But many of the great religious faiths with hundreds of millions of followers have no god. … It is wrong to say that ‘a sincere devotion to a moralistic philosophy’ is inconsistent with ‘a belief in his responsibility to an authority higher and beyond any earthly one,’ if that supernatural authority is confined to a belief in a particular god. This would exclude all Taoist China and in the Western world all believers in Comte’s religion of humanism in which humanity is exalted into the throne occupied by a supreme being in monotheistic religions.”

There is an Illinois case that is also worthy of mention. It is In re Walker, 200 Ill. 566 [66 N.E. 144], which involved the interpretation of a constitutional provision very similar to the one involved here. The court, in interpreting the words “property used exclusively for … religious purposes” appearing in the Illinois Constitution, and the words “churchproperty actually and exclusively used for public worship,” appearing in the Illinois statute, felt that such terms must be interpreted in connection with an Illinois constitutional provision similar to article I, section 4 of the California Constitution. [fn. *] In this connection the Illinois court stated (p. 147): “[O]ur constitution therefore constitutes a guaranty of absolute freedom of thought and faith, whether orthodox, heterodox, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, liberal, conservative, Calvinistic, Armenian, Unitarian, or other religious belief, theology, or philosophy, and also the right of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious professions and worship of any variety or form; the only restraint upon the free 688*688 exercise of liberty of conscience being that oaths and affirmations shall not thereby be dispensed with, licentious acts excused, or practices justified which are dangerous to the peace and safety of the state.”

“Any definition of ‘public worship,’ to be acceptable, must be sufficiently broad and comprehensive to include within the beneficial operation of the statute of exemptions the church property of all congregations, and every denomination or form of religious faith and worship. The difficulties attending the task of formulating a definition of the term ‘public worship,’ so that it will be applicable to and comprehend every variety of religious faith and belief, and every religious philosophy of life and death, and omit none, is apparent.”

There is one other case to which reference should be made–a case that was decided by the District of Columbia Tax Court after the instant case was tried, and a case which is now on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is Washington Ethical Society v. District of Columbia, the tax court decision being reported in 84 Wash. Law. Reporter 1072. In that case the tax court was presented directly with the precise question involved in the instant case–whether the reverence of a deity is a prerequisite to the receiving of a tax exemption for church property. The tax court was presented with a statute exempting church buildings from real property taxation when “primarily and regularly used for religious worship …” It was required to determine whether the Washington Ethical Society was a church within the meaning of this statute. The Washington Ethical Society is an affiliate of the American Ethical Union, and adheres to their tenets, beliefs and practices. These tenets, beliefs and practices are substantially similar to the basic beliefs, tenets and practices of respondent in the instant case. The essential thesis of the Ethical Movement, as stated by the tax court (p. 1074) is that “morals, ethical conduct and right living are good in themselves, and for that reason must be practiced, and not because of any command or sanction of any deity or Supreme Being …”

“… Its basis fundamentally is the negation of a personal God or any Supreme Being. It denies that there is some heavenly father or deity which is concerned with the affairs of men; … that it is futile to appeal to such or to thank him for the blessings or blame him for the ills of mankind; that we mortals alone are responsible for advantages and disadvantages; and that if we are to be helped, we must help ourselves. … 689*689

“The Ethical Movement does not require that any of its members believe in, or have any concept of God.”

Were the buildings of this organization used for “religious worship” within the meaning of the statute? The court in an exhaustive opinion came to the conclusion, after expressing many doubts on the subject, that such buildings were not used for religious worship. It quoted from many authorities to the effect that a belief in a deity is not essential to a religion, and pointed out that the case law defining the term was “somewhat confused” (p. 1078). It then cited and discussed many of the cases already cited in this opinion, and cited and discussed many others not cited herein. It then concluded (p. 1082): “After considering all of the foregoing sources bearing upon the meaning of religion, the Court concludes that the generally accepted definition of religion … is substantially the same as that adopted and approved in the Selective Service Act of 1948 and the Naturalization Act of 1950, that is to say, ‘belief in relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views of a merely personal moral code.’ ” Such definition, it was held, “comports with the primary definition in most of the dictionaries and encyclopedias and in the majority of the decisions of the courts, and appears to be most generally accepted.”

It can be observed from this review of the dictionary definitions, and of the case law, that the definitions given are confused, uncertain and certainly not conclusive. In all of the cases cited, except the tax case, the courts were not faced with the precise problem here involved. The most that can be said of these decisions is that there are expressions approving and disapproving the view that “religious worship” need not necessarily involve the concept of homage to a deity. In many of the apparently conflicting cases the result can be explained, in part at least, by the context in which the question was presented.

The views of scholars in this confused field are also conflicting. Many define “religion” in terms of a deity or of a Supreme Being. To others theism plays little or no part in their concept of the term. Many of these authorities are compiled in the amicus curiae brief of the American Civil Liberties Union. Others are referred to in the tax court opinion, supra. Little would be gained by attempting to compile the conflicting views. Suffice it to say that many 690*690 authorities in the field include nontheistic beliefs among the world’s recognized religions. Particularly pertinent is the following statement by Francis Potter in “The Story of Religion” (p. XVII): “A new definition of religion itself is already emerging. Whereas Cicero was satisfied to call it ‘the pious worship of God,’ and Menzies only a generation ago won acclaim for terming it ‘the worship of higher powers from a sense of need,’ there is a tendency today to question the necessity of including the supernatural in a definition of religion.”

“The idea of religion without God is shocking to Christians, Jews, and Muhammadans, but Buddha and Confucius long ago founded nontheistic religions and some modern Unitarian Humanists insist that the idea of God is a positive hindrance to the progress of real religion.”

“An inclusive definition, then, must recognize both varieties of religion, theistic and non-theistic.”

“The author’s present definition of religion and religions is as follows:”

“Religion: is the endeavor of divided and incomplete human personality to attain unity and completion, usually but not necessarily by seeking the help of an ideally complete divine person or persons.”

“Religions are systems of belief and practice which arise among the disciples of some man who has attained a satisfying measure of success in his endeavors to unify and complete his personality.”

One of the most respected groups to recognize the humanists as a religious group are the Unitarians. Unitarianism is generally accepted by most authorities as one of the recognized religions. Yet under Unitarian doctrine there is a peaceful coexistence of theists and humanists. A substantial part of the membership and clergy of the Unitarian Church are humanists. In the “Pocket Guide to Unitarianism,” edited by Harry B. Scholefield, appears the following (p. 4):

“Some Unitarians call themselves ‘humanists’ and others call themselves ‘theists.’ The difference between the two groups is not so much a matter for controversy as for mutual understanding and appreciation. The humanist is content, before this life’s unanswerable questions, to leave them unanswered. He sees enough in the human scene to demand all his energies of mind and spirit. The fundamental questions seem real enough, but speculation upon them seems hopeless, and all answers proposed must rest upon what William James 691*691 called ‘over-beliefs.’ The humanist says in effect, ‘One world at a time. I am interested in the world where I am now, in the moral purposes and meanings which the human mind has infused into it, and in the achievement of such ethical goals and ways of life as are possible.’ A similar attitude was taken by Buddha …”

It is quite apparent from what has been said that authorities can be found to support a limited definition of the terms involved, and that other authorities can be found to support a broader interpretation. It will be noted that, generally speaking, those who advocate the limited definition draw the line in reference to a particular belief held or not held by the group involved: i.e., do the members of the group believe in God? Their position appears to be that the sole criterion of “approved” religious activity is activity which centers around a deity. This interpretation could lead to some strange results. [6] Certainly, even appellants would not limit the exemption to those who believe in the Christian or Judaic God. The worship of other gods would clearly fall within the exemption. Appellants, at oral argument, conceded that even idol worshipers would qualify for the exemption under the test advocated by them. It also follows, of course, that a great many unorthodox but theistic cults in the United States, such as Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, whose followers believe that Father Divine is God, would qualify for the exemption. Drawing the dividing line between theistic and nontheistic beliefs would seem to be somewhat arbitrary. [7] In a country where religious tolerance is accepted it would not seem that the limited definition is in accord with our traditions.

There is another factor to be considered. Underlying the whole subject is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which provides: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The provisions of the California Constitution guaranteeing a separation of church and state have already been quoted. [8] The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. (Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 [60 S.Ct. 900, 84 L.Ed. 1213, 128 A.L.R. 1352].)

Just what does this provision mean when it is applied to state tax exemptions of church property? [9] It is perfectly obvious that any type of statutory exemption that discriminates between types of religious belief–that discriminates 692*692 on the basis of the content of such belief–would offend both the federal and state constitutional provisions. Thus the United States Supreme Court stated in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 15 [67 S.Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed. 711, 168 A.L.R. 1392]: “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.” In American Sugar Refining Co. v. Louisiana, 179 U.S. 89, 92 [21 S.Ct. 43, 45 L.Ed. 102], appears the following: “Of course, if such [tax exemption] discrimination were purely arbitrary, oppressive or capricious, and made to depend upon differences of color, race, nativity, religious opinions, political affiliations or other considerations having no possible connection with the duties of citizens as taxpayers, such exemption would be pure favoritism, and a denial of the equal protection of the laws to the less favored classes.” (See also Watchtower B. & T. Soc. v. County of Los Angeles, 30 Cal.2d 426 [182 P.2d 178], which broadly implies that a tax discriminating between types of religious belief is unconstitutional.)

[10] Under the constitutional provision the state has no power to decide the validity of the beliefs held by the group involved. The principal case establishing this concept is United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 86 [64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148], which holds that: “Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs.” (See Silving, “The Unknown and the Unknowable,” 35 Cal.L.Rev. 352.) [11] If those concepts are sound, and it is submitted that they are well settled, then the only valid test a state may apply in determining the tax exemption is a purely objective one. Once the validity or content of the belief is considered, the test becomes subjective and invalid. [12] Thus the only inquiry in such a case is the objective one of whether or not the belief occupies the same place in the lives of its holders that the orthodox beliefs occupy in the lives of believing majorities, and whether a given group that claims the exemption conducts itself the way groups conceded to be religious conduct themselves. The content of the belief, under such test, is not a matter of governmental concern.

Under this test the belief or nonbelief in a Supreme Being is a false factor. The only way the state can determine the existence or nonexistence of “religious worship” is to approach the problem objectively. It is not permitted to test validity of, or to compare beliefs. This simply means that 693*693 “religion” fills a void that exists in the lives of most men. Regardless of why a particular belief suffices, as long as it serves this purpose, it must be accorded the same status of an orthodox religious belief. Of course, the belief cannot violate the laws or morals of the community, but subject to this limitation, the content of the belief is not a matter of governmental concern.

[13] If this be a correct approach, and we submit that it is, the proper interpretation of the terms “religion” or “religious” in tax exemption laws should not include any reference to whether the beliefs involved are theistic or nontheistic. Religion simply includes: (1) a belief, not necessarily referring to supernatural powers; (2) a cult, involving a gregarious association openly expressing the belief; (3) a system of moral practice directly resulting from an adherence to the belief; and (4) an organization within the cult designed to observe the tenets of belief. The content of the belief is of no moment. Assuming this definition of “religion” is correct, then it necessarily follows that any lawful means of formally observing the tenets of the cult is “worship,” within the meaning of the taxexemption provision. Admittedly, respondent meets these tests.

There is still another problem involved that has not been discussed, and that is the anomalous nature of the church exemption. [14a] Direct tax subsidies of any churchor sect or of all churches and sects are undoubtedly prohibited by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution above quoted. [15] Separation of church and state is compelled by the federal and state Constitutions. As stated by Mr. Justice Shenk, speaking for the majority of the court in First Unitarian Church v. County of Los Angeles, 48 Cal.2d 419, at p. 434 [311 P.2d 508]: “Without the slightest doubt the First Amendment reflects the philosophy that church and state should be kept separate.” [14b] A tax exemption is, obviously, an indirect subsidy. Thus, logically, any tax exemption to a church, regardless of the beliefs of its members, can be questioned. The more recent United States Supreme Court cases have indicated how divided that court is on this problem, and have made it clear that it is not easy to justify logically the tax exemption provisions. In Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 [67 S.Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed. 711, 168 A.L.R. 1392], the majority of the court upheld payment by a school board that compensated parents for their children’s bus fares even though the children were attending parochial schools. 694*694 The court stated that the state had gone to the “verge” of its constitutional power, and then stated (p. 15): “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. … No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.” That is ominous language so far as the validity of tax exemption provisions for churches is concerned.

In McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 [68 S.Ct. 461, 92 L.Ed. 649, 2 A.L.R.2d 1338], the court was faced with a so-called “released time” statute under which children in public schools were given, if they desired, time off from regular school work, to attend sectarian religious instruction classes conducted by the church of their choice. The classes were held on school property. The statute was held to be unconstitutional. The court stated (p. 212): “Here not only are the State’s tax-supported public school buildings used for the dissemination of religious doctrines. The State also affords sectarian groups an invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes through use of the State’s compulsory school machinery. This is not a separation of Church and State.”

The most recent opinion in point is Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 [72 S.Ct. 679, 96 L.Ed. 954], which upheld a “released time” statute where the classes were not held on school property. The philosophy of the opinion indicates no important retreat from the principles previously announced. At page 314 appears the following: “Government may not finance religious groups nor undertake religious instruction nor blend secular and sectarian education nor use secular institutions to force one or some religion on any person. But we find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.”

Without delving into the subleties of the various majority, concurring and dissenting opinions in these cases, which contain frequent references to the constitutional prohibition against discrimination between religious sects, it is the view of many legal commentators that the rationale of these opinions makes it difficult to uphold, logically, the church exemption provisions. (See, for example, Paulsen, Preferment of 695*695Religious Institutions in Tax and Labor Regulation, 14 Law and Contem. Problems, 144, 148; Constitutionality of Tax Benefits Accorded Religion, 49 Columb. L. Rev. 968; 9 Stan. L. Rev. 366; see also Silving, the “Unknown and the Unknowable,” 35 Cal. L. Rev. 352, 365.)

On the other hand we know, of course, that every state and the District of Columbia has a constitutional or statutory provision exempting church property from taxation. In most of the cases where these statutes have received judicial consideration, their constitutionality has been assumed. In California the Supreme Court recently has held that the tax exemption provision is valid. It was so held in Lundberg v. County of Alameda, 46 Cal.2d 644 [298 P.2d 1]. That case involved the validity of a tax exemptionto property “used exclusively for school purposes … and owned and operated by religious, hospital or charitable funds, foundations, or corporations” subject to certain limitations. (Rev. & Tax. Code, 214.) The court held that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was not violated because, first, the religious school exemption was enacted to promote the public welfare by encouraging the education of the young, and second, such provisions must be upheld because of their very universality. In connection with this second point, the court stated (pp. 654-655): “Secondly, even if we regard the exemption as benefiting religious organizations, it does not follow that it violates the First Amendment. The practice of granting tax exemptions benefiting religious sects began in the colonial period. (See Paulsen, Preferment of Religious Institutions in Tax and Labor Legislation (1949), 14 Law & Contemp. Prob. 144, 147-148; Torpey, Judicial Doctrines of Religious Rights in America (1948), ch. VI, pp. 171-174; Zollman, Tax Exemptions of American Church Property(1916), 14 Mich. L. Rev. 646, 647- 650.) Today, at least some tax exemption for religious groups is authorized by statutory or constitutional provisions in every state and the District of Columbia, as well as by federal law. (See note (1949) 49 Columb. L. Rev. 968, 969-982.) No case has been found holding that the granting of such exemptions is contrary to state or federal constitutional provisions prohibiting the support or establishment of religion, and, where the matter has been raised, the exemptions have been upheld. (Garrett Biblical Institute v. Elmhurst State Bank, 331 Ill. 308 [163 N.E. 1, 5]; Trustees of Griswold College v. State of Iowa, 46 Iowa 275, 282 [26 Am. Rep. 138].) The United States Supreme Court, in 696*696 discussing the prohibition of laws respecting the establishment of religion, recently stated that the standard of constitutionality is the separation of church and state, and that the problem, like many others in constitutional law, is one of degree. (Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 314 [72 S.Ct. 679, 96 L.Ed. 954].) The principle of separation of church and state is not impaired by granting tax exemptions to religious groups generally, and it seems clear that the First Amendment was not intended to prohibit such exemptions. Accordingly, an exemption of property used for educational purposes may validly be applied to school property owned and operated by religious organizations.”

It is interesting to note that the United States Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in the Lundberg case because that appeal did not present a “substantial federal question.” (352 U.S. 921.)

The first reason given by the Supreme Court of California for upholding the exemption is not applicable to the church exemption. The second one is applicable. [16] Certainly, while the very universality of the practice of exempting church property from taxation may not be a conclusive test of constitutionality, it certainly is a sound reason for courts to be extremely reluctant to take any steps to disturb such a practice.

This discussion about the validity of church tax exemption provisions is not indulged in because the members of this court have any doubts about the constitutionality of such provisions, but because the discussion suggests, first, that a logical and legal justification of such provisions must be found, and secondly, that in interpreting such provisions the court should be very careful not to limit them by such a narrow construction that by the very limitations imposed, constitutionality is adversely affected.

First, as to a legal justification for the provisions. [17] It is sound public policy to encourage, by tax exemption as well as by direct subsidy, private undertakings in the fields that are properly within the realm of governmental responsibility. Thus, welfare, charitable and private educational grants and subsidies are valid. All churches that warrant the exemption perform some of these tasks. Therefore, churches can be indirectly subsidized for the performance of these tasks. But this indirect subsidy is not for the activities that are peculiarily religious in the sense of dogma or doctrine, but for the many other things all churches do which are properly cognizable 697*697 by the state. This is the legal justification suggested in several of the above articles. This view received indirect judicial recognition in the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Reed in the McCollum case when he stated (333 U.S. at p. 249): “It seems clear to me that the ‘aid’ referred to by the Court in the Everson case could not have been those incidental advantages that religious bodies, with other groups similarly situated, obtain as a by-product of organized society. This explains the well-known fact that all churches receive ‘aid’ from government in the form of freedom from taxation.” It also received judicial recognition in the majority opinion in First Unitarian Church v. County of Los Angeles, 48 Cal.2d 419, 438-439 [311 P.2d 508], when it was stated: “This legitimate objective [to grant the church exemption] is sought to be accomplished by placing in a favored economic position, and thus to promote their well being and sphere of influence, those particular persons and groups of individuals who are capable of formulating policies relating to good morals and respect for the law. It has been said that when churchproperties are exempted from taxation ‘it must be because, apart from religiousconsiderations, churches are regarded as institutions established to inculcate principles of sound morality, leading citizens to a more ready obedience to the laws.’ (County of Santa Clara v. Southern Pac. R. Co., 18 F. 385, 400 …)”

How do these observations apply to the instant case? [18] The answer is obvious. We should interpret article XIII, section 1 1/2, if possible, so as not to offend the federal Constitution. If the words “religious worship” are given a narrow, limited meaning, so as to require a belief in and adoration of a Supreme Being, then grave doubts would exist as to the constitutionality of the section. On the other hand, a definition which emphasizes the “nonreligious” facets of the conduct of respondent will serve to sustain the constitutionality of the section. Our interpretation of the tax exemption provision must be as broad as is reasonably necessary to uphold it. If we limit the exemption to those who advocate theism then it is quite possible that the Supreme Court of the United States may hold that such an interpretation encourages particular religious doctrines and practices and thus violates the division between church and state. [19] Theism is a concept which is peculiar to religious theory and practice in the technical sense. It is not a feature common to those advantages gained by the state and supportable by it, through the 698*698 activities of private educational and charitable institutions. The problem can be reduced to a simple formula. If the state cannot constitutionally subsidize religion under the First Amendment, then it cannot subsidize theism. If the state can constitutionally subsidize those functions of religious groups which are not related to “religion” in its narrow sense, then it must subsidize those nontheistic groups which perform the same functions. The First Amendment precludes a classification based on them.

The basic question then is not whether theism is necessarily the basic element of “religion.” It can be assumed that the words “religious worship” in the ordinary and commonly used sense require a belief in a Supreme Being. [20] But the United States Constitution prohibits a subsidy to foster “religious worship,” used in this sense. The real question is whether the activities of the Fellowship of Humanity which in the above sense are “nonreligious,” and which include all of the Fellowship’s activities, are analogous to the activities, serve the same place in the lives of its members, and occupy the same place in society, as the activities of the theistic churches. [21] In the present case, it is conceded that in all respects the Fellowship’s activities are similar to those of the theistic groups, except for their belief or lack of belief in a Supreme Being. It therefore follows that the constitutional exemption is equally applicable to both groups. Respondent is therefore entitled to the exemption.

[22] The next contention of appellants is that even if the property of respondent is devoted to “religious worship” as those words are used in article XIII, section 1 1/2 of the California Constitution, such property is not used “solely and exclusively” for such purpose within the meaning of the section. Appellants rely on the findings to the effect that the property is occasionally used by other organizations and occasionally for dances, dinners and meetings held by respondent. The contention does not require lengthy consideration. Such provisions are to be “reasonably construed, having in mind the object of the provision, and in furtherance of its underlying intent.” (San Francisco-Oakland T. Rys. v. Johnson, 210 Cal. 138, 150 [291 P. 197].) One of the cases referred to with approval in that case is First Unitarian Soc. v. Town of Hartford, 66 Conn. 368 [34 A. 89]. The court there stated (p. 90): “The policy on which the exemption of church buildings from taxation is granted is the encouragement of religion; and that policy is not hindered, but, 699*699 rather, promoted, by permitting this building to be used for profit when not needed for those services distinctly called ‘religious services’; for literary, scientific, or entertaining exercises, or for any other thing not inappropriate to be had in a church.”

Under the cases, it is certainly well settled that however strict the courts may be in determining whether the use of property brings it within the exemption at all, if the court once holds that the property generally qualifies for the exemption, it will be extremely liberal in holding that some incidental use does not take it out of the exemption. Thus in Y.M.C.A. v. County of Los Angeles, 35 Cal.2d 760 [221 P.2d 47],  …

Open letter to the Houston, Texas City Attorney concerning the subpoenas duces tecum of certain pastors

Jerald Finney
October 16, 2014

Click here to go to sermonaudio teaching “Texas Pastors getting ‘Sermon Protection Act’-Do We Need It?” 

Authority, The Greatest Thing In The Universe,” Dr. Greg Dixon 2005. This sermon explains the importance of authority and power and correct doctrine. It explains how great men of God can proceed according to some false doctrine and the consequences. For example, John and Charles Wesleys’ teachings led to the tongues movement and all its modern derivatives and adnerents such as TD Jakes, Joycd Meyers, Kenneth Hagan, etc.

Mainstream “Christians” are up in arms about some subpoenas duces tecum to certain pastors issued by the city of Houston. The story as it has unfolded to this point, 1:27 p.m. October 16, 2014, is reported in the following articles:

Mayor, city attorney distance themselves from sermon subpoenas:

Houston mayor, city attorney: On second thought, maybe those subpoenas were a wee bit broad:

Houston Mayor backs off subpoenas to pastors:

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons:

This believer is dismayed with the unlearned positions of the Christian representatives as reported in the news. Of course, news media is not always reliable. This author wishes to set the record straight as to some of the incorrect “Christian” positions involved in this controversy. The following is an open letter which was just e-mailed to David Feldman, the Houston, Texas city attorney.

Jerald c. Finney

Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 1346
Austin, Texas 78767
Phone: (512)385-0761
Fax: (512)385-0761


City of Houston Legal Department
P.O. Box 368
Houston, TX 77001-0368

ATTN: City Attorney David Feldman

RE:  False assertions by Christian leader in the matter concerning subpoena (and subpoena duces tecum) controversy.

Dear Mr. Feldman:

As an attorney who has practiced church and state law since 2005, I am very concerned about the false alleged representations of Tony Perkins (as reported in the news). I am a Christian and I find it very vexing to look at the incorrect assertions of other “Christians” in controversies between church and state. It is time that the truth be brought out when the relationship between church and state in the United States comes to the forefront.

I understand that one cannot depend upon news sources for the truth. I wish to address what Tony Perkins is reported to have said (the source is The linked article states that Perkins said:

“Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“‘The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.’

“Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor ‘obscene’ and said they ‘should not be tolerated.’

“‘This is a shot across the bow of the church,’ he said.

“This is the moment I wrote about in my book, ‘God Less America.’ I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of ‘tolerance and diversity’ elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

“Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.”

I take issue with Perkins on several counts and advise pastors that they should not rally around the Houston “ministers,” unless those Houston ministers and their representatives as well as the pastors who would rally around them repent of their lack of knowledge, embrace knowledge, and then proceed accordingly.

My first contention is that the state is not necessarily “breaching the wall of separation of church and state.” Whether the subpoenas were overbroad is a totally legal matter. However, if a church involved is a legal entity such as an incorporated Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) religious organization, that church has already combined with the state thereby rejecting the Biblical, First Amendment, and corresponding state constitutional principle of “separation of church and state.” I explain these matters in much detail in God’s Churches/Spiritual or Legal Entities (a fairly short work which explains church incorporation and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) status), and also in the much more comprehensive book God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. I also maintain a website on which all my articles, audio teachings, and books are available free. I will just briefly explain some of the intricacies of these matters in these letters. For more details, refer to the resource list at the end of this letter.

Perkins complains that the state is breaching the wall between church and state. How can he make such a complaint when incorporated 501c3 churches have already given up much or their protections under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional protections? They have gone to the state for legal status and certain perceived protections. They have decided to become legal entities and agreed to the terms of that new status. They have rejected their status as New Testament churches under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ only.

By contracting with the state through incorporation, churches supposedly gain certain “protections” while giving up certain constitutional rights. While a corporate church must “obey the laws of its creation,” it also has constitutionally protected rights which are quite different and less effective than the rights she had while a spiritual entity protected by God, and the First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions. A church which is not satisfied with God’s liberty, provisions, and protections (protection of which is guaranteed by the First Amendment) seeks incorporation.  Incorporating a church alters the legal status of that church.

Incorporation places the church partially under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as a “artificial person.” Such an artificial person is a legal fiction or a creature of statute.

  • Civil law makes clear that the sovereign of the corporation is the state.
  • The civil law of incorporation excludes God entirely as regards certain matters controlled by the contracts created by incorporation. A court will not consider biblical principles in a matter involving a contract dispute out of an incorporated “church.” The court will only look at secular laws and cases. Of course, courts have declined involvement with “ecclesiastical” matters. The court will decide what is ecclesiastical and what is not.
  • Incorporation creates several contractual relationships. Contracts are between the state and the corporation, between the corporation and its members, between the members themselves, and between the members and the state.

Most incorporated churches also seek and obtain Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)(“501c3”) or Section 508) status. Such status further compromises the constitutional and and Biblical status of churches. Both 501(c)(3) and 508 status subjects churches to five rules:

 “1. must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,

“2. net earnings must not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,

“3. no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,

“4. the organization may not intervene in political activity,

“5. the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.”

 Obviously, 501(c)(3) is federal law whereas incorporation is state law. However, one must review the state laws of incorporation to understand the relationship of 501(c)(3) status with state law. At the very least, a church which violates (a) 501(c)(3) rule(s) can be audited by the Internal Revenue Service with the option of appeal to federal court from agency determinations. Furthermore, it seems that by obtaining 501(c)(3) status a church has admitted that those matters which are implicated by the 501(c)(3) rules are not ecclesiastical and that infringements of those rules are subject to court action.

I get into these matters much more thoroughly in the resources mentioned above and linked to below.

The point is that these churches have voluntarily given up much of their state and federal constitutional protections and are subject to court action as to certain matters. They are willing parties to the contracts and rules created by incorporation and 501(c)(3) status. They have agreed that the state, through its courts, is the controlling party and that they will abide by the decisions of those courts. When an action is initiated in court, all constitutional and statutory rules and procedures apply. An action may be attacked using every legal maneuver provided for. In the matter at hand, incorporated 501(c)(3) churches may not maintain that they have all their First Amendment rights since they now fall under the Fourteenth Amendment as to non-ecclesiastical matters. The court, being the controlling party, as stated above, decides what is ecclesiastical and what is not. Again, 501(c)(3) churches have, in return for what they perceive to be benefits from the federal government, conceded that certain matters are not ecclesiastical.

By willingly (or ignorantly) becoming legal entities, these churches have denounced the Biblical principle of separation of church and state and placed themselves partially under a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically, sometimes such churches argue that separation of church and state is not in the constitution and at other times they argue that the state is breaching the wall between church and state. They also sometimes make the false argument that the wall between church and state is only meant to keep the state out of church affairs and not the church out of state affairs, even though most such churches have corporate 501(c)(3) status and have agreed to the accompanying laws and rules.

 Yours most sincerely,

Jerald C. Finney


P.S. Following are links to the free online and PDF forms of books and other works by Jerald Finney.

All books, except An Abridged History of the First Amendment, by Jerald Finney are available free in both PDF and online form. One may go to Order information for books by Jerald Finney should he desire to order any of the books which are in print.

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed)(Free: PDFonline form) may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney or directly from Amazon by going to the following links:

  1. Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only)(PDFonline form);
  2. The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only from; see Order information for books by Jerald Finney to order directly from Kerygma Publishing Co.)(PDFonline form) ;
  3. Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble (PDFonline form)
  4. An Abridged History of the First Amendment is available in online and  PDF form only.
  5. Tract on the legality of street preaching is available in PDF only.
  6. “Quick Reference Guide for Churches Seeking to Organize According to the Principles of the New Testament” is available in PDF only.
  7. Miscellaneous articles by Jerald Finney.
  8. Links to some of Jerald Finney’s writings on legal issues.

Click here to see for updated list of Finney’s books. This Endnote is complete up to August 1, 2014.

The following links are to the PDF versions of books, booklets, and pamphlets by Jerald Finney

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application

Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities?

Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses

The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls

An Abridged History of the First Amendment

Quick Reference Guide for Churches Seeking To Organize According To New Testament Guidelines

Tract: “Street Preaching In America: Is It Legal?”

Is It Wrong For A Believer To Sue For Violation Of His Constitutional Rights? A Real Life Study/How Old Paths Baptist Church Street Preachers Won the Support of Law Enforcement by Spiritual, Not Legal, Action

Jerald Finney © July 9, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”


Putting on the Armour of Light
The Rubber Meets the Road


7The principles proclaimed in this article have now been tested and will continue to be tested and honored by the men of OPBC, a church who seeks to obey God in all matters. See the latest test at: OPBC Street Preachers Actions against University of Minnesota Peace Officer who acted unlawfully; for more, see also, Articles Dealing with Street Preaching and Attacks on Street Preaching. God is pleased when believers do things as he has instructed them in the Bible; whereas, using methods contrary to God’s word will, sooner or later, result in negative consequences. As a result of doing things God’s way, no OPBC street preacher has ever been arrested, the police in cities who have been educated by communications with the Chiefs of Police, City Attorneys, Mayors, and city council members of various Minnesota towns and cities. OPBC street preachers stood their ground on the field while gaining the respect of police and  city officials. As a result, the police in cities dealt with now protect the street preachers and put those who would assault them or apply the “hecklers veto” in their place.


One’s heart, flesh, emotions, and reasoning tell him, when his civil rights are violated, to sue for damages, including vindictive damages; and as a lawyer, I am taught, in civil cases, to go for everything I can get. Are man’s heart, flesh, emotions and reasoning consistent with God’s Word – the believer’s God-ordained sole source of faith, belief, and practice? What does the Bible teach about this important issue as related to illegal official interference with street preaching? That is the subject of this article.

Both the goal and the method matter to God. An active believer with good intentions but the wrong methodology can do great harm to the cause of Christ. Of course, street preaching done correctly according to Bible principles is immediately beneficial. However, legal action which does not comply with Bible principles is not wise and harms the cause of Christ. When a ministry takes proper preemptive action when trouble from authorities is anticipated or encountered, God is glorified, His Bible methods are honored, government officials including peace officers, city counsel, and mayors are educated in the law; a good working relationship is established with those officials, especially the police; and the effort and considerable time needed to pursue the issue in court can be used instead for doing the works God has commanded His churches to do – it is a lot easier to take proper action before, not after, encounters.

A good example of taking the wrong course of action is Miller v. City of St. Paul, 823 F. 3d 503, from the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (click to go directly to case). First, the actions of the David Miller as described in the facts of the case is commendable. David Miller is a great man of God who tirelessly works for our Lord. I admire him.

However, the case illustrates (1) the considerable time, effort and resources involved in litigating such a case; (2) that during litigation, even good lawyers can make costly mistakes, errors in procedure, evidence, and so forth; (3) that simple preemptive action would have allowed David to do what the Lord led him to do on the street and avoided any need for such consuming after-encounter legal action. Notice, if you read the case, that the police officer bluffed him-the actual city policies did not comport with her orders and actions. Because of the officers deceptions, David left and filed suit after the fact. The city, which was included in the suit, had a policy which favored David and was not liable. Only the individual lone-wolf officer was in the wrong.

Hopefully, the concerned believer will read and study the Bible reasoning and conclusions in this article in an effort to examine not only himself, his motives, and his methods but also the assertions herein. If he can show this author and OPBC where they are wrong according to the Bible, he can greatly help the cause of Christ by honest Holy Spirit led communications. All our desire should be to please our Lord by doing things His way.

Putting on the Armour of Light

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” Romans 13:12 .

Several years ago I became concerned that pastors and other believers were hurting the cause of Christ by suing cities, mayors, individual police officers and others who disobeyed the law and cited and/or arrested them falsely for exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and speech in the public forum. As this article will show, I modified my position (repented as to that part of my belief which was  not correct: see the conclusion beginning with the paragraph in red at the end of the article before the Endnotes) later as I discussed the matter with my pastor after the church I am a member of met the police head on as a result of their preaching of the Gospel in the public forum. I announced my belief and the reasons for it, and read a few relevant Scriptures at a meeting attended by quite a number of Fundamental Baptist pastors. I also stated my belief that filing for injunction as opposed to suing for punitive damages when one’s rights are threatened and/or violated does not violate Biblical precepts. Some of the verses which led me to this conclusion are:

Mt. 5.10-12, 38-48; 6.8-15; 18.21-35; Lk. 6.27-46; 9.51-56; Ro. 8.28; 12.9-21; 13.8-14; 14.19; Ga. 6.10; 1 Thes. 5.15; 1 Ti. 3.1-7; 2 Ti.1,8; 2.8-12; 3.12;  3.12; Ja. 3.17; 1 Pe. 2.9-25 (esp. 15-16 and 20-25); 3.14-17; 4; Ge. 50.16-20; Le. 19.18; De. 32.35 and other verses.

[Most of the above verses from the Bible are reproduced in EN 1. This is done for the convenience of the reader and also because many people either do not have a Bible, or they have an interpretation of the Bible such as the NIV, the ASB, the Living Bible, etc. Reading an interpretation can only confuse one when he wants to get into the truth about doctrine. Please read those verses so that you will understand what the Bible says about taking vengeance, the believer’s reaction to evil against him, one’s actions against his enemies, about the believer’s attitude in time of persecution, etc. Consider this article in light of Biblical teaching, not in light of your traditions. In response to a mailing publicizing this article, one pastor who has been a longtime beloved friend has already e-mailed me to “unsubscribe” him from my e-mail list. He merely states that he is making this request because I obviously do not “understand the clear statutes of Scripture.” He gives no reasoning in his request because he cannot. I still love him and his church, but I cannot let anything, including family and friendship stand between me and my Lord. I believe that Scripture clearly supports my position. I always leave open the challenge, “Show me where I am wrong.” If you can show me, I will publish my repentance. By the way, I have received communications from other pastors who are supportive of this article. Really, the only thing that matters is the truth of the matter according to the word of God.]

My beliefs about this matter of suing for damages were challenged the way that most, if not all, Fundamental Baptist preachers address issues – in a sermon at a future meeting. Instead of in-depth, studied communication in a search for truth, their chosen method is preaching since the pastor is the boss. If he has a concern or if he needs to be uplifted, he goes to other pastors in his chosen circle, the “clergy,” the chosen ones and perhaps a “layman” or “laymen” in his church who are fully persuaded that the “man of God,” the pastor, as boss, is the only one accountable to God and that whatever he deems to be the truth is the truth. Many lost people understand that counsel as to their worldly concerns is profitable. “… For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lk.16.8b).

I was anxious to hear the pre-announced sermon since I had hopes that the preacher, a man for whom I had and have a great deal of respect, would take out his Bible and “show me” where I was wrong. He did not. He explained that after he filed suit in a case where the law enforcement violated his First Amendment rights, the police whom he included in the suits suddenly started treating him with the greatest of respect, that he won quite a sum in damages, etc. He relied on one verse which I do not remember but which did not support his position and a portion of another verse: “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (the last part of Jude 1.3; Jude deals with apostates and apostasy in a church). To understand “how” God wishes a believer to react to a violation of his constitutional rights exercised in the public forum (the method) one has to do some serious Bible study. Verses taken out of context are often used to support heresy. We talked briefly after his message, but he never offered any explanation of why I was wrong. He did give me some unneeded advice on how to proceed with an injunction. His sermon and our brief conversation were cordial but unfruitful. I still love him; I only mention this to point out the cavalier manner by which some very important matters are sometimes handled.

The Rubber Meets the Road

3Due to an incident in Faribault, Minnesota in which police officers violated the rights of men from the church I am a member of, Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) of Northfield, Minnesota, OPBC had to deal with God and His principles and earthly authorities head on.

I found that my position, which at that time was no suing for damages whatsoever, was partially right and partially wrong. I learned this through talks with my pastor, Pastor Jason Cooley, and more Bible study as the incident in Faribault played out. Instead of preaching to me, he got out his Bible and examined Scripture and talked to me about it. It was important that we do so because it appeared that, in spite of all our sincere efforts to avoid litigation (getting federal court intervention), the City of Faribault, their Chief of Police, and the police department were going to allow a city code to trump the First Amendment speech protections for our men who were preaching in the public forum. All this is reflected in the correspondence in the Endnotes. Thankfully, the city through the Chief of Police, after I got the city attorney and city council involved in the correspondence, seems to have acknowledged that the First Amendment trumps a city ordinance. The law is given in the many cases I cited and quote from in my e-mail correspondence which is in the Endnotes below.

2Many police departments and police officers, including Chiefs of Police, like many Americans, make up the law concerning First Amendment rights. Those in larger towns and cities usually know the law of free speech in the public forum since they regularly deal with all kinds of activists. This is not true in smaller towns and cities where the issue has never arisen. Shame on believers and churches who have not followed biblical guidelines and done their duty to go into all the world and preach the Gospel in this nation where, unlike many nations, they can do so under the protection of man’s law.

After the Faribault police violated the speech rights of the OPBC street preachers, I posted the following report online (no longer online):

  • “On June 21, 2014, Brother Paul Pearson, Pastor Jason Cooley, Brother Cooley (Pastor Jason’s dad) and some other younger men from Old Paths Baptist Church went to Faribault MN for street preaching, displaying signs, and handing out tracts. Two recordings of the encounter were made by Pastor Cooley may be viewed by left clicking the following links:
    Faribault MN Police Order Preachers To Stop Preaching
    Faribault Police Tell Preachers To Leave Or Be Arrested
  • “Faribault police officers approached them. One of the officers arguably assaulted (petty misdemeanor assault) Brother Pearson as he was preaching by poking his with his finger as he stood on a stand street preaching. As the officer poked Brother Pearson with his finger he told him, “Get down from there. I said get down from there.” Brother Pearson kept preaching. The officer said that if they did not leave, they would be going to jail. One female officer told them that if they did not leave, they would be cited and arrested. She threatened them by saying they would cite them for violating Section 17-42(a) of the Faribault City Ordinances entitled “Nuisance noise” (See EN 2 for the whole ordinance).
  • “She had to go get a copy of the above section of the code before she could tell them what they were allegedly doing wrong. Brother Pearson kept preaching and Pastor Cooley explained to the officers that they were engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which is above a city ordinance and nullifies any ordinance which is in violation of that amendment). The female officer told them that it was illegal for them to preach there and that ‘telling people they’re going to hell is alarming and scaring them.’”

The preachers stayed on for a time, probably a little longer than they would have stayed had the police not interrupted their efforts, then they left. However, the tone of the police was such that they believed that they would be cited, and possibly arrested, the next time they went back to preach in Faribault.

Chief BohlenIn an attempt to resolve the matter, I called city attorney on June 23, 2014. He suggested that I call the Chief of Police. I have had many dealings with police as a lawyer over the years, including examining them on the witness stand. I knew the “peace officer” mindset. But I decided to honor the request of the city attorney. I left a voicemail for the Chief. Then I sent him an e-mail (See EN 3 for the e-mail). In that e-mail, I told him what had happened and gave him links to the videos above, briefly explained the law, gave him links to materials which explained the law, told him that we were proceeding like this in hopes of settling the matter peaceably with the hope that “this whole matter will glorify God, uplift all involved and bring us closer together in love, strengthen and enforce principles which have made America great, and increase all our knowledge, wisdom and understanding of a vital matter. “etc.

On June 26, the Chief replied by e-mail, since we were playing phone tag. In his e-mail, he explained that the officer who “tapped the preacher on the arm” was a community service officer – not an officer in the Faribault Police Department – that it was not an assault, that a person “has the right to free speech and can preach loudly and exclaim their beliefs in public;” but he went on to explain that “in the City of Faribault we do have an ordinance and a state statute that defines some behavior as public nuisance or disorderly conduct” and that “a citation can be issued.” He expressed his confident belief that “our State Statute” would “comply with the Hierarchy of Law and win challenges.” He went on to explain that correct his officers used correct protocol, were polite and professional, were responding to complaints, etc. It was clear, that citations would be issued for street preaching if citizens complained. He then explained the court process. In other words, he was saying that we could take it up with the trial court judge after the citations were issued. He still did not get it. He ended with, “The City of Faribault will continue to enforce the law and protect all citizen rights, as well as  free speech.” Note. I have his e-mail on file, but am not publishing any of his e-mails. I will only do so if someone accuses me of falsely representing what was in the e-mail. Of course, I will not cover everything he said in his e-mails.

Again, while this was going on, my pastor and I were not only discussing what was going on but also what we should do, according to the Bible, should one or more of the men be arrested in violation of the First Amendment. I will explain our conclusions at the end of this article.

I sent Chief Bohlen a rather lengthy e-mail reply to his June 26 e-mail which is reproduced in EN 4. In that e-mail I 1) apologized; (2) gave him a link to a Youtube video of a Minneapolis policeman interacting with the men of OPBC on June 28, 2013 as they preached at a “gay” pride event, a link to a website page which shows what happened in Northfield MN when people complained about the street preaching in downtown Northfield and my credentials to speak on these matters; (3) presented requests for clarification of his position and some other matters; (4) spoke to the assault issue showing him why I thought that the officer actually did assault Brother Paul Pearson; (5) gave him specific law which clearly proves that it is unlawful for a police officer to arrest someone under color of certain types of statutes (disorderly conduct, nuisance, littering, etc.) laws when they are speaking in the public forum; (6) Concluded.

Mayor John Jasinski
Mayor John Jasinski
Council Member Kevin Vorasek
Council Member Kevin Vorasek

In spite of all this, Chief Bohlen maintained his position which was that our men had a right to speak in the public forum; but that if someone complained the police could still issue a citation for violation of certain statutes. Of course, he would have understood he was wrong had he read and understood the law as laid out in my e-mails. It appeared that the men of OPBC would have to go to court for resolution. However, I knew that I needed to notify the appropriate city officials of what was going on and make sure that they shared his position, as he had asserted. To do so, I sent an e-mail reply to the Mayor of Faribault, the Chief, the City Attorney, and all the Faribault City Council members. The entire e-mail is included in EN 5.

Finally, before I heard from Chief Bohlen again, I sent another e-mail in to all the above mentioned Faribault city officials in which I quoted from and linked to MCCULLEN ET AL. v. COAKLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS, ET AL. a United States Supreme Court case which was handed down June 26, 2014, and also linked to a recent and relevant Texas case. I ended, in part, “I know that you are all busy, but I would ask you to please let the men of OPBC know as soon as you can as to what your city policy is going to be regarding their First Amendment right to speak in the public forum.” The Chief had indicated that he spoke for the City of Faribault, but I wanted to pin all the above persons and the City of Faribault down in case further legal action were required. See En 6 for the entirety of that e-mail.

Council Member Joan VanDyke
Council Member Joan VanDyke
Council Member John Rowan
Council Member John Rowan

The Chief relented.  He left a voice mail and we talked over the phone later. I think that he finally understood the law on the matter and the role of the police. I have retained his voice mail. Our conversation was not recorded, but he said the same thing, for the most part in our conversation as he said in his voice mail. Among other things, he said that he saw the videos, stressed that no one was taken into custody or arrested, that he understood our frustration, that they would respect our First Amendment rights, that the police have an obligation to take calls of complaint, that he wants to make sure that they handled appropriately, and that he has issued the appropriate directives to his officers as to how to take these complaints. He said that they “have an obligation to go out and take these calls” and that he “wants to make sure they are handled appropriately.” He also said something which causes me concern as to whether he truly understands the law, but I will leave that out of this article. He, the Faribault police department, and the city of Faribault through her officials now cannot say that they did not know the law should they violate it. In talking with Chief Bohlen, I believe that he is a good man, a man of his word, and that he truly wants to run his police force according to the law of the land. The men of OPBC know that many smaller towns, unlike larger cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul and Austin TX, have never had to deal with the controversy caused by activism in the public forum. Therefore, they usually do not respond appropriately when citizens complain. This is an indictment against many, and especially against believers and pastors of churches who were instructed by our Lord: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Had they only done their job, everyone in the land would not only see the power of God and hear the Gospel, but also know the law of the land concerning First Amendment freedoms; then, they might even study the history of how Americans got those freedoms. That study would enlighten them on many matters such as religion (Catholicism, Protestantism, the history of true Baptist believers and churches, the blood of the martyrs which led to the First Amendment) the history of America, etc.

Council Member Kay Duchene
Council Member Kay Duchene
Council Member Steve Underdahl
Council Member Steve Underdahl

Now, as to the results of the studies and discussions between myself and Pastor Jason. My belief is now, as before, that a believer who wishes to speak in the public forum should do all he can, aside from abandoning his calling and duty, to avoid litigation. I know that this is not always possible. Even in this instance, one or more of the men could have been arrested. Since that did not happen, the men of OPBC did all they could to honor God, Chief Bohlen, the Faribault City Officials, and the City of Faribault and avoid litigation. However, had Faribault not relented, we had decided that the next step was to file for federal injunction. Of course, we felt that, through all the correspondence, we had enough to implicate Chief Bohlen, the City Officials, and the City of Faribault. Had we been forced to take that route, we do not believe that a federal judge would have looked kindly on the city’s actions since they had been thoroughly educated as to the law; in one sense, that would not have mattered since there are no damages to be awarded in a successful action for injunction.

Council Member David Albers
Council Member David Albers

On the other hand, had the city not relented and had the city violated or should the city in violate the constitutional rights of one or more of our men while speaking in the public forum, I now believe, as do the men of OPBC, that a civil rights lawsuit would be in order. We believe that it would be appropriate, according to the conscience of the person wronged, for the suit to ask for actual damages to any man who lost income or money as a result of being arrested, having to go to court, going to jail, etc. We believe that this is biblically acceptable for several reasons.

3First, God laid out the jurisdiction of civil government. Much of the Old Testament deals with this matter, as do parts of the New Testament. Romans 13.3-4 which gives civil government jurisdiction in a nutshell says:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Ro. 13.8-14 then gives the individual believer’s duty to our fellow citizens. Inherent within that duty is to do God’s bidding and show our love to our neighbors by preaching to them.

When a peace officer seeks to terrorize good, not evil, works, he is misusing his God-ordained power – he is executing wrath on the wrong person(s). He is becoming a lawbreaker.

1 Ti. 1.8-11 says:

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

6Second, the verses I cited at the beginning of this article to support my belief that believers should never sue because of violation of their civil rights did not take into consideration justice. The above verses, and many others inherently include the notion of justice. One can do a word search of “justice” to find out that the Bible specifically speaks much of justice. Psalms 82:3 says, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” Micah 6.8 says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” If a man’s family suffers because a government has unlawfully terriorzed and/or persecuted him, justice demands that that family receive restitution (actual damages).

Another consideration for the believer who sues for violation of his constitutional rights is his motive – is his primary desire to glorify God by making sure he is not led in any way by covetousness. In Genesis 14, we read that the King of Sodom wished to reward Abraham for saving the good and the people who had been taken forcefully by certain kings and their armies. “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion” (Ge. 14:22-24). “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (He. 13.5-6).

The Bible also teaches that a believer is to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. All actions and battles for a believer and the church he is a member of are spiritual, not material or temporal (See, e.g., Ro. 7.15-25, 8.1-13; 1 Co. 12-13; Ga. 5; Ep. 2.1-10 and the whole book of Ep.; etc.). A church’s and a believer’s methods and motives in all matters are always to be spiritual and eternal as opposed to fleshly or worldly.

The Bible limits what a child of God should seek in restitution. Never should one seek exemplary damages, damages for mental anguish, damages for emotional distress, or any kind of damages which can be characterized as seeking vengeance. One can study out the meaning of the various types of legal damages to determine which can be characterized as “vengeance” damages. A true believer is to rejoice and be exceeding glad when persecuted for the cause of Christ. He is instructed never to seek vengeance since God makes clear that vengeance is His and that he will repay the offender for his unlawful actions. I refer the reader to the verses at the beginning of this article, most of which are reproduced in EN 1 below, for a study of this matter of vengeance and loving one’s neighbor. A complete serious study of the whole word of God would be even more enlightening.One simply cannot get around the fact that those Scriptures which I rely on to say that Christians are not to seek or take vengeance by making the argument that those Scriptures do not apply to the scenario I am considering. My human emotions, flesh, and reasoning tells me to sue for damages, including vindictive damages but the Bible instructs me not to do so. See how LLDF vindicated Rev. Walter Hoye.

In short, I believe that the course one who wishes to preach the Gospel in the public forum should be as follows:

(1) Do everything possible to avoid having to go to civil (as opposed to criminal) court. If one plans to speak in the public forum within a jurisdiction in which he is unsure if the authorities there are educated as to the law, notify the appropriate official(s) of when and where you will be speaking. If they do not know the law, educate them. Be sure to keep all evidence possible of your communications in case needed in future litigation.

(2) If the jurisdiction threatens citation and/or arrest after having been informed of the law, file for injunction in federal court.

(3) If you are arrested at any time for violation of your Biblical mandate to preach the Gospel in the public forum and in violation of your Constitutional rights, file a civil rights lawsuit. The only acceptable damages, according to God’s word, is actual damages which keeps one from properly keeping his duty to provide for himself and his family, and even those damages may not always be called for – a believer who is suing must honestly determine if such damages are appropriate. Suing for any  type of damages which takes vengeance violates God’s principles. Suing for financial loss which compromises your ability to support your family is Biblically acceptable. I can help get an attorney licensed in your state to practice law to help you. If you are in Austin, Texas or in a nearby county in Texas, I may be able to help you depending upon my schedule.

I salute Chief Bohlen for giving his attention to this matter. He is a busy man. He and the officials and citizens of Faribault as well as the men of OPBC are better off for this educational experience. May the education extend to those citizens who have not, to this point, been privy to what has gone on in resolving this matter. May justice prevail now and in the future.

This same procedure has had the same results in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Northfield, and Anoka Minnesota. All glory to God!


EN 1

Mt. 5.10-12, 38-48; 6.8-15; 18.21-35: “5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 5:38-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. 6.8-15 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 18.21-35 [Not reproduced here.]

Lk. 6.27-46; 9.51-56: “6:27-46 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 9.51-56 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”

Ro. 8.28; 12.9-21; 13.8-14; 14.19: “8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 12:9-21 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.  Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. 13.8-14 [God’s command to the believer concerning his acts toward his neighbor in the context of civil government jurisdiction and the believer’s role as a citizen of that civil government. Notice that these verses say nothing about the believer’s relationship to God in that context.]. 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Ga. 6.10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

1 Thes. 5.15 “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”

1 Ti. 3.1-7: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” [Since pastors should be going into the world preaching the Gospel, and since they may encounter violations of their civil rights, they should be aware that they are held to an even higher standard than other believers. Verses 10-13 then deals with qualifications for deacons.]

2 Ti.1,8; 2.8-12; 3.12: “1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” 2:8-12 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Note. Contextually, in 2.Ti. 3.12 and other verses, when Paul speaks of believers suffering persecution, he means that they will suffer, not fight, persecution. Of course Paul argued within the legal system when falsely accused of crime. He appealed to Rome as a Roman citizen and argued that the facts showed that he was not guilty. He did not have the civil rights given Americans in the Constitution, so one must go deeper into relevant Biblical doctrine to see God’s limits on one’s methods as he enters the civil (as opposed to criminal) law. That is what this article is about.

Ja. 3.17: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

1 Pe. 2.9-25 (esp. 15-16 and 20-25); 3.14-17; 4: “2:15-16 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 2:20-25 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.  For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 3:14-17 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” [Read chapter 4 in your Bible. If you only have an interpretation – a non-KJB – buy a Bible!]

Ge. 50.16-20; Le. 19.18; De. 32.35: [Not reproduced here]

EN 2 “Sec. 17-42. Nuisance noise.

“(a) No person in the city shall make or assist in or permit the making of any noise tending to unreasonably disturb the peace and quiet of persons in the vicinity thereof, unless the making and continuing of the same cannot be prevented and is necessary for the protection or preservation of property or of the health, safety, life or limb of some person. “… “(d) Permitted noise. Customary sounds from any of the following activities shall not be deemed to violate this section. “(1) Marching and/or playing of music by bands, orchestras, or other musical aggregations in conjunction with an authorized city celebration, festival, or other neighborhood or community event, including band shell concerts; or the practice for or presentation of an event sponsored by a local public or private school; “(2) Church bells, chimes and carillons; “(3) Authorized parades; “(4) Construction work conducted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; “(5) School bells; “(6) Emergency vehicles; “(7) Permitted street dances; or “(8) Collection and transportation of garbage or refuse in the city between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, the collection and transportation of garbage or refuse for commercial, industrial or institutional properties may be conducted between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.”

Note. I included subsection (d) above because I believe it is significant that the exceptions do not include the most important and constitutionally mandated exception – free speech in the public forum – while it does include garbage collection and other similarly types of sound causing activities including some Biblically offensive types of “noise.”

EN 3 [First e-mail to the Faribault Chief of Police]

My name is Jerald Finney. I am writing this letter as a member of Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) in Northfield, Minnesota. I am contacting you regarding a matter which happened on June 21, 2013 in your city. Some of your police officers broke the law by assaulting one member and threatening more than one member of OPBC with arrest and citation for violating Section 17.42(a) of your city ordinances. I have already put the whole story online. You can read it at: You may click the link above and scroll down to “June 21, 2014 Update” to read the story. To verify the story, there are links there to 2 videos which show exactly what happened.

I am a lawyer who specializes in “separation of church and state law” and am licensed in Texas, but not in Minnesota. However, as a member of OPBC and as a representative of that church, I – and the church – wish to attempt to resolve a matter involving your police officers in the most reasonable manner, and in a way which does not waste the money of the taxpayers. This is the best way to handle the matter, in my opinion, since the legal issues have already been decided by the United States Supreme Court. Many lawsuits against municipalities, police departments, and individual police officers have already laid out the parameters of the law and shown that the litigation process ends up with taxpayers spending untold thousands of dollars for not understanding and correctly applying the law. The costs to the city and officers involved have included lawyers fees, court costs, time involved for officers and others who become involved, monetary judgments in favor of those whose legal rights have been violated, etc. OPBC wishes to act in a manner consistent with what the Bible teaches in resolving this matter and avoid further action. We wish to show you our love for you and your city by peaceful resolution. The church has already contacted the Alliance Defense Fund (“ADF”) and an ADF lawyer has told us to call if needed and they will get a lawyer who practices in your jurisdiction on it quickly.

What we would ask from the city is (1) a writing from a city official (Chief Bohlen, City Attorney, Fischer, or the mayor) stating that the Faribault police have been informed of the law regarding free speech in the public forum that can be presented in the future to officers who might attempt to abuse the preachers again and also stating that Faribault police officers have been educated in the law concerning speech in the public forum in America, (2) a written apology from the officer who assaulted the preacher, and (3) an apology from the lady officer who did almost all the talking.

I have thoroughly addressed the law on this matter online. I specifically deal with the issue on the “Old Paths Baptist Church ‘No Small Stir’ (Street Preaching) Ministry” page which you may assess by clicking the following link: There you may find links that will take you to court briefs and other information which spell out the law. I have a 12 page tract which succinctly lays out the law. That tract, “Tract – Street Preaching In America: Is It Legal?” is online at:

As you can see from the information on that tract and on the website pages, this matter has already been resolved in Northfield, Minnesota without court action in favor of the street preachers from OPBC.

To understand the importance of protected speech and the bloody history of how it came to be in America, I would suggest reading “The History of the First Amendment,” which is Section IV of the book “God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application and which is free in online form at The free PDF of the book is at: One may find order information (available in both Kindle and softback) at: “An Abridged History of the First Amendment” is available free at: That booklet is only published online.

Please contact me as soon as possible concerning this matter. I talked with Attorney Fischer on the phone a little while ago and he suggested calling Chief Bohlen. I called Chief Bohlen and left a voice mail. Our hope is that this whole matter will glorify God, uplift all involved and bring us closer together in love, strengthen and enforce principles which have made America great, and increase all our knowledge, wisdom and understanding of a vital matter. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity [God’s type of love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13.13).

Very truly yours and for His Glory, Jerald Finney Member of Old Paths Baptist Church 512-785-8445 512-385-0761 E-mail:

P.S. Should you call and get a voice mail, please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible.

EN 4 My reply to Chief Bohlen’s e-mail:

Dear Chief Bohlen,

Thank you for your e-mail reply on June 26, 2014. I have been working on this reply for several days. I believe we are getting closer, although still a long way from, a resolution to this problem. It appears to me that I will not be able to resolve this by communicating with you, but I am making an attempt to do so at the request of your city attorney. Again, let me say that I am acting on behalf of the men who were there street preaching, not as an attorney. We are all members of OPBC, a non-legal entity, a First Amendment church (I will not explain what that means other than to say individual men are involved, and no legal entity). The street preachers of OPBC are doing everything possible to get this matter resolved without taxing the city, the church, and the court system. They are ordered by the Bible to love all men and so they are showing their love to you, your city attorney, your city elected officials, your police force, all your city peace officers, and the citizens of your city by proceeding according to the directives of the word of God. They wish to give all their energy to obedience to the Lord which includes preaching the Gospel in public. They have no desire to bring in an attorney who may ultimately ask for certain damages and attorney’s fees which may burden you all in the form of tax dollars used to pay court ordered judgments. They will do that only as a final resort if all efforts to get this resolved according to the law of the land fail.

Let me say that I contacted you because your city attorney, Kurt Fischer, asked me to do so. I wished to take the matter up with him, but out of courtesy, I decided to comply with his request. I am cc’ing this to the mayor, the city council members, and the city attorney. Since in your last e-mail you stated that your position is that of the police department and the city of Faribault, I am sending this letter with a note (included above this letter the mayor to you, the city council members, and the city attorney. it is included, as  you know, in your letter since you saw it before getting to this part of the correspondence.).

In this letter, I will (1) apologize; (2) give you a link to a Youtube video of a policeman interacting with the men of OPBC on June 28, 2013 as they preached at a “gay” pride event, a link to a website page which shows what happened in Northfield MN when people complained about the street preaching in downtown Northfield and my credentials to speak on these matters; (3) present requests for clarification of your position and some other matters; (4) speak to the assault issue; (5) give you specific law which clearly proves that it is unlawful for a police officer to arrest someone under color of certain types of statutes (disorderly conduct, nuisance, littering, etc.) laws when they are speaking in the public forum; (6) Conclude.

(1) My apologies

I wish to apologize to you for what I feel I been wrong in my prior correspondence. I sent you a ton of educational material. I ask you to forgive me for that. The material I sent contained the law concerning the issue we are confronting. I should have specifically given you the important law. Below, I will present what it says and will attach the United States Supreme Court Cases which have laid down the law. You see, I am not the law, the city attorney is not the law, and the police are not the law; nor does any of our opinions have legal effect. The Supreme Court is the law of the American legal system and their opinions are the standard. If their opinion violates the highest law, then they will ultimately pay the price, but that is not our problem. Please forgive me for not being specific.

Let me also apologize for not checking Minnesota law and referring to that when I mentioned what I still feel was an assault by the “officer” in the video. As a citizen of America, I feel the same way the men approached by the Faribault “officials” (I will refer to them all that way, with the understanding that some of them were not “your” officers.). I will clarify below what I meant. I am offended when someone comes up to me and puts their hands, fingers, feet or anything else on me in a negative way, especially if I am doing nothing illegal. I consider that type of action against me to be an assault. I am even more offended when a “peace officer” does so; especially if he says that I can’t do something that is legal, as declared by the U.S. Supreme Court (for example, tells me that a city ordinance trumps the First Amendment which is directly the opposite of the truth – see below for the law), and tells me I am going to jail.

(2) Examples of peace officers who know the law and my credentials to speak on these matters

The men of OPBC have preached in Minneapolis/St. Paul without problem, even in the face of complaints. The police there know the law. They preached at a “gay” pride parade there on June 28, 2014. Go to the video below to see what a police officer who knows and enforces the law (The First Amendment to the United States Constitution) does:

To see what happened in Northfield, Minnesota when citizens vehemently complained to the police of that city in their efforts to try to get the police to cite the preachers from OPBC with violation of city ordinance(s) because of their refusal to quit their protected speech click the following link:

Finally, let me briefly explain that I both led and participated in the street preaching ministry of an Austin TX church for about 20 years. Over that time, many complaints were made to the police – “I am offended,” “I am alarmed,” “You can’t do that,” “The place for this is in the ‘church’ building, not on the street,” “You are making people mad,” “You are in front of my business (where we were closer to the door of the business in busy pedestrian and vehicle traffic than in the incident you mentioned there in Faribault, etc. We were careful not to be so close to his business door that we impeded the progress of pedestrians in any way.). What did the police do to us – they explained the law to the people and protected us. I was assaulted more than once and spit on during those times. One man assaulted me and left to get in a taxi, but some policemen detained him and talked to him. Then the policeman came up to me and said that the man stated that I assaulted him, but that he saw the whole thing and said I could complain and he would arrest the man for assault. I told him that I came to help, not hurt, people and thanked him for protecting us and for all his good work as a peace officer.

Furthermore, I am a constitutional lawyer and have studied free speech. I know the law concerning speech in the public forum (on government sidewalks, parks, etc.) I have successfully represented people who were speaking in the public forum at trial and had to appeal one case which was reversed and acquittal ordered on appeal. Links to my brief and other information on that appeal are linked to at:

(3) Requests

My first request involves your position.According to your letter, your position is the position of both the city of Fairbault and also the Fairbault police department. I will try to contact the city officials and the city attorney to verify that. If we need to go further, we wish to include everyone involved in any civil actions that may follow. We do not wish to go that route, but just in case. I will be attempting to discuss this with the city attorney and officials so they will not be surprised; and also to allow them to verify or deny whether they share your position and whether your position is also the policy of the city, the city officials, and the city attorney.

My second request is for your clarification of your position – what will happen if the preachers preach in your town? I will give my interpretation of your e-mail and ask if it is correct. If it is not, may I ask that you clearly state your position? Again, may I ask if your position is the express or understood position of the city of Fairbault? If so, how and where may I verify their position? I will be asking your city attorney and city officials (those who I and get an e-mail address for) their position and policy and the position and/or policy of the city in the next few days.

Let me give you my interpretation of your position. You said that a citation can and will be issued for disorderly conduct just for street preaching. You then want a judge to decide the issue. As I read it, you believe that police can cite and/or arrest a street preacher because people are offended and alarmed in violation of Noribault City Ordinance Section 17-42. I agree with you that police can do so. I disagree that they can do so lawfully because Supreme Court case law (quoted below) makes crystal clear that the First Amendment forbids it – the First Amendment trumps Section 17.42 and all the disorderly conduct and nuisance statutes in America. By explicit law (see below) the Supreme Court has already decided this issue and lower federal courts have already, on many occasions, awarded damages to American citizens who filed civil rights (42 U.S.C.S. § 1983) lawsuits against officials who unlawfully arrested them under various statutes (including disorderly conduct statutes) for speech activity in the public forum. Of course, a street preacher can be cited and arrested for some crimes such as assault or criminal trespass even if he is street preaching (as long as the alleged crime is not just a pretext for arrest). Police have unlawfully (in violation of the First Amendment) arrested and/or cited street preachers and others who were speaking in the public forum and charged them with disorderly conduct, littering (when in fact, as proven in court, others were littering by throwing Gospel tracts given them by street preachers in the street), and other crimes. Ultimately, the results were acquittal, many cases being dismissed without trial, some going to trial and acquitted, some being convicted, but exonerated on appeal. Those processes have resulted in clear definition of what the law is for those who know how to research it.

The law regarding freedom of speech in the public forum has also been developed in other ways. In some cases, those whose constitutional rights have sued police officers (I will not, at this time, explain the law of qualified immunity of government officials) and cities and city officials successfully under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C.S. § 1983). All that because the police and maybe the city and city officials did not know the law and, instead of doing their jobs and protecting the law-abiding preachers or other citizens who were involved in protected speech in the public forum, became a law unto themselves and abused their duty to uphold the law. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The street preachers of OPBC truly wish to avoid all that. They have no desire to get anything from anyone unless your unlawful actions continue, their freedom of speech rights are violated, and/or you deprive them of their livelihood needed to take care of their families. Just being forced unlawfully to go to court by summons and/or arrest will interfere with these men’s ability to do their secular jobs and provide for their families. They will not seek vengeance, but they will seek justice. Hopefully, justice will be served without court action. They will love you, as ordered by God in his word which means they will do everything in their power to resolve this in the most expeditious manner possible without lawsuit or other court action. In addition, your citizens deserve better than that. What they need to know is the truth. According to the United States Supreme Court, here is no right not to be offended or alarmed in the public forum in America. I will give you some Supreme Court quotes below. Most thinking people, myself included, are offended or alarmed by something they see or hear every time they venture out in public. These men could have been offended by the unlawful actions of your officers and by the unlawful responses of the members of your community who called the police in hopes of arresting their protected speech.

On top of all that, your proposal that the men come preach, get a summons, go to court, and let the court decide leaves some very important questions. The men probably left later than they would have had the officers not interrupted them by violating their civil rights. What would happen if we followed your proposal and after the summons issued, kept preaching another hour? Two more hours? More complaints and more summons? Or would the preacher(s) be arrested? What if they came back to preach on the streets of Noribault before the judge decided the case or before the appeal, if needed, were finished? More citations, summons, possible arrests? Another important question is why should anyone go through this ridiculous exercise for a matter that has already been decided by the United States Supreme Court? Again, I will offer specific law below. I will attempt to get your city attorney to look at this. It is his job. I will also point it out to any city officials for whom I can obtain an e-mail address. In Northfield, the exact same thing happened, a police officer took it on himself to go to the city attorney, and the city attorney explained that the police could do nothing about street preaching under disorderly conduct, nuisance or other similar laws. I do not know exactly how much detail the city attorney gave, but the police in Northfield now abide by and understand their role. No civil suit of any kind with the collateral consequences to the city, to individual officers, to city officials, to the city attorney, and to the citizens of Northfield (of course, the consequences against the citizens would be indirect since it would all be paid for by their tax dollars). Again, the St. Paul/Minneapolis officers also know and act upon the law as shown in the video linked to above.

By the way, as to the incident at the liquor store, you officers were in the wrong there as well, as far as the video indicates. Paul, I do not believe, did not impede or intimidate customers.  He may have offended them or scared them by telling them that the Bible teaches that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” of by some other constitutionally protected speech. I will have to talk to him more about that. No need to get into great detail about that here. The main thing is that these two incidents (both of which I have on DVD) are establishing a pattern.

My third request is to ask you if you will send me the names, badge numbers (if any), and service or citation addresses of all the personnel who were involved in the incident and the liquor store incident. If similar incidents occur, I will remind the street preachers to get the names and badge numbers of all officers involved, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of any non-peace officers involved. Please instruct your officers to give that information if requested or not in the event of future incidents of the same nature. We would especially like to know the name and contact info. for the person who “tapped the preacher on the arm” ordered him to get down and said “he can’t do that, he’s going to jail,” etc. From whom did he get his authority? I will get the names and e-mail addresses s of the city officials, if possible, off the city website. As you know, I already have all the contact info. for the city attorney. Having all that information will speed up whatever court action(s), if any, takes place regarding this matter. If such action is necessary, OPBC will turn all the info over to the attorney who handles the case(s), thus lowering his billable hours. He will ask for attorney’s fees as well as for certain types of damages should a 1983 action be initiated. If I were licensed in Minnesota, I would handle it all myself pro bono without asking for anything more than out of pocket expenses be awarded by the court. My work on these type matters has always been pro bono. I regret that I cannot save you money in that way.

(4) The assault issue

Although the assault point is moot and although neither Mr. Pearson nor any of the other men will try to proceed on an assault charge, I must give it some attention in answer to your comments. These people are true Christians. If our Lord could suffer as he did at the hands of the religious and political crowds (because they were alarmed and offended because of what he said. We know the real reason for his crucifixion – my sin, your sin and the sins of the whole world put him on the cross), surely we can suffer such a minute affront from the same crowd. In fact, we are told to suffer such tribulation with joy.

One 2012 Webster’s Dictionary definition of “Assault” is “a :  a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact.” One 2012 Webster’s Student definition of assault is: “2 : an unlawful attempt or threat to do harm to another.”

As to Minnesota law, I offer the following sections from the 2013 Minnesota Statutes: 609.02 DEFINITIONS. “Subdivision 1.Crime.“Crime” means conduct which is prohibited by statute and for which the actor may be sentenced to imprisonment, with or without a fine…. … “Subd. 4a.Petty misdemeanor.“Petty misdemeanor” means a petty offense which is prohibited by statute, which does not constitute a crime and for which a sentence of a fine of not more than $300 may be imposed…. “Subd. 10.Assault. “Assault” is: “(1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or “(2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.” 609.2231 ASSAULT IN THE FOURTH DEGREE. “Subdivision 1.Peace officers. “Whoever physically assaults a peace officer licensed under section 626.845, subdivision 1, when that officer is effecting a lawful arrest or executing any other duty imposed by law is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both. If the assault inflicts demonstrable bodily harm or the person intentionally throws or otherwise transfers bodily fluids or feces at or onto the officer, the person is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years or to payment of a fine of not more than $6,000, or both.” [This states that an assault can occur when there is no demonstrable bodily harm.] Given all the officer said and did, I consider it to be an assault. If I had been the preacher, I would have feared that something more physical (additional unlawful physical force against my person and possible unlawful arrest which usually involves at least some force such as handcuffing) was going to occur. That is the way Paul Pearson felt after the assault. He expressed that sentiment to others who were with him. That can be inferred from what the officer did and said and the way he did and said it. Since it was an officer, I would have had more fear of further unlawful action than if a non-peace officer had inflicted the assault. He, unlike a non-officer, was acting under color of law. Actions against a peace officer, even in self-defense against unlawful action, have resulted in harsh retaliation followed by lies about what happened. Most informed Americans now understand that police can become brutal at the drop of a hat and will lie about it if they think they can get away with it. Cameras help the citizen. One case in point involved Rodney King. Should not law-abiding Americans expect their peace officers to treat them with dignity and know the law? Again, since these street preachers are believers who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and even though they are physically strong, they are very unlikely to exercise force against and physically hurt anyone unless protecting their families against harm.

(5) The law

The cases below are from the United States Supreme Court. These cases, and many others, clearly lay out the law which a peace officer is entrusted to enforce as regarding those who speak in the public forum (this includes those who preach in the public forum).

1.  The freedom of speech and press are among the fundamental personal rights and liberties which are secured to all persons by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by the state. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 95, 60 S.Ct. 736, 740, 84 L.ED. 1093 (1940).

2. Freedom of speech includes not only the spoken word, but also speech-related conduct, such as picketing, the wearing of arm bands and, in some recent highly publicized cases, flag burning as a type of political protest. Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 756.

3. “Whenever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens. The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied.’ Hague v. C.I.O., 307 U.S. 496, 515-516, 59 S.Ct. 954, 964, 83 L.Ed. 1423 (opinion of Mr. Justice Roberts, joined by Mr. Justice Black). Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, Ala., 394 U.S. 147, 152, 89 S.Ct. 935, 22 L.Ed.2d 162 (1969).”

4. [Government control of access to its property, public forums, littering] The extent to which the government can control access to its property for expressive purposes depends on the nature of the forums. Reed v. State, 762 S.W.2d 640, 643 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1988, pet. Ref’d) citing Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, 473 U.S. 788, 105 S.Ct. 3489, 87 L.Ed. 567 (1985); Olvera v. State, 806 S.W.2d 546 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). Public forums are those areas which traditionally have been devoted to assembly and public debate, such as public streets, sidewalks, and parks. Id. “[The] Streets are natural and proper places for the dissemination of information and opinion; and one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.” Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97-98, 102, 105-106, 60 S.Ct. 736, 741-742, 744, 746, 84 L.Ed. 1093 (1940).

Although a municipality may enact regulations in the interest of the public safety, health, welfare, or convenience, these may not abridge the individual liberties secured by the constitution to those who wish to speak, write, print, or circulate information or opinion. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 60 S.Ct. 146, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939). In Schneider, one appellant was charged with violating a law criminalizing the circulation and distribution of handbills designed, the city said, to prevent littering of the streets even though he did not litter himself—those to whom he handed the literature threw it down. The court said that the city could achieve the same thing without violating appellant’s freedom of speech by punishing those who threw the literature into the streets. Thornton v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97-98, 102, 105-106, 60 S.Ct. 736, 741-742, 744, 746, 84 L.Ed. 1093 (1940):

  • “A threat … is inherent in a penal statute … which does not aim specifically at evils within the allowable area of State control but, on the contrary, sweeps within its ambit other activities that in ordinary circumstances constitute an exercise of freedom of speech or of the press. The existence of such a statute, which readily lends itself to harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure, results in a continuous and pervasive restraining on all freedom of discussion that might reasonably be regarded as within its purview….
  • “Freedom of discussion, if it would fulfill its historic function in this nation, must embrace all issues about which information is needed or appropriate to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of their period….
  • “[The] streets are natural and proper places for the dissemination of information and opinion; and one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.”

5. [Evils within allowable are of state control] Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1; 69 S. Ct. 894; 93 L. Ed. 1131; 1949 U.S. LEXIS 2400 (1949):

“Freedom of speech, though not absolute, is protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. “The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion. As Chief Justice Hughes wrote in De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, 365, it is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes. “Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. See Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 262; Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 373. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups. “The ordinance as construed by the trial court seriously invaded this province. It permitted conviction of petitioner if his speech stirred people to anger, invited public dispute, or brought about a condition of unrest. A conviction resting on any of those grounds may not stand.”

Substantive evils within the allowable are of state control are obstructing or unreasonable interfering with ingress to and egress for enumerated public places, blocking sidewalks, obstructing traffic, littering streets, committing assaults, and engaging in countless other forms of anti-social conduct. Olvera v. State, 806 S.W.2d 546, 548-549 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991) citing Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91, S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971) and Cameron v. Johnson, 390 U.S. 611, 88 S.Ct. 1335, 20 L.Ed.2d 182 (1968). Evil within allowable areas of state control include molestation or interference with person and vehicles, obstruction of pedestrians and automobiles, threatening or intimidating or coercing anyone, making loud noises, unpeaceful and disorderly conduct, acts of violence, and breaches of the peace.See, e.g.Carlson v. California, 310 U.S. 106, 60 S.Ct. 746, 84 L.Ed. 1104 (1940), Thornhill v. State of Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 60 S.Ct. 736 (1940), Olvera v. State, 806 S.W. 2d 546 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991).

Municipal legislation meant to keep community streets open and available for movement of people and property is constitutional so long as the legislation does not abridge constitutional liberty of one to impart information through speech and distribution of literature. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 160, 60 S.Ct. 146, 150, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939). Crimes may be punished by law, but the freedom of speech and the press may not be abridged in the guise of regulations by the governing entity to prevent littering, fraud, or to promote the public health, welfare, or convenience. Id. While declaring laws unconstitutional which infringe upon first amendment rights, the Court has made clear what a city may do to punish evils within the allowable areas of state control: “[A] city is free to prevent people from blocking sidewalks,obstructing traffic, littering streets, committing assaults, or engaging in countless other forms of anti-social conduct. It can do so through the enactment and enforcement of ordinances directed with reasonable specificity toward the conduct to be prohibited.” Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91, S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971).

7. [Disorderly conduct] In Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 92 S. Ct. 1103, 31 L. Ed. 2d 408, a defendant was found guilty of using opprobrious words and abusive language in violation of a Georgia statute. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the statute unconstitutionally vague and broad and set aside defendant’s conviction. “The constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech forbid the States to punish the use of words or language not within “narrowly limited classes of speech.” Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571 (1942). Even as to such a class, however, because “the line between speech unconditionally guaranteed and speech which may legitimately be regulated, suppressed, or punished is finely drawn,” Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 525 (1958), “in every case the power to regulate must be so exercised as not, in attaining a permissible end, unduly to infringe the protected freedom,” Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 304 (1940).” Government may pass laws which punish “fighting words.” In Chaplinsky, we sustained a conviction under Chapter 378, § 2, of the Public Laws of New Hampshire, which provided: “No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name . . . . ‘Chaplinsky was convicted for addressing to another on a public sidewalk the words, ‘You are a _ _ _ damned racketeer,’ and ‘a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.’ Chaplinsky challenged the constitutionality of the statute as inhibiting freedom of expression because it was vague and indefinite. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire, however, ‘long before [*523] the words for which Chaplinsky was convicted,’ sharply limited the statutory language ‘offensive, derisive or annoying word’ to ‘fighting” words’: “No words were forbidden except such as have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed. . . .

  • “The test is what men of common intelligence would understand would be words likely to cause an average addressee to fight. . . . Derisive and annoying words can be taken as coming within the purview of the statute . . . only when they have this characteristic of plainly tending to excite the addressee to a breach of the peace….
  • “The dictionary definitions of ‘opprobrious’ and ‘abusive’ give them greater reach than “fighting” words. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961) defined ‘opprobrious’ as ‘conveying or intended to convey disgrace,’ and ‘abusive’ as including ‘harsh insulting language.’ Georgia appellate decisions have construed § 26-6303 to apply to utterances that, although within these definitions, are not ‘fighting’ words as Chaplinsky defines them.”

8. The state of Louisiana both directly [see Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559, 574, 85 S.Ct. 476, 486 (1965)] and indirectly [see Cox] attempted unsuccessfully to deny freedom of speech to picketers. The United States Supreme Court ruled against the state in both cases. Louisiana indirectly tried to abridge appellant’s freedom of speech and assembly by charging him with violation of “disturbing the peach” and “obstructing a public passage” penal statutes. 379 U.S. 536, 85 S.Ct. 453 (1965).

As to the “breach of the peace” charge, the Court stated that its independent examination of the record, which it is required to make, shows no conduct which the state had a right to prohibit as a breach of the peace. Id. At 545, 85 S.Ct. at 459. In addressing the “obstructing a public passage” conviction, the Court addressed the issue of the “right of a State or municipality to regulate the use of city streets and other facilities to assure the safety and convenience of the people in their use and concomitant right of the people of free speech and assembly.” Id. At 554, 85 S.Ct. at 464. There was no doubt that the sidewalk was obstructed by the picketers. Id. At 553, 85 S.Ct. at 464. The Court said that the statute, as applied, violated the appellant’s Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech andassembly. Id. At 558, 85 S.Ct. at 466.

9. [As to when a governmental entity seeks to take away one’s freedom to display signs and banners in conjunction with his protected speech.] A municipality in Carlson v. People of State of California, 310 U.S. 106, 60 S.Ct. 746, 84 L.Ed. 1104 (1940) sought to enforce an ordinance which directly infringed on appellant’s freedom of speech. Carlson declared unconstitutional a municipal ordinance which declared it unlawful for any person, in or upon any public street, highway, sidewalk, alley or other public place … to carry or display any sign or banner in the vicinity of any place of business for the purpose of inducing or attempting to induce an person to refrain from purchasing merchandise or performing services or labor. Id. (emphasis mine).

Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 94 S.Ct. 2727, 41 L.Ed. 2d. 842 (1974):

[Appellant had displayed an American flag upside down out of his apartment window with a peace symbol attached. at 405-406. The Court noted, and the state conceded, that appellant engaged in a form of communication. at 409, 94 S.Ct. at 2729-2730.

  • To apply an ordinance to prevent the display of banners or signs in conjunction with protected speech activity violates the speaker’s right to freedom of speech and the rights of the people to whom the speech was directed.
  • “An assertion that ‘Jesus Saves,’ that ‘Abortion is Murder,’ that every woman has the ‘right to Choose,’ or that ‘Alcohol Kills,’ may have a claim to constitutional exemption from the ordinance [which prohibited certain political campaign signs] that is just as strong as ‘Roland Vincent—City Council.’ To create an exception for … political speech and not these other types of speech might create a risk of engaging in constitutionally forbidden content discrimination.” Members of City Council v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 104 S.Ct. 2118, 80 L.Ed. 772. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, not to mention the First Amendment itself, government may not grant the use of a forum to people whose views it finds acceptable, but deny use to those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views. Police Department of City of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 96, 92 S.Ct. 2286, 2290, 33 L.Ed. 212 (1972)(Holding a Chicago ordinance unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in a case where the equal protection claim was closely intertwined with First Amendment interests)(p 27 of brief). Once a forum is opened up to assembly or speaking by some groups, government may not prohibit others from assembling or speaking on the basis of what they intend to say. Id. Selective exclusions from a public forum may not be based on content alone, and may not be justified by reference to content alone. Id. Mr. Justice Black called an attempt by a government to pick and choose among the views it is willing to have discussed in picketing activities “censorship in its most odious form, unconstitutional under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S. Ct. 453, 13 L.Ed. 2d 471 (1965) cited in 408 U.S. 92, 98-99, 92 S.Ct. 2291; Carey v. Brown, 477 U.S. 455, 100 S.Ct. 2286, 65 L.Ed. 263 (1980) reaffirmed Mosley.
  • Even if the purpose of an ordinance does not specifically aim at protected speech, it may indicectly attempt to deny freedom of speech (See p. 34 of brief in the Steve Drake case which is in PDF form on the website.). Even if the purpose of [an ordinance] is to keep community streets open and available for movement of people and property or to prevent littering, fraud, to promote the public health, welfare, or convenience, to prevent breaches of the peace or other crimes, it is constitutional only so long as it does not abridge constitutional liberty or one to impart information through speech and the distribution of literature. See Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 60 S.Ct. 146, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939); Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed. 2d 214 (1971); Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S.Ct. 453 (1965).

 (6) Conclusion

 Again, the men of OPBC salute you. They are endeavoring to do everything possible to resolve this matter quickly in accordance with man’s law and with the law of God. The First Amendment which provides for separation of church and state and freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom of assembly, press, speech, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances says that cities, city officers, city attorney’s, and city elected officials are to protect the First Amendment freedoms of all citizens, including those who choose to speak in the public forum. In love, the men of OPBC are trying to treat all the people of Noribault with godly love. Accordingly, we are seeking to avoid further action in the legal arena, an action which will result in expense to your city and also detract our people from their primary duties to their Lord

EN 5 I sent the e-mail below to the Faribault Mayor, City Attorney, City Council members, and Chief Bohlen. In the e-mail was the note. Attached to the e-mail was a link to the online article which described what happened and linked to the Youtube videos which showed what happened [I am omitting that here since one can go directly to the link to see it], some other information, my letter to Chief Bohlen which had replied to his June 26 letter, and a final letter to all the above mentioned Faribault officials.

Note to City Attorney Fischer, Mayor Jasinske, and Faribault City Council members: The letter to Chief Bohlen is below this rather lengthy note. The city attorney asked me to call Chief Bohlen rather than seeking resolution through him. Out of courtesy, I complied with his request even though I did not personally feel that a police officer would have the necessary expertise to delve into the legal issues. I do not mean that as an insult. I can tell from his e-mail, which is copied and pasted at the end and which was very courteous, that Chief Bohlen has the best interests of everyone at heart; but I could also tell that he does not understand the law regarding these matters. He discussed the proper protocols in his letter; I have no quarrel with that when applied to lawbreakers. However, when that protocol is used against law-abiding citizens, it makes the officer who applies it a lawbreaker subject to civil, if not criminal, litigation. I would not know how to do the job of law enforcement because I have no law enforcement training. That is his expertise. Examining, understanding, and litigating the law is mine. That is why the other members of Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) asked me, a lawyer, to try to resolve this matter as a member of OPBC without bringing in a lawyer. Should legal action come about, an attorney who is licensed in Minnesota (or a pro hoc vice attorney) will represent the men.

Although the Chief understands police protocol, he reveals in his letter that he understands neither (1) the law of free speech in the public forum and the freedom of those who exercise their First Amendment speech rights in that forum nor (2) the role of the police officer when such speech is complained about. Chief Bohlen stated in the letter: “The City of Faribault will continue to enforce the law and protect all citizen rights, as well as free speech.” In that statement, he indicates that he speaks for the City of Faribault. I want to make sure that is so because he also stated, “I am confident that our State Statute would comply with the Hierarchy of Law and win challenges.” That is the first time he mentioned “our state statute.” I do not know which statute he is talking about since the officers who approached the men cited a city statute. He then gave his legal opinion concerning the relationship between the law of free speech in America and the guidelines he follows concerning enforcement of certain state and local ordinances when such ordinances come into conflict with Constitutionally protected speech in the public forum. I take great issue with his legal position; I believe that he is totally off base.

I want to make sure that the Chief speaks for you all before proceeding. I would ask that you all review these matters. I need to know for sure that Chief Bohlen is, in fact, stating the official position of you all so that in the event future action is called for, our attorney will know who to include in any legal litigation.  Should an attorney be called in to take legal action on behalf of the street preachers, he will be informed of your actions and responses – common sense would dictate that no response on your part will indicate that your position and the city’s position is that you support Chief Bohlen’s position and actions and that he speaks for you. You speak for your city. Whatever position you take will also implicate the entire city.

To give you relevant facts, I have copied and pasted facts about the matter directly below. I have also posted the story on the page which is available by clicking following link (left click and scroll down to “June 21, 2013 Update” once you access the link):

Notice that on the above entry and in the copied and pasted page below are links to 2 Youtube videos which you may view which record the whole encounter with the Faribault officials.


I copied and pasted the page mentioned in the last paragraph here One can go to the link to see it. It is essentially the same now as then.:


I am e-mailing this to: Chief of police: Chief Andy Bohlen <> City Attorney: Kurt Fischer <> Mayor: John Jasinske <>

City Council members: David Albers (or Ablers – its 2 ways on website) David Albers < >; David Ablers <>; Kay Duchene <>; John Rowan <>; Steve Underdahl < >; Joan VanDyke < >; Kevin Voracek < >:

I got the e-mail addresses of the mayor and council members off the city website. Council member Albers or Ablers his 2 spellings which differ – one in the spelling of his name and one in the e-mail listing. If the addresses and names are no longer the same, please let me know.

You may read the cases I cite for yourselves to verify that I am not trying to deceive you. If you would like to have a case or cases which is cited below e-mailed to you, let me know. I have most of the cases I quote from below available  in Word documents.

Letter To Chief Bohlen:

The letter was included in the e-mail. I am not reproducing it here since it is in EN 3 Above.

EN 6 My June 30, 2014 e-mail to the Faribault Mayor, Chief of Police, City Attorney, and City Council Members:

Dear Chief Bohlen, Honorable Mayor Jasinske, and Faribault City Council members:

The Supreme Court, on June 26, 2014, handed down another First Amendment speech case dealing with speech in the public forum. In a 9-0 decision, the Court struck down a Mass. law which violated long established principles regarding speech in the public forum. The case is linked to below (just click the name to go directly to it). I have included some quotes from the case. I also link to a Texas case which just came down in which police arrested a street preacher and the Texas Court ruled in his favor. Please take note of these cases.

MCCULLEN ET AL. v. COAKLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS, ET AL. struck down a state law creating 35 foot buffer zones around abortion clinics. Some excerpts from the case follow (be sure to read the entire case – click to the above link to go directly to the case):

Held: The Massachusetts Act violates the First Amendment. Pp. 8–30. (a) By its very terms, the Act restricts access to “public way[s]” and  “sidewalk[s],” places that have traditionally been open for speech activities and that the Court has accordingly labeled “traditional public fora,” Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460, 469. The government’s ability to regulate speech in such locations is “very limited.” United States v. Grace, 461 U. S. 171, 177. “[E]ven in a public forum,” however, “the government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions ‘are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information,’ ” Ward, supra, at 791. Pp. 8–10….

(1) The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled petitioners’ message. Pp. 19–23.

(2) The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests. Subsection (e) of the Act already prohibits deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances. Massachusetts could also enact legislation similar to the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, 18 U. S. C. §248(a)(1), which imposes criminal and civil sanctions for obstructing, intimidating, or interfering with persons obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Obstruction of clinic driveways can readily be addressed through existing local traffic ordinances. While the Commonwealth contends that individuals can inadvertently obstruct access to clinics simply by gathering in large numbers, that problem could be addressed through a law requiring crowds blocking a clinic entrance to disperse for a limited period when ordered to do so by the police. In any event, crowding appears to be a problem onlyat the Boston clinic, and even there, only on Saturday mornings.

It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir. With respect to other means of communication, an individual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the Web site. Not so on public streets and sidewalks. There, a listener often encounters speech he might otherwise tune out. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose “to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail,” FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal., 468 U. S. 364, 377 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted), this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice. In short, traditional public fora are areas that have historically been open to the public for speech activities. Thus, even though the Act says nothing about speech on its face, there is no doubt—and respondents do not dispute—that it restricts access to traditional public fora and is therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny. See Brief for Respondents 26 (although “[b]y its terms, the Act regulates only conduct,” it “incidentally regulates the place and time of protected speech”).

In short, traditional public fora are areas that have historically been open to the public for speech activities. Thus, even though the Act says nothing about speech on its face, there is no doubt—and respondents do not dispute—that it restricts access to traditional public fora and is therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny. See Brief for Respondents 26 (although “[b]y its terms, the Act regulates only conduct,” it “incidentally regulates the place and time of protected speech”). Consistent with the traditionally open character of public streets and sidewalks, we have held that the government’s ability to restrict speech in such locations is “very limited.” Grace, supra, at 177. In particular, the guiding First Amendment principle that the “government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content” applies with full force in a traditional public forum. Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S. 92, 95 (1972). As a general rule, in such a forum the government may not “selectively . . . shield the public from some kinds of speech on the ground that they are more offensive than others.” Erznoznik v. Jacksonville, 422 U. S. 205, 209 (1975).

Links to a couple of articles dealing with the McCullen v. Oakley

Supreme Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zone, June 26, 2014, Richard Wolf, USA Today

Supreme Court, 9-0, nixes 35 foot ‘buffer zone’ at abortion clinic, June 26, 2014, Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor

Click the following to go to article from June 13, 2014: “VICTORY: Texas Court Affirms First Amendment Rights of Street Preachers Arrested for Engaging in Sidewalk Protest and Crossing a Police Line.” Click the following to go to the Texas Court of Appeals opinion: Faust v. Texas.

I know that you are all busy, but I would ask you to please let the men of OPBC know as soon as you can as to what your city policy is going to be regarding their First Amendment right to speak in the public forum.

Thank you for your courtesies in this matter and for your quick attention to the Constitutional issue.

Very Truly Yours, Jerald Finney

EN 7. Followup discussion of this article.

I received 2 Facebook e-mails on August 8, 2014:

(1) We are not to sue a “Brother”, I do not see anything in GOD’S WORD about suing the Government.
(2) Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen several times, including an appeal to Caesar.

My reply (as written with a couple of obvious typos) was:

Dear Brother _____________ and Brother _______________, Thank you both for not labeling me an heretic and cutting off fellowship because of the article. One brother, a longtime friend, did this. I let him know that I still love him and see no reason for breaking fellowship over this matter, to no avail. He has been the only negative response. Others agree with me. Still other, I am guessing, may not agree but have not seen it as an issue to get crossways and break fellowship over. Nor do I. Are we not to sharpen one another as we fight this spiritual warfare we are called to engage in? No one has shown me where I am wrongly interpreting the scriptures I gave in the article, many of the quoted word for word in endnote 1. Those scriptures lay out the principles upon which I rely for my position. Let me address Paul and what he did. Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen while he was under arrest, at times incarcerated during that arrest (sometimes, as I understand history, he was under house arrest – the point is, he was being detained.). In other words, Paul was charged with criminal activity. He was falsely accused of a crime for which the religious leaders sought death. He defended himself. I have done the same thing for others on many occasions. I have defended people falsely accused of crime and gone all the way to trial for some. A few of those I have defended at no charge and gone to trial for were falsely accused of criminal activity and arrested in violation of their Constitutional rights. There is nothing in Scripture which would be offended by such action. In fact, seeking justice in such a situation is the right thing to do. However, my article was not concerned with seeking justice in the criminal system. My article addressed seeking vengeance in the civil system. I pointed out that I could not argue against seeking justice and restitution in a suit against the government. The Bible speaks to the issue of restitution, and I believe allows for such in the law. It also speaks of justice and upholds justice. But the Bible is very clear that the believer is not to seek vengeance. Paul did not seek vengeance while incarcerated. Paul did not sue those who falsely accused him. Had he had the opportunity, I do not believe he would have violated principles he knew from the Old Testament and which God inspired him to write on in his epistles. I am convinced that he would never have sued for even restitution, much less for damages for pain and suffering and other exemplary damages, the purpose of which is to exact vengeance.I do not believe that he would have even sued for restitution, a stressful and time consuming process. I believe that he would have used the time and resources in carrying out the Great Commission, a thing which he did even while under arrest. A man who has a family to support in today’s world might find it necessary to seek restitution for lost wages and other costs of being falsely arrested. I would have no problem with that and might even help in the legal arena, if possible. I would certainly help that person find a lawyer in his locality to help if I were unable to do so because of distance and lack of monetary resources. That is my answer. Can either of you show me where I am wrong?

I sent a second reply: Dear Brother _____________, I did not address your concern in the last reply. When one sued government for vengeance, who pays for the judgment – one’s fellow man. Government gets its money from the citizens. The citizens are the ones who pay the vengeance damages.

First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations)

Jerald Finney
Copyright © February, 2010
Revised, September 2013, July 13, 2015, December 30, 2106

Preliminary note. The author has made significant revisions to this article as his knowledge grows with continued study. The original title to the article, “Laws Protecting New Testament Churches: Read Them for Yourself,” was changed to “First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations)” on July 13, 2015.

You can always find a lawyer or Christian who will agree with the position that an American church should become a religious organization by becoming a legal entity such as a non-profit corporation (included corporation sole), unincorporated association, charitable trust, etc. and get 501(c)(3) or 508 status. Jerald Finney will discuss the matter, as time avails, with any such person, with confidence that his position is supported by God’s Word, history, and law. He is always willing, free of charge and with love, to support his belief that for a church to submit herself to civil government in any manner grieves our Lord and ultimately results in undesirable consequences. He does not have unlimited time to talk to individuals. However, he will teach or debate groups, and will point individuals to resources which fully explain his positions.

You may go directly to a link (letters in maroon), or, to save time, you may read only the relevant portions of a provision or law which are in the article below.

Virginia Passes Legislation Forcing Churches to Allow “Transgender” Males into Women’s Bathrooms(04720)(Of course, this will be contested in court. Regardless of the outcome of such contest(s), keep in mind that the established church (incorporated, 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(1)(A) churches have voluntarily given up much of their First Amendment protections and placed themselves under the 14th Amendment for many purposes. Churches who choose to remain under the First Amendment for all purposes are not subject to state legislation. Contact this Churches under Christ Ministry for more information.)


Note. At the very end is an excellent Facebook comment on “What happens if we abuse liberty” by Herei Stand on October 16, 2015.

I. Introduction
II. The Highest Law: God’s Law
III. United States Law: Man’s Law
     A. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution
     B. The Internal Revenue Service Code
          1. § 501(c)(3). Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.
          2. § 508. Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations
          3. § 7611. Restrictions on church tax inquiries and examinations
          4.§ 1402. [Dealing with taxes on income of pastors]
          5. § 107. Rental value of parsonages
          6. § 102. Gifts and inheritances (A
ccording to Internal   Revenue Code § 102 tithes and offerings are                        gifts and, therefore, , not income)
          7. § 2503. Taxable gifts
         8. § 170. Charitable, etc., contributions and gifts

IV. Laws from one state, Kansas
     A. The Kansas Constitution
           1. Preamble.
          2. Bill of Rights, § 1.
 Equal rights.
 Bill of Rights, § 3Right of peaceable assembly; petition.
          4. Bill of Rights, § 7. Religious liberty
          5. Bill of Rights, § 11. Liberty of press and speech; libel.
          6. Bill of Rights, § 15. Search and seizure.
          7. Article 11, § 1(b)
System of taxation; classification; exemption.
     B. Kansas Statutes
          1. Chapter 79. Taxation.  Kansas Statutes, Chapter 79. Taxation. Article 2.—PROPERTY EXEMPT FROM TAXATION
              § 79-201
Property exempt from taxation.
          2. Chapter 79.–TAXATION. Article 36.–KANSAS RETAILERS’ SALES TAX
  Retailers’ sales tax imposed; rate.
79-3606.  Exempt sales.

I. Introduction

1The author is completely aware that most “Christians” and “Christian” lawyers tell churches to incorporate, get 501(c)(3) or 508 status or to become a legal entity in some other manner. The author takes issue with those lawyers and Christians and has written and taught extensively on the God-given principles concerning church and state and the application of those principles in America.

Those of you who do not know the author cannot be expected to trust him. Therefore, in order that a Christian can see for himself what the law says, this article will lay out the law which protects New Testament (the First Amendment) churches, and the laws which allegedly protect state churches. The First Amendment (quoted below) says that Congress shall make “no law” as to certain matters. Yet, 501(c)(3) (and 508) is a law which does exactly what the First Amendment forbids, as to churches. When a church submits herself to either of those laws, she becomes a religious organization (according to the explicit words in those laws) and subjects herself to the rules that come with those laws. The federal government, specifically the Internal Revenue Service, becomes sovereign of a 501(c)(3) or 508 church for certain purposes and enforces the rules that come with 501(c)(3) at its discretion; indeed, as will be seen, the IRS can add rules, having already added one rule which was contested and upheld the Supreme Court. Having succumb to the sovereignty of the federal government for some purposes through willing submission to 501(c)(3) law, the federal government added other laws to the Internal Revenue Code to protect religious organizations to a degree from arbitrary actions by the Internal Revenue Service.

A church which is a legal entity such as in incorporated church and or which gets Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) status loses much of her First Amendment protection and places herself under the Fourteenth Amendment to a large degree; the author fully explains this in his teachings on this website. One can go directly online to the laws in their entirety by clicking the blue underlined links.

In case you are not aware of it, an American church can operate as a spiritual entity only, under the First Amendment, without persecution, under God as a non-legal entity (as a spiritual entity) instead of a legal entity such as a non-profit corporation, charitable trust, unincorporated association, or corporation sole and without Internal Revenue Code Section (“IRC”) 501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)” or Section 508 (“508”) status.FN1

New Testament churches are protected, for the time being, by the First Amendment which is a statement of Bible principle and, therefore, in line with God’s law. State churches and other religious organizations – the protection of the First Amendment and God not being enough for them to attain their worldly temporal goals (they think) – have turned to laws which contradict the First Amendment for protection. In so doing, they have shunned the protection of God and the First Amendment for many purposes. The chickens are coming home to roost.

II. The Highest Law: God’s Law

Of course, the highest law that protects churches everywhere, including churches in America, is God’s law as laid out in His Word. Although, in many nations, churches who wish to operate under God only will suffer persecutions, including physical death, for honoring God and His principles of organization and operation, no civil government can take the life or liberty of a true Christian or destroy a true church. The author has done a complete systematic study God’s principles concerning church and state in his other works.FN2

No nation gives anyone or any church life or liberty. Nations choose whether to protect the God-given life and liberty of individuals and churches from persecution.

3God, the highest authority, establishes His churches and gives life to believers only:

  • “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
  • “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).
  • “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 4.18; 5.1-6, 7-8; See also, Romans 8.18-25.).

Additionally, only Christ gives liberty to believers, and only to believers who continue in His Word:

  • “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
  • “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
  • “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
  • “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
  • “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:22).
  • “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
  • “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
  • “For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant” (1 Corinthians 7:22)
  • “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
  • “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
  • “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).
  • “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Galatians 4:31).
  • “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
  • “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
  • “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25).
  • “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).

ROMANSChristians are to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh.(See, e.g., 1 Corinthians 2; 3.1-3; Galatians 5, Romans 6-8). Most do not. New Testament churches are spiritual organisms, not earthly entities. Thus, an incorporated, 501(c)(3) or 508 church has violated God’s principles by placing herself, at least partially, under a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ. For systematic studies of all the arguments used to justify submission of individuals and churches to civil government see FN3.

The Martyrs of the faith clearly understood the liberty given them by Jesus Christ.

Martyr’s Song by Watchmen

III. United States Law-Man’s Law

 A. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Man’s law is below God’s law. Again, God gives civil governments the option of honoring Him and His principles. America, as a result of a great theological warfare between persecuted dissenters (the persecutions were carried out by colonial governments acting under the guidance of the established churches and their theologies) and the established churches, became the first nation, the second civil government behind the colony of Rhode Island, to apply God’s principles concerning the relationship between church and state and the individual person and the state and to guarantee religious liberty.  This was done in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (the second highest law in America after God’s law) which reads as follows:

First Amendment to the United States Constitution
First Amendment to the United States Constitution

“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 peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” FN4

The following lay out the history of the First Amendment:

The History of the First Amendment
An Abridged History of the First Amendment

The First Amendment did not originally apply to the states. As a result, states were free to pass laws which provided state corporate status to churches, and they did so. Many churches ran down to incorporate under state law soon after the Constitution and First Amendment were ratified.FN5  Some did not incorporate or become state churches.

Although the United States Supreme Court has now applied the First Amendment to state and other lower governments, incorporation of churches by state statute has never been held to violate the First Amendment, even though incorporation of churches is contrary to the First Amendment as well as Bible principles.

Churches which become legal entities such as corporations (includes corporation sole), unincorporated associations, charitable trusts, 501c3 and 508 religious organizations lose much or their First Amendment protections and fall, as artificial persons, under the Fourteenth Amendment for many purposes.

Churches which are spiritual entities only are New Testament churches and have the protections of the First Amendment. As we know, First Amendment protections enjoyed since 1791, the date of adoption, are targeted for destruction. When the First Amendment is destroyed, God’s churches, as opposed to state churches (churches which are legal entities) will have no choice but to operate underground, much as the churches in China, North Korea and many other countries, especially in many Muslim countries operate.

B. Internal Revenue Code

5Once a church becomes a religious organization under Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(3) or Section 508, she does have some protection from arbitrary attack by the federal government for some purposes. Such protections are not needed by a First Amendment church since that church is under God only. After the government destroys First Amendment protections for churches and believers, they will have to go underground to maintain their New Testament status.

1. Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3)
Click the following link to go to the entire section: IRC § 501(c)(3)
Click the  following link to go directly to a more in-depth study of 501(c)(3):
The Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme

IRC § 501 provides in relevant part:

§ 501. Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.:

“(a) Exemption from taxation. An organization described in subsection (c) … shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle [26 USCS §§ 1 et seq.] unless such exemption is denied under section 502 or 503 [26 USCS § 502 or 503]….
“(c)(3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office….
“(h) Expenditures by public charities to influence legislation. (1) General rule. In the case of an organization to which this subsection applies, exemption from taxation under subsection (a) shall be denied because a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation….”

In the twentieth century, the United States passed § 501(c)(3), a law which, when applied to churches or any other religious organization,  “respects an establishment of religion” and prevents “the free exercise thereof.” 501(c)(3) may be utilized by earthly and religious organizations. A church is not required to get 501(c)(3) and 508 status, but that status is available for any church who wants it. That a church is not required, by civil law, to obtain 501(c)(3) status is made clear by the First Amendment. When a church chooses to get 501(c)(3) or 508 status, she has—in addition to placing herself under state authority through incorporation or some other means—also placed herself under the authority of the Federal government. For more on 508 status, see Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status.

When a church gets 501(c)(3) or 508 status, that church becomes a religious organization. Churches who have 501(c)(3) or 508 tax-exempt status are under four rules which are stated in the 501(c)(3) law. Those rules or laws prevent the free exercise of religion under God by churches.

One can see four requirements in 501(c)(3) by reading the law above. Those rules are:

1. must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,
2. net earnings must not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
3. no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
4. the organization may not intervene in political activity.

Those four rules for religious organizations were in the law made by Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. All 501(c)(3) and 508 religious and other organizations are required to comply with the requirements. Congress and the President are free to put other requirements into law in the future. You see, they are the sovereigns elected by the people. They decided to dishonor God’s law first and the First Amendment second when they made 501(c)(3) and 508 status available to churches. Churches who incorporate and get 501(c)(3) or 508 status dishonor God and place themselves under two other sovereigns. Of course, they still have some of their God-ordained freedom, but they have voluntarily given up some of those freedoms as they have submitted to other sovereigns.

Not only have Congress and the President added requirements to 501(c)(3) since its initial passage into law, the Internal Revenue Service has also added a requirement to the law which was approved by Supreme Court opinion. The case considered an action—deemed to violate fundamental public policy—by Bob Jones University, an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization.FN6  Of course, Bob Jones University was not a church, but a future Supreme Court could easily declare that the new requirement applies to churches, and a future Court could add additional requirements to 501(c)(3). The new requirement is this:

“the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.”FN7

An old adage in the law says, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In other words, just because one is ignorant of the law does not excuse one from obeying it, especially when one was not required to submit to a law but did so voluntarily. Christians are instructed to proceed with knowledge (See, e.g., 2 Peter 1.3-10). Christians are also to have integrity. If they agree to something, they are to keep their part of the contract or bargain. Corporate 501(c)(3) churches contract with the state when they incorporate, the state being the controlling party to the contracts created by incorporation—in the event of disagreement or suit because over contract, civil courts will decide the issue. Those courts will decide such issues based upon man’s law, not Biblical principle.

Likewise, when a church, of her own free will, obtains 501(c)(3) or 508 status, she agrees (whether she knows it or not) both to be bound by the rules in existence at the time she receives state exemption and any rules which may be handed down after obtaining the status. Only ignorance prevents her from recognizing that, in the event of disagreement with IRS assertion that an action of the church is in violation of the statute, the state (not God) will decide the issue.

2. Internal Revenue Code § 508
Click the following link to go to the complete section:
 IRC § 508

IRC § 508 (the codification of Public Law 91-172 ratified in 1969) provides in relevant part:

§ 508. Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.

“(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
“(c) Exceptions. [Emphasis mine.]
“(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
“(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.” FN8 [Emphasis mine.]

“Note. A church applies for 501(c)(3) recognition by filling out and filing IRS Form 1023.”

§ 508(a),(c) says churches are excepted from obtaining § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. In other words, the federal government recognized by law that churches are non-taxable; and, therefore, that churches are an exception to the civil government requirement that certain organizations file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

Churches should claim First Amendment, not § 508 status. By claiming § 508 status, a church has claimed the protection of a law made by the federal government. Remember what the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” § 508 is a law respecting an establishment of religion (and likely may be used to prevent the free exercise thereof) made by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional. By claiming § 508 status, a church thereby agrees that, should an issue regarding that church end up in court, that the court may look at § 508 and interpret issues from the perspective of § 508. In other words, the court will define the terms and determine the relevance and meaning of § 508 and the words therein rather than looking at the First Amendment and clear language of that amendment which was written so that anyone can understand it and make the applications. For example, the court would tell the litigants what the term “exception” means. Also, by claiming § 508 status, a church may be argued to have made itself a legal entity required to abide by the rules that come along with § 501(c)(3) in order to maintain their “tax exempt” status. First Amendment churches are non-taxable whereas § 501(c)(3) churches are “tax-exempt.” For more on this, see Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status.

Churches who remain under God and His principles for churches (First Amendment churches) even if there were no First Amendment are non-taxable anyway because they are not businesses, they are not legal entities of any type, and they have no income and make no profits. Even businesses pay no taxes if they make no profit. To make a profit, income must exceed expenses and deductions. A legal entity, such as a corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization, who poses as a church, who is in business(es), and who makes a profit should, in the opinion of the author, pay taxes.

New Testament (First Amendment) churches are not legal entities, so they cannot and do not receive income. Church members give tithes and offerings to God and which are used for certain purposes and ministries approved by God; for providing for their pastor; for providing for a place to meet; for helping the poor; and for any other purpose consistent with Biblical principle.

If a church does not apply for exempt status, and if it is organized as and operates in conformity to Biblical principle, according to the First Amendment which agrees with the Biblical principle of separation of church and state, the church maintains her non-taxable status.

If a church successfully applies for exempt status under section 501(c)(3) or claims exemption under § 508, the government is granted some jurisdiction over the church since the civil government now declares and grants an exemption.

3. Internal Revenue Code § 7611
Click the following link to go to the entire section:  IRC § 7611

IRC § 7611 gives the only reasons for which the Internal Revenue Service can audit a religious organization defined as a church by the federal government. Of course, a New Testament church is not a legal entity, has no income, and cannot be audited. All tithes, offerings, and gifts by church members are given to God, not to a religious organization such as an incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 church. There are not church (religious organization) books to keepl IRC § 7611 states in relevant part:

§ 7611. Restrictions on church tax inquiries and examinations

 “(a) Restrictions on inquiries.—
“(1) In general.—The Secretary may begin a church tax inquiry only if—
“(A) the reasonable belief requirements of paragraph (2), and
“(B) the notice requirements of paragraph (3), have been met.
“(2) Reasonable belief requirements.—The requirements of this paragraph are met with respect to any church tax inquiry if an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes (on the basis of facts and circumstances recorded in writing) that the church –
“(A) may not be exempt, by reason of its status as a church, from tax under section 501(a), or
“(B) may be carrying on an unrelated trade or business (within the meaning of section 513) or otherwise engaged in activities subject to taxation under this title.
“(3) Inquiry notice requirements.—
“(A) In general.—The requirements of this paragraph are met with respect to any church tax inquiry if, before beginning such inquiry, the Secretary provides written notice to the church of the beginning of such inquiry.
“(B) Contents of inquiry notice.—The notice required by this paragraph shall include—
“(i) an explanation of—
“(I) the concerns which gave rise to such inquiry, and
“(II) the general subject matter of such inquiry, and
“(ii) a general explanation of the applicable—
“(I) administrative and constitutional provisions with respect to such inquiry (including the right to a conference with the Secretary before any examination of church records), and
“(II) provisions of this title which authorize such inquiry or which may be otherwise involved in such inquiry.

“(b) Restrictions on examinations.—
“(1) In general.—The Secretary may begin a church tax examination only if the requirements of paragraph (2) have been met and such examination may be made only— 
“(A) in the case of church records, to the extent necessary to determine the liability for, and the amount of, any tax imposed by this title, and
“(B) in the case of religious activities, to the extent necessary to determine whether an organization claiming to be a church is a church for any period.
“(2) Notice of examination; opportunity for conference.—The requirements of this paragraph are met with respect to any church tax examination if—
“(A) at least 15 days before the beginning of such examination, the Secretary provides the notice described in paragraph (3) to both the church and the appropriate regional counsel of the Internal Revenue Service, and
“(B) the church has a reasonable time to participate in a conference described in paragraph (3)(A)(iii), but only if the church requests such a conference before the beginning of the examination.
“(3) Contents of examination notice, et cetera.—
“(A) In general.—The notice described in this paragraph is a written notice which includes –
“(i) a copy of the church tax inquiry notice provided to the church under subsection (a),
“(ii) a description of the church records and activities which the Secretary seeks to examine,
“(iii) an offer to have a conference between the church and the Secretary in order to discuss, and attempt to resolve, concerns relating to such examination, and
“(iv) a copy of all documents which were collected or prepared by the Internal Revenue Service for use in such examination and the disclosure of which is required by the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552).
“(B) Earliest day examination notice may be provided.—The examination notice described in subparagraph (A) shall not be provided to the church before the 15th day after the date on which the church tax inquiry notice was provided to the church under subsection (a).
“(C) Opinion of regional counsel with respect to examination Any regional counsel of the Internal Revenue Service who receives an examination notice under paragraph (1) may, within 15 days after such notice is provided, submit to the regional commissioner for the region an advisory objection to the examination.
“(4) Examination of records and activities not specified in notice.—Within the course of a church tax examination which (at the time the examination begins) meets the requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2), the Secretary may examine any church records or religious activities which were not specified in the examination notice to the extent such examination meets the requirement of subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) (whichever applies).

(c) Limitation on period of inquiries and examinations.—
“(1) Inquiries and examinations must be completed within 2 years.—
“(A) In general.—The Secretary shall complete any church tax status inquiry or examination (and make a final determination with respect thereto) not later than the date which is 2 years after the examination notice date.
“(B) Inquiries not followed by examinations.—In the case of a church tax inquiry with respect to which there is no examination notice under subsection (b), the Secretary shall complete such inquiry (and make a final determination with respect thereto) not later than the date which is 90 days after the inquiry notice date. 
“(2) Suspension of 2-year period.—The running of the 2-year period described in paragraph (1)(A) and the 90-day period in paragraph (1)(B) shall be suspended – 
“(A) for any period during which—
“(i) a judicial proceeding brought by the church against the Secretary with respect to the church tax inquiry or examination is pending or being appealed,
“(ii) a judicial proceeding brought by the Secretary against the church (or any official thereof) to compel compliance with any reasonable request of the Secretary in a church tax examination for examination of church records or religious activities is pending or being appealed, or
“(iii) the Secretary is unable to take actions with respect to the church tax inquiry or examination by reason of an order issued in any judicial proceeding brought under section 7609,
“(B) for any period in excess of 20 days (but not in excess of 6 months) in which the church or its agents fail to comply with any reasonable request of the Secretary for church records or other information, or
“(C) for any period mutually agreed upon by the Secretary and the church.

“(d) Limitations on revocation of tax-exempt status, etc.—
“(1) In general.—The Secretary may—
“(A) determine that an organization is not a church which—
(i) is exempt from taxation by reason of section 501(a), or
(ii) is described in section 170(c), or
“(B)(i) send a notice of deficiency of any tax involved in a church tax examination, or
“(ii) in the case of any tax with respect to which subchapter B of chapter 63 (relating to deficiency procedures) does not apply, assess any underpayment of such tax involved in a church tax examination, only if the appropriate regional counsel of the Internal Revenue Service determines in writing that there has been substantial compliance with the requirements of this section and approves in writing of such revocation, notice of deficiency, or assessment.
(2) Limitations on period of assessment.—
“(A) Revocation of tax-exempt status.—
(i) 3-year statute of limitations generally.—In the case of any church tax examination with respect to the revocation of tax-exempt status under section 501(a), any tax imposed by chapter 1 (other than section 511) may be assessed, or a proceeding in court for collection of such tax may be begun without assessment, only for the 3 most recent taxable years ending before the examination notice date.
“(ii) 6-year statute of limitations where tax-exempt status revoked.—If an organization is not a church exempt from tax under section 501(a) for any of the 3 taxable years described in clause (i), clause (i) shall be applied by substituting “6 most recent taxable years” for “3 most recent taxable years”.
“(B) Unrelated business tax.—In the case of any church tax examination with respect to the tax imposed by section 511 (relating to unrelated business income), such tax may be assessed, or a proceeding in court for the collection of such tax may be begun without assessment, only with respect to the 6 most recent taxable years ending before the examination notice date. 
“(C) Exception where shorter statute of limitations otherwise applicable.—Subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall not be construed to increase the period otherwise applicable under subchapter A of chapter 66 (relating to limitations on assessment and collection).
“(e) Information not collected in substantial compliance with procedures to stay summons proceeding.—
“(1) In general.— If there has not been substantial compliance with— 
“(A) the notice requirements of subsection (a) or (b),
“(B) the conference requirement described in subsection
(b)(3)(A)(iii), or
“(C) the approval requirement of subsection (d)(1) (if applicable), with respect to any church tax inquiry or examination, any proceeding to compel compliance with any summons with respect to such inquiry or examination shall be stayed until the court finds that all practicable steps to correct the noncompliance have been taken. The period applicable under paragraph (1) or subsection (c) shall not be suspended during the period of any stay under the preceding sentence.
“(2) Remedy to be exclusive.—No suit may be maintained, and no defense may be raised in any proceeding (other than as provided in paragraph (1)), by reason of any noncompliance by the Secretary with the requirements of this section.
“(f) Limitations on additional inquiries and examinations.—
“(1) In general.—If any church tax inquiry or examination with respect to any church is completed and does not result in— 
 “(A) a revocation, notice of deficiency, or assessment described in subsection (d)(1), or
“(B) a request by the Secretary for any significant change in the operational practices of the church (including the adequacy of accounting practices),

no other church tax inquiry or examination may begin with respect to such church during the applicable 5-year period unless such inquiry or examination is approved in writing by the Secretary or does not involve the same or similar issues involved in the preceding inquiry or examination. For purposes of the preceding sentence, an inquiry or examination shall be treated as completed not later than the expiration of the applicable period under paragraph (1) of subsection (c).

“(2) Applicable 5-year period.—For purposes of paragraph (1), the term “applicable 5-year period” means the 5-year period beginning on the date the notice taken into account for purposes of subsection (c)(1) was provided. For purposes of the preceding sentence, the rules of subsection (c)(2) shall apply.

“(g) Treatment of final report of revenue agent.—Any final report of an agent of the Internal Revenue Service shall be treated as a determination of the Secretary under paragraph (1) of section 7428(a), and any church receiving such a report shall be treated for purposes of sections 7428 and 7430 as having exhausted the administrative remedies available to it.
“(h) Definitions.—For purposes of this section— 
“(1) Church.—The term “church” includes— 
“(A) any organization claiming to be a church, and
“(B) any convention or association of churches.
“(2) Church tax inquiry.—The term “church tax inquiry” means any inquiry to a church (other than an examination) to serve as a basis for determining whether a church –
“(A) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) by reason of its status as a church, or
“(B) is carrying on an unrelated trade or business (within the meaning of section 513) or otherwise engaged in activities which may be subject to taxation under this title.
“(3) Church tax examination.—The term “church tax examination” means any examination for purposes of making a determination described in paragraph (2) of— 
“(A) church records at the request of the Internal Revenue Service, or
“(B) the religious activities of any church.
“(4) Church records.—
“(A) In general.—The term “church records” means all corporate and financial records regularly kept by a church, including corporate minute books and lists of members and contributors. 
“(B) Exception.—Such term shall not include records acquired – 
“(i) pursuant to a summons to which section 7609 applies, or
“(ii) from any governmental agency.
“(5) Inquiry notice date.—The term “inquiry notice date” means the date the notice with respect to a church tax inquiry is provided under subsection (a).
“(6) Examination notice date.—The term “examination notice date” means the date the notice with respect to a church tax examination is provided under subsection (b) to the church.
“(7) Appropriate high-level Treasury official.—The term “appropriate high-level Treasury official” means the Secretary of the Treasury or any delegate of the Secretary whose rank is no lower than that of a principal Internal Revenue officer for an internal revenue region.
“(i) Section not to apply to criminal investigations, etc.—This section shall not apply to— 
“(1) any criminal investigation,
“(2) any inquiry or examination relating to the tax liability of any person other than a church,
“(3) any assessment under section 6851 (relating to termination assessments of income tax), section 6852 (relating to termination assessments in case of flagrant political expenditures of section 501(c)(3) organizations), or section 6861 (relating to jeopardy assessments of income taxes, etc.),
“(4) any willful attempt to defeat or evade any tax imposed by this title, or
“(5) any knowing failure to file a return of tax imposed by this title.”

4. Internal Revenue Code Chapter 26, Subtitle A § 1402
Click the following link to go directly to a complete online copy of § 1402 and surrounding sections of the law:

Note. A New Testament church cannot have employees as defined by American law. If a church has employees, she is a religious organization. Biblical principle defines a church, her members and their roles, and her destiny. No Biblical teaching is consistent with a church having employees. According to God’s Word, however, a New Testament church must have members and a pastor who is to be provided for by the members. Also, members or anyone else may give gifts to anyone they please.

The following is directly from IRC § 1402:

§ 1402. Definitions

“(a) Net earnings from self-employment.—The term “net earnings from self-employment” means the gross income derived by an individual from any trade or business carried on by such individual, less the deductions allowed by this subtitle which are attributable to such trade or business, plus his distributive share (whether or not distributed) of income or loss described in section 702 (a)(8) from any trade or business carried on by a partnership of which he is a member; except that in computing such gross income and deductions and such distributive share of partnership ordinary income or loss—”…
“(8) an individual who is a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church or a member of a religious order shall compute his net earnings from self-employment derived from the performance of service described in subsection (c)(4) without regard to section 107 (relating to rental value of parsonages), section 119 (relating to meals and lodging furnished for the convenience of the employer), and section 911 (relating to citizens or residents of the United States living abroad), but shall not include in such net earnings from self-employment the rental value of any parsonage or any parsonage allowance (whether or not excludable under section 107) provided after the individual retires, or any other retirement benefit received by such individual from a church plan (as defined in section 414 (e)) after the individual retires;
“(14) in the case of church employee income, the special rules of subsection (j)(1) shall apply;
“(b) Self-employment income.—The term “self-employment income” means the net earnings from self-employment derived by an individual (other than a nonresident alien individual, except as provided by an agreement under section 233 of the Social Security Act) during any taxable year; except that such term shall not include—
“(2) the net earnings from self-employment, if such net earnings for the taxable year are less than $400.

“(c) Trade or business.—The term “trade or business”, when used with reference to self-employment income or net earnings from self-employment, shall have the same meaning as when used in section 162 (relating to trade or business expenses), except that such term shall not include—
“(2) the performance of service by an individual as an employee, other than—
“(D) service described in paragraph (4) of this subsection,
“(4) the performance of service by a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church in the exercise of his ministry or by a member of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by such order;

The provisions of paragraph (4) or (5) shall not apply to service (other than service performed by a member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty as a member of such order) performed by an individual unless an exemption under subsection (e) is effective with respect to him.

“(d) Employee and wages.—The term “employee” and the term “wages” shall have the same meaning as when used in chapter 21 (sec. 3101 and following, relating to Federal Insurance Contributions Act).

“(e) Ministers, members of religious orders, and Christian Science practitioners.—
“(1) Exemption.—Subject to paragraph (2), any individual who is (A) a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church or a member of a religious order (other than a member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty as a member of such order) or (B) a Christian Science practitioner, upon filing an application (in such form and manner, and with such official, as may be prescribed by regulations made under this chapter) together with a statement that either he is conscientiously opposed to, or because of religious principles he is opposed to, the acceptance (with respect to services performed by him as such minister, member, or practitioner) of any public insurance which makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement or makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care (including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act) and, in the case of an individual described in subparagraph (A), that he has informed the ordaining, commissioning, or licensing body of the church or order that he is opposed to such insurance, shall receive an exemption from the tax imposed by this chapter with respect to services performed by him as such minister, member, or practitioner. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, an exemption may not be granted to an individual under this subsection if he had filed an effective waiver certificate under this section as it was in effect before its amendment in 1967.
“(g) Members of certain religious faiths.—
“(1) Exemption.—Any individual may file an application (in such form and manner, and with such official, as may be prescribed by regulations under this chapter) for an exemption from the tax imposed by this chapter if he is a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof and is an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division by reason of which he is conscientiously opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any private or public insurance which makes payments in the event of death, disability, old-age, or retirement or makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care (including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act). Such exemption may be granted only if the application contains or is accompanied by—
“(h) Regular basis.—An individual shall be deemed to be self-employed on a regular basis in a taxable year, or to be a member of a partnership on a regular basis in such year, if he had net earnings from self-employment, as defined in the first sentence of subsection (a), of not less than $400 in at least two of the three consecutive taxable years immediately preceding such taxable year from trades or businesses carried on by such individual or such partnership.
“(j) Special rules for certain church employee income.—
“(1) Computation of net earnings.—In applying subsection (a)—
“(A) church employee income shall not be reduced by any deduction;
“(B) church employee income and deductions attributable to such income shall not be taken into account in determining the amount of other net earnings from self-employment.
“(4) Church employee income defined.—For purposes of this section, the term “church employee income” means gross income for services which are described in section 3121 (b)(8)(B) (and are not described in section 3121 (b)(8)(A)).”

5. Internal Revenue Code § 107
Click the following link to go online to the entire law: 
 IRC § 107

 “§ 107. Rental value of parsonages

 “In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include—
“(1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or
“(2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home and to the extent such allowance does not exceed the fair rental value of the home, including furnishings and appurtenances such as a garage, plus the cost of utilities.”

6. Internal Revenue Code § 102
Click the following link to go online to the entire section: IRC § 102

§ 102. Gifts and inheritances

“(a) General rule
“Gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance.
“(b) Income
“Subsection (a) shall not exclude from gross income—
“(1) the income from any property referred to in subsection (a); or
“(2) where the gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance is of income from property, the amount of such income.

“Where, under the terms of the gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance, the payment, crediting, or distribution thereof is to be made at intervals, then, to the extent that it is paid or credited or to be distributed out of income from property, it shall be treated for purposes of paragraph (2) as a gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance of income from property. Any amount included in the gross income of a beneficiary under subchapter J shall be treated for purposes of paragraph (2) as a gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance of income from property….”

7. Internal Revenue Code § 2503
Click the following link to go online to the entire section: 
 IRC § 2503

§ 2503. Taxable gifts
“(a) General definition.
The term ‘taxable gifts’ means the total amount of gifts made during the calendar year, less the deductions provided in subchapter C (section 2522 and following).
“(b) Exclusions from gifts.
             “(1) In general.—In the case of gifts (other than gifts of future interests in property) made to any person by the donor during the calendar year, the first $10,000 of such gifts to such person shall not, for purposes of subsection (a), be included in the total amount of gifts made during such year. Where there has been a transfer to any person of a present interest in property, the possibility that such interest may be diminished by the exercise of a power shall be disregarded in applying this subsection, if no part of such interest will at any time pass to any other person.
“(2) Inflation adjustment.—In the case of gifts made in a calendar year after 1998, the $10,000 amount contained in paragraph (1) shall be increased by an amount equal to—
“(A) $10,000, multiplied by
“(B) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1 (f)(3) for such calendar year by substituting “calendar year 1997” for “calendar year 1992” in subparagraph (B) thereof.

“If any amount as adjusted under the preceding sentence is not a multiple of $1,000, such amount shall be rounded to the next lowest multiple of $1,000.

 8. Internal Revenue Code § 170
Click the following link to go to the entire section: 
 IRC § 170 

Note. The author has found only one case, Morey v. Riddell, 205 F. Supp. 918 (S.D. Cal. 1962), which addresses the issue of deductions for members of a New Testament church. That case held that § 170 applies to what appears from the record to have been, at least for the  most part, a New Testament  church. The government argued that contributions did not qualify as deductions. The Court held for the church on all points. The author has done an analysis of the case in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. Each member of a New Testament church is responsible to God first and the civil government second for the decision he makes as to whether to take a deduction for tithes and offerings to a New Testament church.

IRC 170 provides in relevant part:

“§ 170. Charitable, etc., contributions and gifts

“(a) Allowance of deduction.—
“(1) General rule.—There shall be allowed as a deduction any charitable contribution (as defined in subsection (c)) payment of which is made within the taxable year. A charitable contribution shall be allowable as a deduction only if verified under regulations prescribed by the Secretary.
“(c) Charitable contribution defined.—For purposes of this section, the term “charitable contribution” means a contribution or gift to or for the use of—
“(2) A corporation, trust, or community chest, fund, or foundation—
“(A) created or organized in the United States or in any possession thereof, or under the law of the United States, any State, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States;
“(B) organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals;
“(C) no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual; and
“(D) which is not disqualified for tax exemption under section 501 (c)(3) by reason of attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

“A contribution or gift by a corporation to a trust, chest, fund, or foundation shall be deductible by reason of this paragraph only if it is to be used within the United States or any of its possessions exclusively for purposes specified in subparagraph (B). Rules similar to the rules of section 501 (j) shall apply for purposes of this paragraph.”

IV. The Laws of Kansas

 A. The Kansas Constitution
Click links (maroon colored words) to go directly to quoted provisions.

1. Preamble.

PREAMBLE. We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas, with the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the state of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence running west on said parallel to the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence north on said meridian to the fortieth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the state of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said state to the place of beginning. 

2. Bill of Rights, § 1

§ 1. Equal rights. All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Bill of Rights, § 3

§ 3. Right of peaceable assembly; petition. The people have the right to assemble, in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, for the redress of grievances.

4. Bill of Rights, § 7

§ 7. Religious liberty. The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend or support any form of worship; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, nor any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship. No religious test or property qualification shall be required for any office of public trust, nor for any vote at any elections, nor shall any person be incompetent to testify on account of religious belief.

5. Bill of Rights, § 11

§ 11. Liberty of press and speech; libel. The liberty of the press shall be inviolate; and all persons may freely speak, write or publish their sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of such rights; and in all civil or criminal actions for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the jury, and if it shall appear that the alleged libelous matter was published for justifiable ends, the accused party shall be acquitted.

6Bill of Rights, § 15

§ 15. Search and seizure. The right of the people to be secure in their persons and property against unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inviolate; and no warrant shall issue but on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or property to be seized.

7Article 11, § 1(b)

§ 1(b). § 1: System of taxation; classification; exemption. … (b) All property used exclusively for state, county, municipal, literary, educational, scientific, religious, benevolent and charitable purposes, farm machinery and equipment, merchants’ and manufacturers’ inventories, other than public utility inventori es included in subclass (3) of class 2, livestock, and all household goods and personal effects not used for the production of income, shall be exempted from property taxation.

B. Kansas Statutes

1. Chapter 79. Taxation.
Kansas Statutes, Chapter 79. Taxation. Article 2.—PROPERTY EXEMPT FROM TAXATION
              § 79-201

79-201.  Property exempt from taxation; religious, …. The following described property, to the extent herein specified, shall be and is hereby exempt from all property or ad valorem taxes levied under the laws of the state of Kansas:

First.  All buildings used exclusively as places of public worship … with the furniture and books therein contained and used exclusively for the accommodation of religious meetings … together with the grounds owned thereby if not leased or otherwise used for the realization of profit, except that: … (b) any building, or portion thereof, used as a place of worship, together with the grounds upon which the building is located, shall be considered to be used exclusively for the religious purposes of this section when used as a not-for-profit day care center for children which is licensed pursuant to K.S.A. 65-501 et seq., and amendments thereto, or when used to house an area where the congregation of a church society and others may purchase tracts, books and other items relating to the promulgation of the church society’s religious doctrines.

Second.   All real property, and all tangible personal property, actually and regularly used exclusively for … religious … purposes, including property used exclusively for such purposes by more than one agency or organization for one or more of such exempt purposes. Except with regard to real property which is owned by a religious organization, is to be used exclusively for religious purposes and is not used for a nonexempt purpose prior to its exclusive use for religious purposes which property shall be deemed to be actually and regularly used exclusively for religious purposes for the purposes of this paragraph, this exemption shall not apply to such property, not actually used or occupied for the purposes set forth herein, nor to such property held or used as an investment even though the income or rentals received therefrom is used wholly for … religious … purposes. In the event any such property which has been exempted pursuant to the preceding sentence is not used for religious purposes prior to its conveyance which results in its use for nonreligious purposes, there shall be a recoupment of property taxes in an amount equal to the tax which would have been levied upon such property except for such exemption for all taxable years for which such exemption was in effect. Such recoupment tax shall become due and payable in such year as provided by K.S.A. 79-2004, and amendments thereto. A lien for such taxes shall attach to the real property subject to the same on November 1 in the year such taxes become due and all such taxes remaining due and unpaid after the date prescribed for the payment thereof shall be collected in the manner provided by law for the collection of delinquent taxes. Moneys collected from the recoupment tax hereunder shall be credited by the county treasurer to the several taxing subdivisions within which such real property is located in the proportion that the total tangible property tax levies made in the preceding year for each such taxing subdivision bear to the total of all such levies made in that year by all such taxing subdivisions. Such moneys shall be credited to the general fund of the taxing subdivision or if such taxing subdivision is making no property tax levy for the support of a general fund such moneys may be credited to any other tangible property tax fund of general application of such subdivision. This exemption shall not be deemed inapplicable to property which would otherwise be exempt pursuant to this paragraph because an agency or organization: (a) Is reimbursed for the provision of services accomplishing the purposes enumerated in this paragraph based upon the ability to pay by the recipient of such services; or (b) is reimbursed for the actual expense of using such property for purposes enumerated in this paragraph; or (c) uses such property for a nonexempt purpose which is minimal in scope and insubstantial in nature if such use is incidental to the exempt purposes of this paragraph; or (d) charges a reasonable fee for admission to cultural or educational activities or permits the use of its property for such activities by a related agency or organization, if any such activity is in furtherance of the purposes of this paragraph; or (e) is applying for an exemption pursuant to this paragraph for a motor vehicle that is being leased for a period of at least one year.”

2. Chapter 79.–TAXATION

79-3603.  Retailers’ sales tax imposed; rate. For the privilege of engaging in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail in this state or rendering or furnishing any of the services taxable under this act, there is hereby levied and there shall be collected and paid a tax at the rate of 5.3%. Within a redevelopment district established pursuant to K.S.A. 74-8921, and amendments thereto, there is hereby levied and there shall be collected and paid an additional tax at the rate of 2% until the earlier of the date the bonds issued to finance or refinance the redevelopment project have been paid in full or the final scheduled maturity of the first series of bonds issued to finance any part of the project upon:

“(a) The gross receipts received from the sale of tangible personal property at retail within this state; …”

79-3606.  Exempt sales. The following shall be exempt from the tax imposed by this act:


“(aaa) all sales of tangible personal property and services purchased by a religious organization which is exempt from federal income taxation pursuant to section 501(c)(3) of the federal internal revenue code, and used exclusively for religious purposes,”

Non-state churches should contact Jerald Finney for help in seeking exception from sales tax on items bought for use in church ministry.

FN1 Many books, articles, and audio teachings address the Biblical principles, history, and facts one can refer to in order to determine that when a church becomes a legal entity and obtains 501(c)(3) status, she violates Biblical principles and displeases our Lord.

 IRC § 5O1 provides in relevant part:

§ 501. Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.:

“(a) Exemption from taxation. An organization described in subsection (c) … shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle [26 USCS §§ 1 et seq.] unless such exemption is denied under section 502 or 503 [26 USCS § 502 or 503]….

FN2 Browse this website for all written and audio teachings, available at no cost. Books can be ordered – see the Books page. All the books by Jerald Finney are available free in online and PDF form. The links to all online books and PDFs are at the Books Order Information page.

FN3 Ibid. For example, the author analyzes Romans 13:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13 and other articles taken out of context to support a false view of the relationship between individuals and state and the church and state. See, Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses.

FN4 U.S. CONST. amend. I.

FN5 See God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Xulon Press, 2008 ( or Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co. 2008 (, Section IV. This book and all books, articles, audio teachings of Jerald Finney are available at no cost on this website. Ordering information for the books is available at Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney.  All the books by Jerald Finney are available free in online and PDF form. The links to all online books and PDFs are at the Books by Jerald Finney Page.

FN6 Bob Jones University, 461 U.S. 574 (1983).

FN7 Ibid.

FN8 26 U.S.C. § 508 (2007).

“(a) Exemption from taxation. An organization described in subsection (c) … shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle [26 USCS §§ 1 et seq.] unless such exemption is denied under section 502 or 503 [26 USCS § 502 or 503]….
“(c)(3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office….
“(h) Expenditures by public charities to influence legislation. (1) General rule. In the case of an organization to which this subsection applies, exemption from taxation under subsection (a) shall be denied because a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation….”


An Abridged History of the First Amendment

Copyright © January, 2010 by Jerald Finney


I. Introduction
II. Trial of John Bunyan
III. Persecution of believers until the colonization of America
IV. Religious freedom recognized in America
V. Post disestablishment and conclusion

Martyr’s Song by Watchmen (Click link to listen to this song)
Book: Martyr’s Mirror in online PDF (Can be downloaded)
Full length version (with chapters on “Christian” revisionism): The History of the First Amendment

I. Introduction

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The story of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution begins with the first New Testament martyr and includes all the subsequent millions who were persecuted and killed because they placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone. You see, the heroes of the faith had and have life and liberty, unlike millions of contemporary American “Christians.” Martyrs—and those truly willing to give their life for Christ but who have not suffered martyrdom—have life because they have Christ. They also have been made free through Holy Spirit led study of God’s Word: Jesus said “to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8.31-32).  Although the religious crowd may persecute and perhaps kill them, no one can take either their eternal lives or their liberty.

These martyrs and persecuted ones, including those in the American colonies, comprise the remnant who have, in every age, kept the light of Christ alive in spite of their sufferings. The climax of the sufferings of the saints occurred when the United States, by adding the First Amendment to her Constitution, made America the first modern nation, and the second civil government, to recognize the God ordained principle of religious liberty or separation of church and state (not separation of God and state).

Indeed, freedom of religion was

“unknown at the time of the birth of Jesus. Even the ancient republics never recognized it…. Early did Christians avow and amplify religious liberty. The blood of persecution brought to the front this doctrine…. Freedom of religion is hardly a Protestant [or Catholic] doctrinal tenet, but it does belong to the Baptists…. The state of Teprice in Armenia, in the ninth century, gave absolute freedom of opinion and conscience for one hundred and fifty years before being overcome. All around them were persecutions for conscience sake – they themselves had lost one hundred thousand members by persecutions in the reign of Theodora – yet here was a shelter offered to every creed and unbeliever alike. The Baptists have always set up religious liberty when they had the opportunity.”

John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, (Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas: Bogard Press), pp. 38-41, 51-52.

Religious liberty is a Baptist distinctive; and, historic Baptists are the primary people responsible for this freedom in those modern nations which recognize it. By Baptist is meant those who – regardless of identifying name such as Waldensian, Donatist, etc., adhere to certain fundamental Bible principles – one of those being separation of church and state or religious freedom and freedom of conscience. America was the first modern nation to guarantee freedom of conscience and religion (separation of church and state), and Rhode Island had set the example later followed by America and, later, some other nations. In many nations Christians are still persecuted, tortured, and ruthlessly murdered.

After this introduction and before going to the beginning, I will give the view of one very famous martyr, John Bunyan, as to the relationship between church and state. I will do this by quoting from his trial which occurred at a point in time in which both England and the United States were on the road to the rejection of the heretical biblical teaching that resulted in the union of church and state and the murders by the state-church combinations of untold millions of those labeled as “heretics” [EN1]. From there, I will give an overview of the persecution of believers from John the Baptist until the colonization of America. Then, I will summarize the theological warfare in the American colonies that culminated in the First Amendment.

Please consider that the information you will read is factual. The author is a born-again believer and lawyer who has been, since his salvation, a faithful member of an independent fundamental Baptist Church. Further consider that he has worked many years to try to bring America back under God. Like millions of other American Christians who have worked for this cause, he has experienced much frustration as he saw America continue to deteriorate morally, spiritually, and in every other way. This article presents his findings of fact gained over several years of intense study of the Bible, law, and history—the American history courses he had taken, his First Amendment class at the University of Texas School of Law, and a considerable volume of “Christian” writings censored these facts. These facts must be known, understood, and applied in order for Christians to proceed “according to knowledge” and, therefore, before God will honor the spiritual warfare of Christian soldiers (See 2 Pe. 1:4-10; Ho. 4:6-9; 2 Ti. 2:3-4; Ep. 6:10-18). I am sure that most, like the author before he searched the annals of history, do not know many of these preeminent, actual, and verifiable occurrences and writings.

II. The trial of John Bunyan [Click to go to the complete transcript of the trial]

JohnBunyanThe trial of John Bunyan is instructive to one who wishes to please our Lord. Mr. Bunyan was arrested and charged with persistent and willful transgression of the Conventicle Act which prohibited all British subjects from absenting themselves from worship in the Church of England, and from conducting services apart from that church. He refused counsel and admitted that he had never attended services in the Church of England and stated that he never intended to do so. He continued,

“secondly, it is no secret that I preach the Word of God whenever, wherever, and to whomever He pleases to grant me opportunity to do so. I have no choice but to acknowledge the awareness of the law which I am accused of transgressing. Likewise, I have no choice but to confess my guilt in my transgression of it. As true as these things are, I must affirm that I neither regret breaking the law, nor repent of having broken it. Further, I must warn you that I have no intention of conforming to it.” I now continue with the dialogue between Bunyan and Judge Wingate.
“Judge Wingate: ‘It is obvious, sir, that you are a victim of deranged thinking. If my ears deceive me not, I must infer from your words that you believe the State to have no interest in the religious life of its subjects.’
“John Bunyan: ‘The State, M’lord, may have an interest in anything in which it wishes to have an interest. But the State has no right whatever to interfere in the religious life of its citizens.’
“Judge Wingate: ‘The evidence I hold in my hand, even apart from your own admission of guilt, is sufficient to convict you, and the Court is within its rights to have you committed to prison for a considerably long time. I do not wish to send you to prison, Mr. Bunyan. I am aware of the poverty of your family, and I believe you have a little daughter who, unfortunately, was born blind. Is this not so?’
“John Bunyan: ‘It is, M’Lord.’
JohnBunyan_PilgrimsProgress3“Judge Wingate: ‘Very well. The decision of the Court is this: In as much as the accused has confessed his guilt, we shall follow a merciful and compassionate course of action. We shall release him on condition that he swear solemnly to discontinue the convening of religious meetings, and that he affix his signature to such an oath prior to quitting the Courtroom. That will be all, Mr. Bunyan. I hope not to see you here again. May we hear the next case?’
“John Bunyan: ‘M’lord, if I may have another moment of the Court’s time?’
“Judge Wingate: ‘Yes, but you must be quick about it. We have other matters to attend to. What is it?’
“John Bunyan: ‘I cannot do what you ask of me, M’lord. I cannot place my signature upon any document in which I promise henceforth not to preach. My calling to preach the Gospel is from God, and He alone can make me discontinue what He has appointed me to do. As I have no word from Him to that effect, I must continue to preach, and I shall continue to preach.’
“Judge Wingate: ‘I warn you, sir, the Court has gone the second mile to be lenient with you, out of concern for your family’s difficult straits. Truth to tell, it would appear that the Court’s concern for your family far exceeds your own. Do you wish to go to prison?’
“John Bunyan: ‘No, M’lord. Few things there are that I would wish less.’
“Judge Wingate: ‘Very well, then, Mr. Bunyan. This Court will make one further attempt in good faith to accommodate what appears to be strongly held convictions on your part. In his compassion and beneficence, our Sovereign, Charles II, has made provision for dissenting preachers to hold some limited licenses.
“‘You will not find the procedure burdensome, and even you, Mr. Bunyan, must surely grant the legitimacy of the State’s interest in ensuring that any fool with a Bible does not simply gather a group of people together and begin to preach to them. Imagine the implications were that to happen! Can you comply with this condition, Mr. Bunyan?
“‘Before you answer, mark you this: should you refuse, the Court will have no alternative but to sentence you to a prison term. Think, sir, of your poor wife. Think of your children, and particularly of your pitiful, sightless little girl. Think of your flock, who can hear you to their hearts’ content when you have secured your licenses. Think on these things, and give us your answer, sir!’
“John Bunyan: ‘M’lord, I appreciate the Court’s efforts to be as you have put it – accommodating. But again, I must refuse your terms. I must repeat that it is God who constrains me to preach, and no man or company of men may grant or deny me leave to preach. These licenses of which you speak, M’lord, are symbols not of a right, but of a privilege. Implied therein is the principle that a mere man can extend or withhold them according to his whim. I speak not of privileges, but of rights. Privileges granted by men may be denied by men. Rights are granted by God, and can be legitimately denied by no man. I must therefore refuse to comply.’
“Judge Wingate: [Proceeded to sentence Mr. Bunyan to six years in the Bedford jail which ended up costing Mr. Bunyan 12 years of his life behind bars.]”[EN2]

John Bunyan did not suffer the fate of many of his spiritual ancestors who had stood against union of church and state in any manner, although most of them never received a trial.  The court did not sentence him to death by beheading, fire, drowning, or some other horrible means. Instead, the court sentenced him to a term in prison; but “the wrath of man was made to praise God; for had not his zealous servant been compelled to this solitude, we should not have had that masterpiece of literature,” Pilgrim’s Progress, a book full of biblical truth and a book for all people for all time.[EN3]

After being released after 12 years in prison, he continued to produce fruit for the Glory of God. For example, many Baptist churches were gathered as a result of his labors.[EN4] Mr. Bunyan followed a long line of believers, from John the Baptist forward, who had died and/or been persecuted  for their faith.  Starting with the  apostles, all of whom  except John died for their faith, true believers have always stood on the principle, “We ought to obey God rather than men (Ac. 5.29)”—refusing to give up the life given them when they placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and their liberty gained through coming to a knowledge of truth as a result of continuing in God’s Word after their salvation.

John Bunyan: A Reading and Commentary (072414)(Pastor Jason Cooley)
John Bunyan: Five Uses by way of Self-Examination (Are you saved?) w/commentary (091915)(Pastor Jason Cooley)

III. Persecution of believers until the colonization of America

Historically, Christians, as warned by Jesus and the apostles, have been persecuted for their faith. Their persecutions were usually the result of obeying God rather than a lower earthly authority—the civil authority and/or the established religion. Christians were persecuted from the beginning of the church. After union of church and state in the fourth century, the established “church,” in conjunction with the state, persecuted Christians.

JohnTheBaptist_Lk3.16John the Baptist is of utmost importance. With him, “[a] new light had burst upon a sin cursed world. A new era had dawned. Another kingdom was about to be ushered in.” [EN5] He was the forerunner and way preparer of Jesus. “He cannot be made to fit the notion that the church of Christ and the world-that-lies-around-it are ‘of-a-piece’, that Christianity is similar to ethnic faiths.”[EN6]  He introduced a thought system at odds with that of the Old Testament in which religion and state were integrated as a theocracy, a thought system that was first recognized in America, first by the governing documents of the colony of Rhode Island and second by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He preached a baptism that required a choice, and he preached it to all, including Jew and Gentile and including those of every position in society. The change required for his baptism required repentance on the level of the spiritual. Because of his open stand, John the Baptist became the first martyr for the faith. As most Christians are aware, John was decapitated as a result of exposing the sin of Herod—having Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Mt. 14:1-13; Mk. 6:14-19; Lu. 9:7-9).

CrucifixionThe next Christian martyr was our Lord Himself who came to earth to be persecuted and crucified, as prophesied in many Old Testament passages. Jesus continued and expanded upon this new system introduced by John the Baptist. Jesus used a modifier with the word “kingdom,” an adjective to keep two-of-a-kind apart: He spoke of the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of earth.”[EN7]  He preached two kinds of sermons—one for believers and one for non-believers.[EN8] He even distinguished between two jurisdictions when he said, “Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21).  When Jesus felt the need of a sanctuary, He did not go to the temple (the center of the unified Jewish nation/religion); He, like John the Baptist, went to the desert. “His body was a replacement-of-the-temple, not only in the matter of being torn-down and then put-together again, but also as the instrument intended for contact-making between man and Maker.”[EN9] Unlike the theocracy of Israel and Gentile pagan nations which united religion and state in which the religion/state sought to unify all members of the nation walking lockstep for the same goals and which was intended to bring peace and unity through that system, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Mt. 10:34-36). The religious/civil system in place was so at variance with Him that the religious leaders, who should have known through Scripture who He was, used the arm of the state to put Him to death. In effect, He lay down His life for those who would call upon His name. The First Amendment was in line with Jesus’ thought system.

“Out of the thought program begun by John the Baptist, and continued by Christ, came the Church of Christ.”[EN10]  Jesus’ followers continued the example set by Him and John the Baptist. They had and have the promise of persecution: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Ti. 3:12). Jesus preached to the multitudes concerning persecution of His followers:

Mt5.10-12“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Mt. 5.10-12).

Jesus warned the disciples that His followers would suffer persecution:

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (Jn. 15.18-21). [Emphasis mine.]

Stephen, The First Martyr
Stephen, The First Martyr

Following the crucifixion of the Savior “in rapid succession fell many other martyred heroes [in addition to Stephen, already mentioned, and Paul, infra]: … Matthew was slain in Ethiopia, Mark dragged through the streets until dead, Luke hanged, Peter and Simeon were crucified, Andrew tied to a cross, James beheaded, Philip crucified and stoned, Bartholomew flayed alive, Thomas pierced with lances, James, the less, thrown from the temple and beaten to death, Jude shot to death with arrows, Matthias stoned to death….” [EN11] 

At first, the persecution of Christians was by the Jewish religious leaders. Paul (then called Saul) was present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr after the resurrection of Christ (Ac. 8.1). Paul, before salvation, was actively involved in persecution: “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Ac. 8.3). After Paul’s salvation, he was persecuted and finally beheaded. He was seized by the Jews during his last visit to Jerusalem. They would have killed him, but as they were beating him, the chief captain of the Romans took soldiers and centurions, intervened, and held him. At that time Paul was allowed to speak to the people. He said,

“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women” (Ac. 22.3-4).

RomePersecutionRome persecuted Christians off and on until the early fourth century. The persecution varied in extent and duration with various emperors.[EN12]  Then, some “churches” were recognized by the state and formed a union with the state and became the official state “church.”

  • “[U]nder the leadership of Emperor Constantine there [came] a truce, a courtship and proposal of marriage. The Roman Empire through its emperor [sought] a marriage with Christianity. Give us your spiritual power and we will give you of our temporal power….
  • “In A.D. 313, a call was made for a coming together of the Christian churches or their representatives. Many but not all came. The alliance was consummated. A Hierarchy was formed. In the organization of the Hierarchy, Christ was dethroned as head of the churches and Emperor Constantine enthroned (only temporarily, however) as head of the church. [This was the beginning of what became the Catholic church.]
  • “Let it be definitely remembered that when Constantine made his call for the council, there were very many of the Christians … and of the churches, which declined to respond. They wanted no marriage with the state, and no centralized religious government, and no higher ecclesiastical government of any kind, than the individual church.”[EN13]

AugustineBefore the union of church and state, both Judaism and Paganism, using the arm of the state, had persecuted Christians who loved their Lord and refused to obey civil or any other authority which required Christians to violate the will of the Supreme Authority. After the union, “Christians” began to persecute Christians. “Thus [began] the days and years and even centuries of a hard and bitter persecution against all those Christians who were loyal to the original Christ and Apostolic teachings.”[EN14]  Some leaders of that new state “church” who had supported liberty, “forgot what they had preached in their youth” and supported persecution of dissenters. The most significant of these was Augustine:

  • “Augustine made much use of the passage in Luke 14.23: ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’ His position on religious liberty has been summarized in the maxim commonly (though erroneously) ascribed to him: ‘When error prevails, it is right to invoke liberty of conscience; but when, on the contrary, the truth predominates, it is just to use coercion.’
  • “Augustine’s influence on the course of religious liberty and the relationship of church and state can hardly be measured. Fifteen hundred years have passed since his death, yet his teachings are still a potent factor in the position of the Catholic Church on the subject of religion and government. As a result of his teaching, the principle that religious unity ought to be imposed in one way or another dominates the whole of the Christian Middle Ages and finds a concise and rigorous sanction in civil as well as in ecclesiastical legislation.
  • “Because of Augustine, more than any other person, ‘the Medieval church was intolerant, was the source and author of persecution, justified and defended the most violent measures which could be taken against those who differed from it.’”[EN15]

donatistsThe Donatists were among the first dissenters persecuted by the church-state union. The Council of Arles, prior to the union of church and state in 325, decided, in a Kangaroo court, against the Donatists; and “the Emperor enforced the decision with the secular arm.”[EN16] After the Council of Nicæa, Constantine issued an edict against all dissenters, including the Donatists, forbidding their meetings in private or public, ordering their places of worship torn down, their property confiscated to the Catholic Church.[EN17]

The purpose of the persecutions against the Donatists was stated by Augustine: “To crush the immodesty and to curb the audacity of the men whose madness had so overrun all Africa that the Catholic truth could not be preached in many places.”[EN18] The Catholic church, using Old Testament passages to justify their actions, committed savage cruelties and violence against dissenters. Executioners “who had obtained favor with secular princes in the deaths of the saints, when very many venerable ministers were killed, others were sent into exile, and the sacred cause of Christianity was harassed far and wide; virgins were violated, the wealthy were proscribed, the poor were spoiled, and ministers who were fleeing from their own churches were taken in their flight.”[EN19]


The Middle Ages reflected the thinking of “Augustine and Aquinas, who taught that salvation could be achieved through compulsion, and that oppression and persecution of heretics was not merely the right but the holy duty of the Church.”[EN20] “Over 50,000,000 Christians died martyr deaths … during the period of the ‘dark ages’ alone—about twelve or thirteen centuries.”[EN211]

The Inquisition was instituted in 1215 A.D. at a Council called by Pope Innocent III:

4“[P]robably the most cruel and bloody thing ever brought upon any people in all the world’s history was what is known as the ‘Inquisition,’ and other similar courts, designed for trying what was called ‘heresy.’ The whole world is seemingly filled with books written in condemnation of that extreme cruelty, and yet it was originated and perpetuated by a people claiming to be led and directed by the Lord. For real barbarity there seems to be nothing, absolutely nothing in all history that will surpass it.”[EN22]

The atrocities and heresies of the Catholic “church” eventually led to an effort to reform that “church” from within. Among the greatest of the reformers were Martin Luther, who started the Lutheran church (which became the state-church of Germany), and John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian church (which became the state-church of Scotland). During this period of reformation, there always existed those who dissented from Catholic and Reformation theology. In early sixteenth century Germany, two currents flowed in opposite directions. One, fostered by the established church, was toward a state-church. The other, promoted by dissenters, was toward separation of church and state. When a Protestant church became an established church it continued the persecution practiced by the harlot church. “Both the Lutheran and Presbyterian Churches brought out of their Catholic Mother many of her evils, among them her idea of a State Church. They both soon became Established Churches. Both were soon in the persecuting business, falling little if any, short of their Catholic Mother.”[EN23]

Martin Luther
Martin Luther
  • Martin Luther wrote: “It is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world. Nay, over even one land or company of people since the wicked always outnumber the good. A man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the Gospel would be like a shepherd who would place in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep together and let them freely mingle with one another and say, ‘Help yourselves, and be good and peaceful among yourselves. The fold is open, there is plenty of food, have no fear of dogs and clubs.’ The sheep forsooth would keep the peace and would allow themselves to be fed and governed in peace; but they would not live long nor would any beast keep from molesting another. For this reason, these two kingdoms must be sharply distinguished and both be permitted to remain. The one to produce piety, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds. Neither is sufficient to the world without the other.”[EN24]
  • “When Luther was expecting excommunication and assassination, he pleaded that: Princes are not to be obeyed when they command submission to superstitious error, but their aid is not to be invoked in support of the Word of God. Heretics, he said, must be converted by the Scriptures, and not by fire. With passion he asserted:
  • “I say, then neither pope, nor bishop, nor any man whatever has the right of making one syllable binding on a Christian man, unless it be done with his own consent. Whatever is done otherwise is done in the spirit of tyranny…. I cry aloud on behalf of liberty and conscience, and I proclaim with confidence that no kind of law can with any justice be imposed on Christians, except so far as they themselves will; for we are free from all.”[EN25]


  • Nonetheless, Luther later, when he had made an effective alliance with the secular power, advocated that the magistrate, who does not make the law of God, enforce the law of God. According to Luther, “The law is of God and from God. The State is the law-enforcing agency, administering a law of God that exists unchangeably from all eternity….
  • “The need for a state arises from the fact that all men do not hear the word of God in a spirit of obedience. The magistrate does not make the law, which is of God, but enforces it. His realm is temporal, and the proper ordering of it is his responsibility. Included in the proper ordering the maintenance of churches where the word of God is truly preached and the truly Christian life is taught by precept and example. In his realm, subject to the law of God, the Prince is supreme, nor has man the right to rebel against him. But if the Prince contravenes the law of God, man may be passively disobedient, in obedience to a higher and the only finally valid law.”[EN26]
  • “Heretics are not to be disputed with, but to be condemned unheard, and whilst they perish by fire, the faithful ought to pursue the evil to its source, and bathe their hands in the blood of the Catholic bishops, and of the Pope, who is the devil in disguise.”[EN27]

Luther espoused that coercion by the state to achieve religious unity was justifiable. This was an expansion of Erastian philosophy—“the assumption of state superiority in ecclesiastical affairs and the use of religion to further state policy.” Erastianism … pervaded all Europe, with the exception of Calvin’s ecclesiocratic Geneva, after the Reformation.[EN28] Erastianism achieved its greatest triumph in England.[EN29]

Luther’s position resulted in persecution of dissenters such as Anabaptists who believed in believer’s baptism. Although there is no reason to believe that the Anabaptists were explicit believers in a separation of church and state and in religious tolerance, opposition to a state-church follows logically from their thinking behind adult baptism:

BelieversBaptism“Believer’s baptism [was] the key to religious thought of the Anabaptists. Infant baptism implies that a child may be admitted into the Church without his understanding or personal consent. Such a church must be a formal organization, with sponsored membership possible for those whose years permit neither faith nor understanding. Adult baptism implies a different concept of the Church. The anabaptized are the elect of a visible church which is essentially a religious community of the elect. But obviously such a church could in no sense be a State Church. The Prince could neither bring it into being, regulate it, nor enforce membership in it; indeed, any connection between the State and such a church could only be injurious to the Church. Adult baptism on the surface is remote from the concept of a separated Church and State, yet such separation is implicit in the rationale of Anabaptism. The call to such a church can never come from the palace of the Prince; it must come from the Kingdom of Heaven….”[EN30] [Emphasis mine.]

JJohnCalvinohn Calvin pointed out that “‘these two [church and state] … must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other.’ He followed this approach in order to expound the ‘[d]ifferences between spiritual and civil government,’ insisting that ‘we must keep in mind the distinction … so that we do not (as so commonly happens) unwisely mingle these two, which have a completely different nature.’”[EN31]  He taught that “the church does not assume to itself what belongs to the magistrate, nor can the magistrate execute that which is executed by the Church.”[EN32]

However, when Calvin established his ecclesiocracy (the author uses this term to denote a civil government in which the church and state work together to enforce spiritual and earthly laws unlike the theocracy in Israel in which God himself was directly over the state) in Geneva, absence from the sermon, and missing the partaking of the Sacrament were punished. “Criticism of the clergy was included in the crime of blasphemy and blasphemy was punishable by death” as was the contention that “it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death.”[EN33] Government had “‘the duty of rightly establishing religion’ and had as its ‘appointed end’ to ‘cherish and protect the outward worship of God, to defend sound doctrine of piety and the position of the church.’”[EN34] Calvin’s ecclesiocratic relationship of church and state was “based on ecclesiastical supremacy and the use of state machinery to further religious interests.”[EN35]

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

During this same period, the Church of England arose from a split or division in the Catholic ranks. Henry VIII, king of England, “threw off papal authority and made himself head of the Church of England” when the Pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Spain so that he could marry Anne Boelyn. Henry’s successor, Mary, reinstated Catholicism, but her successor, Elizabeth, re-established the Church of England.

“Thus, before the close of the Sixteenth Century, there were five established Churches—churches backed up by civil governments—the Roman and Greek Catholics [the Greek Catholics separated from the Roman Catholics in the ninth century] counted as two, then the Church of England; then the Lutheran, or Church of Germany, then the Church of Scotland now known as the Presbyterian. All of them were bitter in their hatred and persecution of the people called Ana-Baptists, Waldenses and all other non-established churches, churches which never in any way had been connected with the Catholics…. Many more thousands, including both women and children were constantly perishing every day in the yet unending persecutions. The great hope awakened and inspired by the reformation had proven to be a bloody delusion. Remnants now [found] an uncertain refuge in the friendly Alps and other hiding places over the world.”[EN36]

Sometime in the early seventeenth century, the Congregational church began. That church repudiated preacher rule and returned “to the New Testament democratic idea” while retaining many other “Catholic made errors such as infant baptism, pouring or sprinkling for baptism, and later adopted and practiced to an extreme degree the church and state idea. And, after refugeeing to America, themselves, became very bitter persecutors.”[EN37]

IV. Religious freedom recognized in America

A detailed history of the theological warfare and persecution of dissenters in the colonies is beyond the scope of this article. You may read a much more comprehensive account of the facts that led to the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in the book, God Betrayed [EN38] or by clicking the following link: Online version of Section IV of God Betrayed, History of the First Amendment. You may also listen to much more detailed audio teachings on this subject on this blog by clicking the following link: History of the First Amendment.

Spiritual warfare in America resulted in the first and second civil governments in history (first, the colony of Rhode Island and second, the United States of America) which had complete religious freedom. In the United States, that liberty was declared by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which says:

“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 peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Established churches in the American colonies persecuted dissenters. The struggle over separation of church and state moved from the old world to the new, and is probably the most important topic in the history of America. For the first time, God’s truth concerning government, church, and separation of church and state was destined to prevail, first in Rhode Island and then in the United States. Prior to this struggle and since the union of church and state in the fourth century, both Catholic and Protestant sacral doctrine which had seen church and state as a single entity working in unison for the same goals had tried unsuccessfully to stamp out all “heretics” who had never deviated from the true biblical doctrine of “separation of church and state.”

Jesus said, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (Jn. 16:2.). In fulfillment of prophecies of the Lord, the established churches thought they were doing God’s will. “And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (Jn. 16:3).  The Old World patterns of church-state union and religious oppression were transplanted to the New World with all their rigor.[EN39]  Eleven of the original thirteen colonies established a church prior to the Revolution. One of those eleven was Massachusetts which was founded by Puritans who were Congregationalists. All New England colonies, except Rhode Island, had established churches based upon the same theology. As noted by the Rhode Island Baptist, John Callender, in the early nineteenth century:

“[The Puritans] were not the only people who thought they were doing God good service when smiting their brethren and fellow-servants. All other Christian sects generally, as if they thought this was the very best way to promote the gospel of peace, and prove themselves the true and genuine disciples of Jesus Christ—‘sic,’ who hath declared, his kingdom was not of this world, who had commanded his disciples to call no man master on earth, who had forbidden them to exercise lordship over each other’s consciences, who had required them to let the tares grow with the wheat till the harvest, and who had, in fine, given mutual love, peace, long-suffering, and kindness, as the badge and mark of his religion.”[EN40]

The fight for religious liberty started in the New England colonies and then spread throughout the other colonies. The seventeenth century ended with firmly established church-states in all New England colonies except Rhode Island. The ecclesiocracies there were as absolute as the world has known, with persecution of “heretics”; but, because of intervention by England, not as brutal as past ecclesiocracies in Europe.

The Church of England was established in the southern colonies. There, “the church enjoyed the favor of the colonial governors but it lacked the one pearl without price which the Congregational Church had. No Anglican ever left England to secure freedom of worship; no Virginia Episcopalian had the fervent motivation of a Massachusetts Puritan. In Massachusetts the church was the state. In Virginia and, to a lesser degree, in the rest of the South the Church was formally part of the State although hardly a part that loomed large in southern minds.”[EN41]

The theology of the established churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire led to a combining of church and state with the established church controlling the state; enforcement of all on the Ten Commandments to include the first four; infant baptism; taxing for payment of clergy, church charities, and other church expenses; persecution of dissenters such as Baptists; and many other unscriptural practices.[EN42] Persecution of dissenters followed the example of the theocracy in Israel where, for example, Moses killed the three thousand who turned from the Lord into idolatry and immorality while he was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:27), and Elijah had the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal killed (1 K. 18:40).

Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement

The settlers at Jamestown arrived in the New World in 1607. They set up a civil government modeled after that in England. The king was to head the state church, and those of other religious beliefs were not to be tolerated, much less be granted religious liberty.

PilgrimsThe Pilgrims landed at what was to become Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Although admirable in their quest for religious freedom for themselves, they were at first only grudgingly tolerant of those with other religious sentiments. They were few in number. “Plymouth was a Church-State ruled by a governor and a small and highly select theological aristocracy, a Church-State with various grades of citizenship and non-citizenship.”[EN43] By 1651 the government of Plymouth colony was enforcing the laws of Congregationalist Massachusetts. “By the time Plymouth was united with Massachusetts in 1691 all major differences between the two had disappeared.”[EN44]

The Puritans, unlike the Pilgrims who wanted to separate from the Church of England, wanted to purify the Church from within. “The State, in their view, had the duty to maintain the true Church; but the State was in every way subordinate to the Church.” [EN45] King James I was far more belligerently opposed to the Calvinistic church-state than even Queen Elizabeth had been, and his “determination toward the Puritans was to make them conform or to harry them out of the land.”[EN46]  The Puritans who suffered under the combined pressure of accelerated persecution and the advanced moral decay in their society began to flee England for the new world.[EN47]  “There was no ground at all left them to hope for any condescension or indulgence to their scruples, but uniformity was pressed with harder measures than ever.”[EN48]  Cheating, double-dealing, the betrayal of one’s word were all part of the game for London’s financial district. Mercantile power brokers loved, honored, and worshipped money, and accumulated as much of it as possible and as fast as possible.  The ends justified the means. “London was an accurate spiritual barometer for the rest of the country, for England had become a nation without a soul.”[EN49] England was morally awful, and this came about under the auspices of a state-church practicing its theology.[EN50]  1628 marked the beginning of the Great Migration that lasted sixteen years in which twenty thousand Puritans embarked for New England and forty-five thousand other Englishmen headed for Virginia, the West Indies, and points south.[EN51]

Puritans2Pilgrims&PuritansThe Puritans landed at Salem at the end of June, 1629. They were motivated by religious principles and purposes, seeking a home and a refuge from religious persecution.[EN52]  Having suffered long for conscience sake, they came for religious freedom, for themselves only. “They believed [in] the doctrine of John Calvin, with some important modifications, in the church-state ruled on theocratic principles, and in full government regulation of economic life.”[EN53]  The Puritan churches “secretly call[ed] their mother a whore, not daring in America to join with their own mother’s children, though unexcommunicate: no, nor permit[ed] them to worship God after their consciences, and as their mother hath taught them this secretly and silently, they have a mind to do, which publicly they would seem to disclaim, and profess against.”[EN54] In 1630, 1500 more persons arrived, several new settlements were formed, and the seat of government was fixed at Boston. Thinking not of toleration of others,” they were prepared to practice over other consciences the like tyranny to that from which they had fled.”[EN55]

Roger Williams, like the Puritans, fled tyranny over thought and conscience and sought refuge for conscience amid the wilds of America. He arrived in Boston on February 5, 1631. He was highly educated and well acquainted with the classics and original languages of the Scriptures, and had been in charge of a parish in England. Although a Congregationalist, he had been exposed to and convinced of some non-congregationalist doctrines such as soul liberty or religious freedom. Immediately upon arrival, Mr. Williams, not being a man who could hide his views and principles, declared that “the magistrate might not punish a breach of the Sabbath, nor any other offence, as it was a breach of the first table.”[EN56]  He also, contrary to the practice of the church at Boston, hesitated to hold communion with any church who held communion with the Church of England. “He could not regard the cruelties and severities, and oppression, exercised by the Church of England, with any feelings but those of indignation.”[EN57]

Roger WilliamsAlthough loved dearly by the church at Salem where he acted as pastor after he arrived, he remained at odds with the established church and government ministers in Massachusetts. In spite of the fact that “Mr. Williams appears, by the whole course and tenor of his life and conduct …, to have been one of the most disinterested men that ever lived, a most pious and heavenly minded soul,”[EN58] the Court soon summoned him “for teaching publicly ‘against the king’s patent, and our great sin in claiming right thereby to this country’” by taking the land of the natives without payment;[EN59] “and for terming the churches of England antichristian.”[EN60] Charges were brought. “He was accused of maintaining:

“(1) That the magistrate ought not to punish the breach of the first table of the law, otherwise in such cases as did disturb the civil peace.
“(2) That he ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man.
“(3) That a man ought not to pray with the unregenerate, though wife or child.
“(4) That a man ought not to give thanks after the sacrament nor after meat.”[EN61]

Roge rWilliams Wrote Bloudy Tenent Of Persecution And Other Works
Roge rWilliams Wrote Bloudy Tenent Of Persecution And Other Works

The ministers of the Court, when Mr. Williams appeared before them, “had already decided ‘that any one was worthy of banishment who should obstinately assert, that the civil magistrate might not intermeddle even to stop a church from apostasy and heresy.’”[EN62] The “grand difficulty they had with Mr. Williams was, his denying the civil magistrate’s right to govern in ecclesiastical affairs.”[EN63]

He was banished from the colony and ordered to board ship for England. Instead, he went, in the dead of winter, to what was to become Rhode Island where he was supported by the Indians whom he, throughout his long life, unceasingly tried to benefit and befriend.[EN64]  He bought land from the Indians and founded the town of Providence where persecution has never “sullied its annals.”[EN65]  “[T]he harsh treatment and cruel exile of Mr. Williams seem designed by his brethren for the same evil end [as that of the brethren of Joseph when they sold him into slavery], but was, by the goodness of the same overruling hand [of divine providence] turned to the most beneficent purposes.”[EN66]

Dr. John Clarke
Dr. John Clarke

Another leader instrumental in the formation of the government of the Rhode Island colony was Dr. John Clarke, a physician. Dr. John Clarke of England moved to Boston in November of 1637. He proposed to some friends “for peace sake, and to enjoy the freedom of their consciences, to remove out of that jurisdiction.”[EN67] Their motion was granted & Dr. Clarke and eighteen families went to New Hampshire which proved too cold for their liking. They left and stopped in Rhode Island, intending to go to Long Island or Delaware Bay. There Dr. Clarke met Roger Williams. The two “immediately became fast friends and associates, working together in a most harmonious manner, both socially and politically, throughout the remainder of Clarke’s life.”[EN68]  With the help of Mr. Williams they settled in that colony at Aquidneck. “The first settlement on the Island was called Pocasset; after the founding of Newport, it was renamed Portsmouth.”[EN69]

Portsmouth Compact
Portsmouth Compact

The first government in history that was to have complete freedom of conscience and religious liberty also declared that the government was to be under the Lord Jesus Christ. Signed on March 7, 1638, the Portsmouth Compact read:

“We whose names are underwritten do here solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate ourselves into a bodie politick, and as he shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates, unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute lawes of his, given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.” [19 signatures followed: … Three passages were marked in support of the compact: Exodus 24.3, 4; II Chronicles 11.3; and II Kings 11.17.[EN70]

This compact placed Portsmouth, Rhode Island under the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ and His principles and laws given in the Bible. That Dr. Clarke “sought to help establish a government free of all religious restriction, one which in no way infringed upon the freedom of any religious conscience” is “evident from his remarks to the leaders of the established colonies upon his first arrival in Boston and by his subsequent activities throughout New England.”[EN71]

In August of 1638, the people of Providence approved the first public document establishing government without interference in religious matters, the Providence Compact:

“We whose names are here underwritten being desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves in active or passive obedience to all such orders or agreement as shall be made for public good to the body in an orderly way, by the major consent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others whom they shall admit into the same, only in civil things.[EN72] [Twelve signatures followed.]

As James R. Beller proclaims, the document was “the first of a series of American political documents promulgating government by the consent of the governed and liberty of conscience.[EN73]  Thus, liberty of conscience was the basis for legislation in Rhode Island, and its annals have remained to this day [when Underhill wrote this] unsullied by the blot of persecution.[EN74]

Rhode Island was ruled according to the original covenant, “til on January 2, 1639, an assembly of the freemen said:

“By the consent of the body it is agreed that such who shall be chosen to the place of Eldership, they are to assist the Judge in the execution of the justice and judgment, for the regulating and ordering of all offences and offenders, and for the drawing up and determining of all such rules and laws as shall be according to God, which may conduce to the good and welfare of the commonweal; and to them is committed by the body the whole care and charge of all the affairs thereof; and that the Judge together with the Elders, shall rule and govern according to the general rules [rule] of the word of God, when they have no particular rule from God’s word, by the body prescribed as a direction unto them in the case. And further, it is agreed and consented unto, that the Judge and [with the] Elders shall be accountable unto the body once every quarter of the year, (when as the body shall be assembled) of all such cases, actions or [and] rules which have passed through their hands, by they to be scanned and weighed by the word of Christ; and if by the body or any of them, the Lord shall be pleased to dispense light to the contrary of what by the Judge or [and] Elders hath been determined formerly, that then and there  it shall be repealed as the act of the body; and if it be otherwise, that then it shall stand, (till further light concerning it) for the present, to be according to God, and the tender care of indulging [indulgent] fathers.”[EN75]

Thus, Rhode Island became a government of religious liberty. “As a servant of the people, Dr. Clarke [along with Roger Williams] would steer the colony toward a government of unprecedented civil and religious liberty—convinced that any other move would be in the direction of a self-centered autocratic theocracy.” [EN76]  Under his leadership, the people followed him as he steered a course between democracy with its “attending threat of anarchy and all of its evils of disorder, violence, and ultimate chaos,” and aristocracy and its restrictions on all forms of liberty.[EN77]

In 1651, Dr. Clarke, Obadiah Holmes,[EN7] and John Crandall went to visit a friend in Boston. They were on “an errand of mercy and had traveled all the way from their church in Newport to visit one of their aging and blind members, William Witter.”[EN79]  They stayed over, and held a service on Sunday. During that service, they were arrested and jailed. A friend paid Dr. Clarke’s fine and Clarke and Mr. Crandal were released.

Beating of Obadiah Holmes
Beating of Obadiah Holmes

Mr. Holmes was beaten mercilessly. His infractions were denying infant baptism, proclaiming that the church was not according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, receiving the sacrament while excommunicated by the church, and other spiritual infractions.[EN80]  Mr. Holmes refused to pay his fine, prepared for the whipping by “communicat[ing] with [his] God, commit[ting] himself to him, and beg[ging] strength from him.”[EN81]  Holmes was confined over two months before his whipping. He related the experience of being whipped for the Lord as follows, in part:

“And as the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people, though my flesh should fail, and my spirit should fail, yet my God would not fail. So it please the Lord to come in, and so to fill my heart and tongue as a vessel full, and with an audible voice I broke forth praying unto the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge; and telling the people, that now I found he did not fail me, and therefore now I should trust him forever who failed me not; for in truth, as the strokes fell upon me, I had such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence as the like thereof I never had nor felt, nor can with fleshly tongue express; and the outward pain was so removed from me, that indeed I am not able to declare it to you, it was so easy to me, that I could well bear it, yea, and in a manner felt it not although it was grievous as the spectators said, the man striking with all his strength (yea spitting in [on] his hand three times as many affirmed) with a three-corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes. When he had loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart, and cheerfulness in my countenance, as the spectators observed, I told the magistrates, You have struck me as with roses; and said moreover, Although the Lord hath made it easy to me, yet I pray God it may not be laid to your charge.”[EN82]

Mr. Holmes “could take no rest but as he lay upon his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed whereupon he lay.”[EN83]

Excerpts From Rhode Island Charter of 1663
Excerpts From Rhode Island Charter of 1663

In November 1651, Dr. Clarke went to England with Roger Williams to promote the interests of Rhode Island. Mr. Williams returned to Rhode Island in the summer of 1754, but Mr. Clarke remained in England until, on July 8, 1663, he secured a new charter from Charles II. The charter granted:

“unprecedented liberties in religious concerns. Moreover representation for the people and the limit of power to public officials provided a basic check and balance to popular sovereignty. The Royal Charter of 1663 proved to be distinctive, installing safeguards in the election process through the governing body of the State Assembly, made up of a governor, deputy-governor, assistants, and representatives from each of the towns,”[EN84] each elected by the people.

“Congregationalism claimed a large class of inferior church members by 1720, baptized into the churches without conversion.”[EN85]  Generally speaking, by 1740, religious decay had spread throughout New England. However, “the relentless preaching of Jonathan Edwards of complete surrender to the will of God introduced the novel phenomenon of revival in Massachusetts.”[EN86] Although the revival spread down the Connecticut Valley into Connecticut[EN87], the initial revival was of short duration … and did not touch the people of New England generally.[EN88]  Then, George Whitefield, the world-famous English evangelist arrived at Newport. Great crowds greeted Whitefield wherever he went to preach. In Connecticut, he was greeted with great enthusiasm. All Connecticut was at his feet.

As a result of that great revival, many were converted and churches experienced unprecedented growth. The Great Awakening emphasized individual conversion and the new birth.[EN89] Many itinerant preachers arose as a result of this revival. Consequently, the General Court of Connecticut “forbade all itinerant preaching under penalty of loss of the right to collect one’s legal salary and imprisonment. Itinerant lay preachers or strange ministers were to be silenced or expelled from the colony.”[EN90] “In Connecticut, legal action was taken against the revivalists, their churches were deprived of legal status, and some of the preachers were thrown into jail.”[EN91]

A number converts, who were dubbed as “New Lights” and who initially tried to influence the church to return to the concept of the pure church were forced out of the established churches. The term “Separates” referred to those who believed that the church should only include regenerate members and those who separated from the state-churches on this conviction. The Separate movement started in Connecticut and moved to Massachusetts. Separate churches began to appear at various towns.

Isaac Backus
Isaac Backus

One of the most prominent of the Separates was Isaac Backus. Although he spent much of his ministry in Massachusetts, he was a native of Norwich, Connecticut. He was saved in 1741 and became the leading figure in the new movement. His shift from the Separate to the Baptist camp is central to the religious history of New England.[EN92] Mr. Backus was an ardent leader and writer for the cause of religious liberty in New England and in America. His efforts for religious liberty and other causes were non-ceasing.

Shubael Stearns and Daniel Marshall, both members of Congregationalist churches in Connecticut, separated from the established churches, later became Baptists, as had Isaac Backus, and became chief instruments in carrying the Great Awakening to the South. The Separates were subject to persecution—fines, imprisonment, placing in stocks, and whipping—for their defiance of the laws of the commonwealth. They were subjected to a more intense persecution than the dissenters such as Baptists and Quakers, and many of them were imprisoned for practicing their beliefs.

GeorgeWhitefield1George Whitefield’s preaching had a grand effect on his converts. Stearns in 1754 and Marshall in 1751 or 1752, possessed with missionary zeal, left Connecticut as missionaries. Marshall first ministered to the Indians in New York. Then he moved to Connogig, Pennsylvania and then to Opekon, Virginia. Stearns at first went to Cacapon Creek, Virginia, but due to Indian hostility there, moved to Sandy Creek, North Carolina. There the settlers constituted the Sandy Creek Church with Mr. Stearns as minister and Daniel Marshall and Joseph Breed as assistant ministers.

Shubal Stearns
Shubal Stearns

The work at Sandy Creek soon began to produce much fruit. Mr. Stearns and the other preachers in his church were in great demand to go preach at other settlements. He and Daniel Marshall decided, before having been at Sandy Creek a year, to go on a preaching mission all the way to the coast. Converts were being called into ministry, and the Separate Baptist movement was seeing the birth of new churches. Within three years, there were three churches with a combined membership of over nine hundred, and these churches had numerous branches. Young evangelists were “beginning to occupy the land of promise.” In 1758, the Sandy Creek Association was organized. The plan for the association “required careful planning, for the associational movement would usher in a grand new chapter in Separate Baptist expansion.”[EN93]

The movement exploded. Ministers and converts went all over North Carolina, then into South Carolina and Georgia. The power of God was with these Separate Baptist preachers. Churches were planted and many were converted. In North Carolina, the Anglicans and the Presbyterians were displaced by the Baptists. Daniel Marshall went to South Carolina with some others in his church and started a church there. From there, he went on preaching trips into Georgia. He was so successful in some of his forays there that he was arrested, convicted, and commanded to preach no more in Georgia. “The arresting constable and even the magistrate who tried Marshall were soon converted and baptized.” In 1771 Mr. Marshall moved to Kiokee Creek, Georgia and formed the first Baptist church in Georgia at Appling in 1772.[EN94]

WarOfTheRegulationBattleOfAlamanceWarOfTheRegulationRegulatorsHangedIn 1771 the so-called War of the Regulation broke out. The government of North Carolina tried to suppress the Separate Baptists, but succeeded only in spreading their movement all along the southern frontier. Before the suppression began, the established church, the Anglican Church, was ineffectual in North Carolina and only had five ministers in the state in 1765.

Before 1765 the western counties, made up of frontiersman, a large percentage of whom had become Baptists, were disproportionately taxed and represented in the Assembly. “Sheriffs, judges, and other officials of county government, were notorious for their injustice, and in the western counties they were, as a rule, dishonest, haughty, and overbearing.”[EN95] A license was required for teachers, and no place of higher education could be administered, except by ministers of the Church of England. The Church of England was given exclusive rights to perform marriages. In 1755, poll and vestry taxes were imposed upon North Carolinians.[EN96]  The settlers mounted protests against these injustices.

WarOfTheRegulationNamesOfThoseHangedWhen William Tryon became governor of North Carolina in 1765, the troubles moved quickly to a crisis. Governor Tryon set out to strengthen the position of the Church of England. He called for twenty-seven more Anglican clergymen, increased taxes, and raised a military force. By 1770, Governor Tryon had established eighteen Anglican priests in thirty-two parishes in North Carolina. Property was seized for back taxes, people accused of rioting were arrested and set for trial, and others were fined and imprisoned. “In several places the Regulators yielded to mob spirit, broke up courts, and whipped the officers” and “some court records were destroyed.”[EN97]  Armed conflict finally broke out. On May 16, 1771, a poorly trained and supplied force of two thousand regulators was routed by the state militiamen. Although Shubael Stearns and the Sandy Creek Association forbade Baptists to take up arms against the government, many did.

After the defeat of the regulators, Tryon “laid waste to plantations, burned homes, and sent numbers of men in chains to Hillsboro. The countryside was terrorized.”[EN98]  Tryon seized Benjamin Merrill, who appears to have been a church leader. Merrill was convicted as a traitor, hung publicly, cut into pieces—quartered—and his body scattered.[EN99]

The Baptists had a mass exodus from North Carolina. By 1772, Sandy Creek Church had only fourteen members, down from six hundred and six. Little River Church went from five hundred to a dozen members. But as with the persecution of the first Christians in Jerusalem, the persecuted spread to other parts and carried out the Great Commission—the departing Baptists went into South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, spreading the Gospel and reaping the harvest. What Satan meant for evil, God used for His glory.

Shubal Stearns, the chief light and the guiding genius behind the Separate Baptist movement, died on November 20, 1771 at the age of sixty-five. Forty-two churches and one hundred and twenty-five ministers had sprung from the Sandy Creek Church by 1772. Fires had been started in North Carolina and in other states, which could not be quenched.[EN100]

Although the final expression of religious freedom that would be incorporated into the Constitution came from Virginia, the final motivation came as a result of the convictions of the dissenters, mainly the Baptists, and the thrust for their growth and influence came from the Great Awakening.

VirginiaLawesDivine,MOral and MartialIn Virginia, the established Anglican church was controlled by the state, unlike in New England where the established church controlled the state. From the beginning of the colony, the “company knew not how to control the members composing the colony but by religion and law.”[EN101] The original “Lawes Divine, Moral and Martial” which were decreed in 1612, were severe. Speaking impiously of the Trinity or of God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, blaspheming God, incorrigibly cursing, a third failure to attend religious services, and a third “Sabbath-breaking,” were punishable by death. Other spiritual offenses were punished by whipping and other penalties.[EN102]

These laws were repealed upon appeal to England, and the laws enacted in support of the Anglican establishment were less severe. Still, the Anglican church was established (and this establishment continued until the revolution with one short interruption), nonattendance at church services was the subject of fines, the payment of tithes were mandatory, every parson was entitled to the glebe—a piece of land—parish churches were built by taxes, and ministers were required to “conform themselves in all things according to the canons of the Church of England.”

“Puritan clergy were banished for failing to conform to Anglican services; Quakers [and Baptists] were fined, imprisoned, and banished. Catholics were disqualified for public office, and any priest who ventured to enter the colony was subject to instant expulsion. Penalties were imposed on those who having scruples against infant baptism, neglected to present their children for that purpose.”[EN103]

In 1770, there were only six Separate Baptist churches in Virginia, but the number had increased to fifteen in 1771. The number of Separate Baptists increased dramatically through 1774.

VirginiaPersecution2VirginiaPersecutionFrom 1768 through 1774, the Baptists were persecuted severely. “Baptist preachers were whipped, arrested, fined, imprisoned on bread and water, although the authorities sanctimoniously denied that punishment was for ‘preaching’; the crime they said, was ‘breach of the peace.’”[EN104]  The first instance of actual imprisonment was on June 4, 1768 when John Waller, Lewis Craig, James Childs, James Reed, and William Marsh were arrested at Craig’s meetinghouse in Spotsylvania and charged with disturbing the peace. The magistrates offered to release them if they would promise to preach no more for a year and a day. They refused and were jailed. Many more were jailed and otherwise persecuted until 1774.[EN105]

As a result of the persecutions and oppressions, Baptists began to petition the House of Burgesses for relief in 1770. 1775 closed the period of “Intolerance, Toleration, and Persecution.” This came about because the American Revolution was on. The Baptists and others were tolerated in return for their help in the war against Great Britain. The Baptists did help, and not a Tory was found among them. But they struck for something more and something dearer to them than civil liberty—for freedom of conscience, for “just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty.”[EN106] The battle for soul liberty continued until January 19, 1786, when Thomas Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” became the law of the state.

During the period of intense persecution in Virginia, leaders such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were observing what was going on. These men were also familiar with the history of  persecutions which always accompany a church-state union. They stood against union of church and state which was proposed by Patrick Henry in 1784. Here is one of several examples from Madison’s writings (from a letter to an old college friend, dated January 24, 1774):

James Madison
James Madison

“uninterrupted harmony had prevailed throughout the continent [in matters of established religion as practiced in Virginia] it is clear to me that slavery and subjection might and would have been gradually insinuated among us. Union of religious sentiments begets a surprising confidence, and ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitates the execution of mischievous projects…. Poverty and luxury prevail among all sorts; pride, ignorance, and knavery among the priesthood, and vice and wickedness among the laity. This is bad enough; but it is not the worst I have to tell you. That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such purposes. There are at this time in the adjacent country not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither patience to hear, talk, or think of anything relative to this matter; for I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed, so long about it to little purpose, that I am without common patience…. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.”[EN107]

On June 12, 1776, the House adopted a Declaration of Rights. The 16th Article provided for religious tolerance. However, [o]n motion on the floor by James Madison, the article was amended to provide for religious liberty. In committee, Madison opposed toleration because toleration “belonged to a system where there was an established church, and where it was a thing granted, not of right, but of grace. He feared the power, in the hands of a dominant religion, to construe what ‘may disturb the peace, the happiness, or the safety of society,’ and he ventured to propose a substitute, which was finally adopted.”[EN108] He probably moved to change the amendment before the whole house in order to demonstrate his position to the Baptists who were viewing the proceedings. The proposed amendment read:

“That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”[EN109]

“The adoption of the Bill of Rights marked the beginning of the end of the establishment.”[EN110]

Where did Madison learn the distinction between religious freedom and religious toleration?

“It had not then begun to be recognized in treatises on religion and morals. He did not learn it from Jeremy Taylor or John Locke, but from his Baptist neighbors, whose wrongs he had witnessed, and who persistently taught that the civil magistrate had nothing to do with matters of religion.”[EN111]

Patrick HenryIn 1784, Patrick Henry proposed a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion. George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, and John Marshall supported the bill. The bill required all persons “to pay a moderate tax or contribution annually for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for some form of Christian worship.”[EN112]

Mr. Madison opposed Mr. Henry’s bill and prepared his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance,” in which he maintained “that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator,” was not within the cognizance of civil government. The “Memorial” presents fifteen arguments against the assessment bill.[EN113] A small sampling is offered here:

  • “… Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall….
  • “Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of civil government…. If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary for civil government? What influences, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances, they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in more instances, have they been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the publick liberty, may have found on established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion, with the same equal hand which protects his person and property; by neither invading the equal hand which protects his person and property; by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another.…
  • “Because the policy of the bill is adverse to the light of Christianity. The first wish of those, who ought to enjoy this precious gift, ought to be, that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those, who have as yet received it, with the number still remaining under the dominion of false religions, and how small is the former? Does the policy of the bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of truth, from coming into the regions of it; and countenances, by example, the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them….
  • “Because, finally, ‘the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of his conscience,’ is held by the same tenure with all our other rights…. Either then we must say, that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plentitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: either we must say, that they may control the freedom of the press; may abolish the trial by jury; may swallow up the executive and judiciary powers of the State; nay, that they have no authority our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary assembly; or we must say that they have no authority to enact into a law, the bill under consideration.…”[EN114]
Virginia Bill For Religious Freedom -Passed in 1786
Virginia Bill For Religious Freedom -Passed in 1786

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Act for Religious Liberty, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was passed. That bill provided for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. It stated, in part:

“I. Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord of both body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;

  • “that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such, endeavoring to impose them on others hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;
  • “that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, … that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than [on] our opinions in physics or geometry;
  • “that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; …
  • “that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with, or differ from his own;
  • “that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt [open, or public] acts against peace and good order; ….”[EN115]

As the Anglican establishment in Virginia yielded to pressure from Baptists [and to a much lesser extent Presbyterians] so that religious liberty was established in that state, “[t]he same pressure, reinforced by the conditions of frontier living, ended the Anglican establishment in the Carolinas and Georgia…. [T]he conditions which made establishment possible never existed in the states admitted after Vermont, nor in the territories with the exception of unique Utah.”[EN116]

By the time the Constitutional Convention convened in 1787, “three states, Rhode Island, New York, and Virginia granted full religious freedom. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland demanded in different degrees adherence to Christianity. New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia demanded Protestantism.”[EN117]

Constitutional Convention
Constitutional Convention

JohnLelandA convention was called in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, a new Constitution was drafted. After the drafting of the Constitution, it was submitted to the states for ratification. The Baptists of Virginia were against ratification because the Constitution did not have sufficient provision for religious liberty. Patrick Henry had declined to serve at the Convention and was against it. He posed as the champion of the Baptists in opposition to the Constitution. Of course, Madison was for ratification. However, John Leland, the most popular preacher in Virginia, was chosen by the Baptists as candidate of Orange County to the state ratification convention opposed to ratification, and his opponent was to be James Madison. Mr. Leland likely would have been elected had he not later withdrawn. Mr. Madison, when he returned from Philadelphia, stopped by Mr. Leland’s house and spent half a day communicating to him about “the great matters which were then agitating the people of the state and the Confederacy” and relieving Baptist apprehensions as to the question of religious liberty. As a result of this meeting, Mr. Leland withdrew in favor of Mr. Madison and the Baptists of Orange County were won over to the side of Madison.[EN118]

The Constitution was ratified and election of the officers of government was the next order of business. Patrick Henry, using his influence in the Legislature, prevented Madison from being elected as Senator. In addition, the Legislature drew the lines for Representative district so as to prevent Madison from being elected as Representative. However, he was able to “relieve Baptist apprehensions as to any change in his principles, and assure them of his readiness to aid in securing a proper amendment to the Constitution on the subject of religious liberty.” He was elected.

FirstAmendment2His first act, after the First Congress was organized in 1789, was to propose, on June 8, certain amendments, including what is now the First Amendment. His purpose was to “conciliate and to make all reasonable concessions to the doubting and distrustful”—to those, the Baptists, who were concerned about the issue of religious liberty. “Of all the denominations in Virginia, [the Baptists] were the only ones that had expressed any dissatisfaction with the Constitution on that point, or that had taken any action into looking to an amendment.” The Baptists of Virginia had also corresponded with Baptists of other states to “secure cooperation in the matter of obtaining” a religious liberty amendment. No other denomination asked for this change.[EN119]

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on September 25, 1789 and was approved by the required number of states in 1791.

V. Post disestablishment and conclusion

The First Amendment religion clause was not applied to the states until 1940.[EN120]  When the First Amendment was added to the United States Constitution, only New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut still had established churches. In 1833 Massachusetts became the last state to disestablish.

bridewaitingNonetheless, the states still provided for incorporation of churches. However, after disestablishment, incorporation became something entirely different from the corporate state-church unions of the past. The new type of incorporation did not create an established church that worked with the state to enforce the first four Commandments. Actually, under the new type of incorporation, the corporate church became a creature of the state.

For a full explanation of the ways post-disestablishment incorporation of churches violates biblical principles, one must go to other sources.[EN121] Just a few characteristics of the new type of corporate church  status are listed here. Incorporation became a means for the state to control churches in many ways. For example, a corporation is legal entity created, designed, and organized by statute. The sovereign of the corporate part of an incorporated church is the state. An incorporated 501(c)(3) church gets part of her powers from God and part from the civil government. She is under two heads. Part of the church must have elected officers who conduct business meetings, meet statutory requirements, etc. The incorporated part of an incorporated church is not the bride of Christ, the wife of Christ, but rather an extramarital illicit relationship existing alongside the marriage.

In spite of the fact that American churches may now incorporate and obtain Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)”)[EN122] status, they may also operate as New Testament churches outside civil government authority, without persecution and with less exposure to liability than the state incorporated, 501(c)(3) church. Because of the efforts of “Christian” lawyers and the ignorance of pastors and Christians, this truth has been much compromised; most churches and Christians have been convinced that they should incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status; and, as a result, churches which choose to remain totally outside civil government authority face some inconveniences which hardly amount to persecution. The main technique of the unscrupulous lawyers who seek to convince churches to incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status is fear mongering through lies. Biblically ignorant Christians are easy prey for these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In conclusion, because of the First Amendment, and because of state constitutional provisions and laws, a church has a choice in America. She can operate, without persecution but with some inconveniences, either in a manner pleasing to her Lord, Bridegroom, Husband, and Head or in a manner which dishonors and displeases Him. The church who does not love the Lord will choose to dishonor Him, thereby causing Him much grief. Most American churches have chosen to dishonor our Lord, and the chickens are now coming home to roost.

[1] “Heresy,” in its modern sense, means “any opinion which is repugnant to the doctrines of Scriptures. However, as men differ in the interpretation of Scripture, an opinion deemed heretical  by one body of Christians, may be deemed orthodox by another.” See AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “heresy.” Of course, Scripture contains truth and all at variance with truth constitute lies.

One needs to consider the original sense of the meaning of “heresy” and “heretic.” Established churches have killed millions of those whom they labeled “heretics.” They did this because they denied choice to those who disagreed with the state religion. Thus, harlot religious organizations have perverted Scripture in order to force unity. State religions, heretics themselves according to the modern sense, falsely labeled even true believers “heretics.” “The word “heresy” is derived from the Greek very hairein, which translates: “make-choice-between-alternatives” or “to exercise choice in the presence of alternatives.” See Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1964), p. 72 and Leorard Verduin, The First Amendment and the Remnant (Sarasota, Florida: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, 1998), pp. xiii-xiv, 20.

The Word of God teaches that God gives everyone freedom of choice to choose truth or error, regardless of civil government laws which require imprisonment, persecution, and death for “heretics” or for those whose beliefs are deemed dangerous by the civil government or by an established church or religion.

[2] Pfeffer, p. 63.[2] Bill Bradley, Purified Seven Times (Haines City, FL: Landmark Baptist Press, 2001), pp. 88-92. For more information on the John Bunyan story, see Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists, Volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Bryan, Taylor, & Co.; Chicago: Morningside Publishing Co., 1887), pp. 474-539.

[3] Armitage, Volume 1, p. 477. 

[4] Ibid., Volume 2, p. 538.

[5] J. A. Shackelford, Compendium of Baptist History (Louisville, Kentucky: Press Baptist book Concern, 1892), p. 17.

[6] Leonard Verduin, The First Amendment and the Remnant (Sarasota, Florida: The Christian Hymnary Publishers, 1998), p. 50.

[7] Ibid., p. 64.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., p. 85.

[10] Ibid., p. 87.

[11] J. M. Carroll, The Trail of Blood, (Distributed by Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, 163 N. Ashland Avenue, Lexington KY 40502, 606-266-4341), p. 11. See also, Thieleman J. van Braught, Martyr’s Mirror (Scottdale, PA and Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press), pp. 67-78 (This book is the best and most comprehensive book on persecution of Christians through the seventeenth century.); John Foxe and The Voice of the Martyrs, Foxe, Voices of the Martyrs (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2007), pp. 1-46.

[12] Thieleman, pp. 63-186; Carroll; Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), pp. 10-12.

[13] Carroll, p. 16; Thieleman; David Benedict, History of the Donatists (Pawtucket R.I.: Nickerson, Sibley & Co., 1875; Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc.,); Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1964; Reprinted by permission by Paris AK.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc.); Leonard Verduin, The Anatomy of a Hybrid (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976).

[14] Carroll, p. 17.

[15] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 14, citing Bates, M. Searle, Religious Liberty: An Inquiry, New Your and London, International Missionary Council, 1945, p. 139; Rufinni, Francesco, Religious Liberty, New York, The Macmillan Co., 1949, p. 36; and Carlyle, Alexander J., The Christian Church and Liberty, London, J. Clarke, 1924, p. 96; See also, Leonard Verduin, The Anatomy of a Hybrid (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 105-111 and other excerpts.

[16] Armitage, Volume 1, p. 202.

[17] Ibid., p. 204.

[18]  Benedict, p. 99.

[19] Ibid., p. 87.

[20] Pfeffer, p. 18; Verduin, Anatomy of a Hybrid.

[21] Carroll, p. 14.

[22] Ibid., p. 28.

[23] Ibid., p. 33.

[24] Works of Martin Luther, Volume 4 (Philadelphia: A. H. Holman Co., 1931), p. 265 cited in Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 22.

[25] Pfeffer, p. 21, citing Acton, “The Protestant Theory of Persecution,” in Essays on Freedom and Power, p. 92, and Wace, Henry, and Bucheim, C. A., Luther’s Primary Works, Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1885, pp. 194-195, quoted in Noss, John B., Man’s Religions, New York, The Macmillan Co., 1949, p. 92.

[26] William H. Marnell, The First Amendment: Religious Freedom in America from Colonial Days to the School Prayer Controversy (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964), pp. 13-14.

[27] Acton, pp. 102-103, quoted in Pfeffer, p. 21; see also, Verduin, Anatomy of a Hybrid, pp. 158-160, 163-168, 186-198; Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdsmans Pub. Co., 1964) and Thomas Armitage, The History of the Baptists, Volumes 1 and 2 (Springfield, Mo.: Baptist Bible College, 1977 Reprint).

[28] Pfeffer, pp. 23-24.

[29] See Ibid., pp. 24-25 for a concise history of Erastianism in England.

[30] Marnell, pp. 18-20; Armitage; Verduin (both cited books).

[31] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:847 (IV.xix.15) 2: 1486 (IV.xx.1), trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960) cited in Hamburger, pp. 22-23, “[Calvin] also wrote: ‘But whosoever knows how to distinguish between body and soul, between the present fleeting life and that future eternal life, will without difficulty know that Christ’s spiritual Kingdom of Christ and the civil government are things completely distinct.’” Ibid., 2: 1488 (IV.xx.1).

[32] Pfeffer, p. 22, citing Institutes of the Christian Religion¸ quoted in Stokes, Anson Phelps, Church and State in the United States, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1950, I. p. 110.

[33] Pfeffer, p. 22.

[34] Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 23, citing Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2: 1211 (IV.xi.1; ibid., 2: 1487-1488 (IV.xx.2-3).

[35] Pfeffer, pp. 23-24.

[36] Carroll, p. 34.

[37] Ibid., pp. 37-38.

[38] Jerald Finney, God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Company, 2008 and Xulon Press, 2008), Section IV. Go to the “Books” page of for ordering information.

[39] Pfeffer, p. 63.

[40] John Callender, The Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode-Island (Providence: Knowles, Vose & Company, 1838), p. 71.

[41] Marnell, pp. 63-64.

[42] Lumpkin, William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Foundations in the South (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), p. 1; Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston, Mass., Toronto, Canada: Little, Brown and Company, 1958).

[43] Ibid., p. 48.

[44] Pfeffer, p. 66, citing Sanford H. Cobb, The Rise of Religious Liberty in America (New York: The McMillan Co., 1902), pp. 70-71.

[45] Marnell, p. 40.

[46] Ibid., p. 42.

[47] Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), p. 146.

[48] Callender, p. 66.

[49] Marshall and Manuel, p. 148.

[50] Ibid., pp. 147-148.

[51] Ibid., p. 148.

[52] Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), p. v (The Bloudy Tenent was originally published in 1644. Roger Williams was the founder of Rhode Island, the first government in history with complete freedom of conscience. Due to the efforts of Mr. Williams, Dr. John Clarke, and others who followed America has the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which gives freedom of conscience. A brief history of the efforts of Roger Williams and others is recounted in Section IV of God Betrayed.).

[53] Marnell, p. 48.

[54] Williams and Underhill, p. 244.

[55] Ibid., p. vii.

[56] Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), p. 41; Williams and Underhill, p. ix, noting in fn. 1 that “Such is Governor Winthrop’s testimony. Knowles, p. 46.”

[57] Williams and Underhill, p. x.

[58] Callender, p. 72.

[59] Backus, A History of New England, Volume 1, pp. 44-46. Williams and Underhill, p. xiii. (The colonies held their land under the royal patent. Under the royal right of patent, Christian kings (so called) were given the right to take and give away the lands and countries of other men); Armitage, The History of the Baptists, Volume 2 pp. 638-639.

[60] Williams and Underhill, pp. xiii-xiv.

[61] Ibid, p. xiv; Callender, p. 72; Backus, A History of New England…, Volume I, p. 53 (Backus adds item 2, as, according to footnote 1, p. 53, his is from Governor Winthrop’s Journal, Vol. 1, pp. [162, 163]).

[62] Williams and Underhill, pp. xv, 387-389.

[63] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, p. 53; Armitage, The History of the Baptists, Volume 2, pp. 627-640.

[64] Williams and Underhill., p. xxiii.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, p. 59.

[67] Ibid., p. 71. See also, John Clarke, Ill News from New-England or A Narative of New-Englands Persecution (Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., Reprint: 1st printed in 1652), pp. 22-25.

[68] Louis Franklin Asher, John Clarke (1609-1676): Pioneer in American Medicine, Democratic Ideals, and Champion of Religious Liberty (Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc.), p. 27; Clarke.

[69] Asher, p. 29; Clarke.

[70] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, pp. 77, 427.  On p. 427 is the exact copy from Rhode Island records.  In the margin are citations to Exodus 34.3, 4; II Chronicles 11.3, and II Kings 11, 17.

[71] Asher, p. 27.

[72] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, p. 74; cited in James R. Beller, America in Crimson Red: The Baptist History of America (Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2004), p. 13; Armitage, A History of the Baptists,  Volume 2, p. 643.

[73] Beller, America in Crimson Red, p. 13.

[74] Williams and Underhill, p. xxviii.

[75] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, pp. 427-428.

[76] Asher, p. 35.

[77] Ibid., pp. 35-36.

[78] Obadiah Holmes moved from England to Massachusetts. He and several others decided the Baptist way was right and were baptized. He and others were excommunicated in 1650. They moved to Rhode Island where Mr. Holmes became a member of the church pastored by Dr. John Clarke.

[79] Asher, p. 57; See Clarke, pp. 27-65 for a full account of the event.

[80] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1,, fn. 1, p. 189.

[81] Ibid., p. 190.

[82] Ibid., p. 192; Clarke, pp. 50-51.

[83] Ibid., fn. 1, p. 193. (This from a manuscript of Governor Joseph Jencks).

[84] Asher, pp. 78-79.

[85] Lumpkin, p. 2.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Asher, p. 21: Between 1635 and 1640 Congregationalism had been planted in the Connecticut colony. Callender, pp. 67-68: “As the country was more fully discovered, the lands on Connecticut river grew so famous for their fruitfulness, and convenience to keep cattle, that great numbers from New-Town, Dorchester, &c., removed there, under the conduct of Mr. Hains, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Ludlow, and Mr. Hooker, &c., and through inexpressible hardships, through famine, and weariness, and perils of the enemy, they at length settled at Hartford, 1635 and 1636, which was the beginning of the Connecticut colony; and, in 1637, New-Haven colony was begun by a people directly from England[.]”

[88] Lumpkin, p. 2.

[89] Ibid., pp. 3-5.

[90] Ibid., p. 8; see also, for the actual wording of the act against itinerant and other preachers, Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 2, pp. 44-46.

[91] Marnell, p. 87.

[92] William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Piestic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), pp. 60-61.

[93] Lumpkin, pp. 41-45.

[94] Ibid., p. 55, citing J. H. Kilpatrick, The Baptists, (Atlanta: Georgia Baptist Convention, 1911), pp. 37-38.

[95] Ibid., pp. 72-74.

[96] Beller, America in Crimson Red, pp. 181-182.

[97] Lumpkin, pp. 78-79.

[98] Ibid., p. 83.

[99] Beller, America in Crimson Red, p. 197.

[100] Lumpkin, p. 59.

[101] Charles F. James, Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia (Harrisonburg, VA.: Sprinkle Publications, 2007; First Published Lynchburg, VA.: J. P. Bell Company, 1900), p., p. 17.

[102] See Pfeffer, p. 69 for the text of this law.

[103] Ibid.; see also, James, pp. 17-20 for a more comprehensive overview of the laws of Virginia which provided for religious persecution and the established church.

[104] Pfeffer, p. 95. citing Edward F. Humphrey, Nationalism and Religion in America (Boston: Chipman Law Publishing Co., 1924), p. 370.

[105] James, pp. 29-30. Included is a listing of some of those jailed and otherwise persecuted. See also, Beller, America in Crimson Red, pp. 230-250; Lumpkin, pp. 105-120; Grady, What Hath God Wrought, Appendix A, pp. 593-598 citing Lewis Peyton Little, Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia, (Galatin, Tenn.: Church History Research and Archives, 1987), pp. 516-520 (lists many Baptists and the persecutions they endured in Virginia; persecutions such as being jailed for preaching, civil suit, being annoyed by men drinking and playing cards, being jerked off stage and head beaten against the ground, hands being slashed, beaten with bludgeons, being shot with a shotgun, ousted as a justice for preaching, being brutally beaten by a mob, severely beaten with a stick, etc.).

[106] James, pp. 47-48.

[107] Ibid., p. 36.

[108] Ibid., pp. 62-65.

[109] Ibid., pp. 62-64; Pfeffer, p. 96.

[110] Pfeffer, p. 96.

[111] James, p. 63 quoting Dr. John Long.

[112] Pfeffer, p. 98, citing N. J. Eckenrode, The Separation of Church and State in Virginia (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1910), p. 86. Pfeffer notes in Chapter 4 fn. 102 that the text of the bill is printed as an appendix to Justice Rutledge’s dissent in Everson, 330 U.S. 1.

[113] Pfeffer, p. 101.

[114] Beller, America in Crimson Red, pp. 512-515; Norman Cousins, In God We Trust (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1958), pp. 308-314.

[115] Cousins, pp. 125-127; see also, for an edited version, Living American Documents, Selected and edited by Isidore Starr, Lewis Paul Todd, and Merle Curti, (New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Burlingame: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1961), pp. 67-69.

[116] Marnell, p. 130.

[117] Ibid., p. 98.

[118] James, pp. 150-158; Dr. William P. Grady, What Hath God Wrought: A Biblical Interpretation of American History (Knoxville, Tennessee: Grady Publications, Inc., 1999), pp. 166-167.

[119] James, p. 167.

[120] See, God Betrayed, Section V, Chapter 3 for the history of how the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was used to apply the First Amendment to all levels of civil government.

[121] See, e.g., Jerald Finney, God Betrayed, Section VI, Chapters 2 and 7; Jerald Finney, Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2009), Chapters 3 and 7.

[122] See, God Betrayed, Section VI, Chapters 1, 4, 5, 8, and 10 and Separation of Church and State, Chapters 1, 4, 5, and 8 for an explanation of 501(c)(3) status for churches.

The Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme

Jerald Finney
Copyright © September, 2009
Revised January 31, 2020


“And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lu. 16.8b).

It is amazing to see that most of the fundamental “Bible believing” pastors and Christians that I know believe that something is wrong with a church who refuses to incorporate and get Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)”) status. Biblical principles are against incorporation and 501(c)(3) for churches, and civil law does not purport to require that churches get either corporate or 501(c)(3) status. In fact, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, laws, and regulations of the federal government as well as the constitutions, laws, and regulations of the states guarantee that churches may remain free under God without persecution. This article addresses church 501(c)(3) status.

501(c)(3) invites churches to seek a tax exemption from civil government, even though the First Amendment already has erected a “high and impregnable wall” of separation between church and state which forbids civil government from making any law, including any taxing law, respecting a New Testament Church.

The more I study the subject of “separation of church and state,” the more I realize that secular scholars have more insight into the issue than do most of those, including pastors, who call themselves fundamental Bible believers.  Both the Internal Revenue Service and secular scholars know that churches are not required by law to be incorporated and get 501(c)(3) status and that 501(c)(3), as applied to churches, is an exemption-definition-control scheme which is implemented simply by invitation. In this article I give a brief review of the 501(c)(3)  exemption-control-definition scheme and insights from the law, from the Internal Revenue Service, and from legal scholars.

To qualify for tax exempt status under 501(c)(3) religious organizations must meet the following requirements, i.e. abide by the following rules:

1. Must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,
2. net earnings must not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
3. no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
4. the organization may not intervene in political activity, and
5. the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

The above listed rules, except for rule number 5, are stated in 501(c)(3). The original 501(c)(3) law had no accompanying rules, but four of the five were added by legislative enactment, and signed into law by the president. The last one, “may not violate fundamental public policy,”is not stated in the law; that is, it is not listed as a requirement in § 501(c)(3). This requirement was unilaterally implemented by the Internal Revenue Service and upheld as law by the United States Supreme Court in the illogical Bob Jones University, 461 U.S. 574,  (1983) case. The federal government may add additional requirements to the law in the future.

Under these rules, the state controls, defines, and instructs a corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization to a large degree. Control and definition go hand in hand. The federal government wants to control churches, and does so through 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A).

501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status not only come with five government imposed rules. Such status also invokes a myriad of regulations. See, e.g., Publication 557 (01/2019), Tax-Exempt Status for Your OrganizationApplication for Recognition of ExemptionExempt Organizations Treasury RegulationsCharities and Nonprofits A-Z Site Index (F-J)Exempt Organization Revenue RulingsPub. 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (PDF)Common Tax Law Restrictions on Activities of Exempt OrganizationsExempt Organizations – Ruling and Determinations LettersrExempt Organizations – Private Letter Rulings and Determination LettersExempt Organizations AnnouncementsAnnual Filing Requirements for Supporting OrganizationsExempt Organizations NoticesPublic Disclosure and Availability of Exempt Organizations Returns: Copies of Exempt Organizations Tax DocumentsExempt Organization Revenue ProceduresExempt Organizations UpdateExempt Organizations – Employment TaxesThe Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments – Section IITermination of Exempt Organization(“… Internal Revenue Code Section 6043(b) and Treasury Regulations Section 1.6043-3 establish rules for when a tax-exempt organization must notify the IRS that it has undergone a liquidation, dissolution, termination, or substantial contraction. Generally, most organizations must notify the IRS when they terminate. Among other things, notice to the IRS of a termination will close the organization’s account in IRS records. …).

A study of relevant law, as well as IRS regulations and legal scholarship reveals that either 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) status is voluntary. 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) churches are tax exempt, whereas First Amendment churches are non-taxable. See, First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations) (022610).  In addition,  501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) statuses are control-definition schemes.

IRC § 508(c)(1)(A) declares that churches are an exception to the requirement for filing for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. According to 508(c)(1)(A), churches are automatically tax exempt if they obey the rules and regulations that come with 501(c)(3). See Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status (042814).

The IRS doesn’t hide the fact that churches are non-taxable under the First Amendment and that the exemption-definition-control scheme is implemented by invitation. The IRS proclaims in IRS Publication 1828 (2007):

“Although there is no requirement to do so, many churches seek recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS because such recognition assures church leaders, members, and contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits…. Unlike churches, religious organizations that wish to be tax exempt generally must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status unless their gross receipts do not normally exceed $5,000 annually.”

In the exemption and restriction scheme, the government extends an invitation to incorporated “religious organizations” to receive a tax exemption in return for allowing the government to interpret and categorize their expression and activities.

Civil government not only knows what it is doing when encouraging churches to incorporate and seek 501(C)(3) status; it also blatantly belittles the fact that the IRC provisions exempting churches from taxation and providing for certain controls over corporate 501(c)(3) “churches” are contrary to the First Amendment. The federal government flaunts the lack of knowledge and understanding of the average Christian as to both spiritual and earthly matters. IRS Publication 1828 states:

Congress has enacted special tax laws applicable to churches, religious organizations, and ministers in recognition of their unique status in American society and of their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.” [Emphasis mine.] …

A comparison of the above statements of the IRS with the words of the religion clause of the First Amendment reveals the fact that the IRS flaunts the fact that Congress has enacted laws “respecting the establishment of religion and preventing the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment religion clause says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”  [Emphasis mine.]

Some legal scholars who have studied the issue know what the civil government is up to with the exemption-definition-control scheme. For example, Richard Garnett, assistant professor at Notre Dame Law School, wrote in A Quiet Faith? Taxes, Politics, and the Privatization of Religion, published in Volume 42 of B.C. L. Rev. starting on page 771 (this is a paraphrase of selected portions of the article with citations omitted):

  1. “The imposition of a tax is, after all, an assertion of power and an ‘application of force.’ The same is true of the decision not to tax, or to exempt from taxation. A power is no less real that is exercised selectively or indulged with restraint. The decision to exempt certain associations, persons, activities, or things from taxation presupposes and communicates the ability to do otherwise; definitional lines drawn to mark the boundaries of such exemptions implicitly assert the power to draw them differently…. My claim here is that the decision to exempt religious associations from federal taxation may reasonably be regarded as an assertion of power—the power, perhaps, to ‘destroy’—over these communities, their activities, and their expression….
  2. “In other words, maybe the power to tax churches, to exempt them from taxation, and to attach conditions to such exemptions really does as Chief Justice Marshall quipped, ‘involve the power to destroy’ religion. Neither heavy-handed repression nor even overt hostility toward faith is required, but merely the subtly didactic power of the law. Government need only express and enforce its own view of the nature of religion—i.e., that it is a private matter—and of its proper place—i.e., in the private sphere, not in politics—and religious believers and associations may yield to the temptation to embrace, and to incorporate, this view themselves….
  3. “It is an exemption-and-restriction scheme in which the government extends an invitation to ‘religious organizations’ to receive a tax exemption in return for allowing the government to interpret and categorize the expression and activities of the church.  There is the danger that, having made their own the government’s view of religion’s place, now-humbled and no-longer-prophetic religious associations will retreat with their witness to the ‘private’ sphere where—they now agree—they belong, leaving persons to face the state alone in the hollowed-out remains of the public square….
  4. “Still it strikes me that the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)’s exemption-and-restriction scheme is noteworthy in the extent to which it invites government to label as ‘propaganda’ or ‘campaign[ing]’ what are, for religious believers and communities, expressions of their faith and responses to their calling. It is far from clear that this is an appropriate task for the liberal state….
    “My concern … is that the premises of the conditional exemption scheme, the labeling it invites, and the monitoring of distinctions it creates will tame religion by saying what it is and identifying what it is not, tempt religion to revise its conception of itself and of its mission, and convince religious consciousness to internalize the state’s own judgment that faith simply does not belong in politics….
  5. “[The tax exemption] is simply the government’s way of paying churches not to talk about certain things, enforce certain beliefs, or engage in certain actions—in other words, it’s the government’s way of privatizing the church….
  6. “By determining for its own purposes the meaning of religious communities’ statements and activities, and by enforcing the distinctions it draws, government subtly reshapes religious consciousness itself. In other words, by telling religion what it may say, really is saying, or will be deemed to have said, and by telling faith where it belongs, government molds religion’s own sense of what it is….
  7. “[Certain pronouncements] led my colleague, Professor Bradley, to suggest in another context that ‘[t]he Court is now clearly committed to articulating and enforcing a normative scheme of ‘private religion.’ Indeed, he argues powerfully that the Court’s post-Everson v. Board of Education cases ‘are most profitably understood as judicial attempts to move religion into the realm of subjective preference by eliminating religious consciousness.’ … [T]he Court turned to privatization ‘as the ‘final solution’ to the problem of religious faction.’ Its ambition—not merely the unintended effect of its decisions—is not only to confine the potentially subversive messages of religion to a ‘nonpublic ghetto,’ but also to revise and privatize the messages themselves. Having acquiesced to judicial declarations that it is a private matter, and accepted that its authority is entirely subjective, religious consciousness is unable to resist the conclusion that its claims to public truth are ‘implausible nonsense,’ and therefore cannot help but concede the field of public life and morality to government….
  8. “[T]his privatization of religion is not simply its institutional disestablishment or an entirely appropriate respect on government’s part for individual freedom of conscience and autonomy of religion institutions. Nor is the claim only that the exemption privatizes religion by deterring political activism and silencing political advocacy by religious believers and communities. It is, instead, that the exemption scheme and its administration subtly re-form religion’s conception of itself. Government evaluates and characterizes what churches say and do, and decides both what it will recognize as religious and what it will label as political….
  9. “[P]rivatization of the church is its remaking by government and its transformation from a comprehensive and demanding account of the world to a therapeutic ‘cacoon wrapped around the individual.’ It is a state-sponsored change in religious believers’ own notions of what their faith means and what it requires…. The government tells faith communities that religion is a private matter, and eventually, they come to believe it.
  10. “And finally, the retreat of religious associations to the private sphere suggests an ill-founded confidence that government will not follow. But it will. The privatization of religion is a one-way ‘ratchet that stems the flow of religious current into the public sphere, but does not slow the incursion of political norms into the private realm.’”

Michael Hatfield, Associate Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law makes some important points in his article published in Volume 20 of Notre Dame Journal of Ethics and Public Policy beginning on page 125. (I suggest that the serious student get the article and study it for himself.):

  1. “There is an assumption among contemporary scholars [&, I might add, among Pastors and other Christians] that a church doing without tax exemption is ‘fundamentally repugnant,’ so there is no need for substantive analysis of the tax issues involved if a church becomes taxable. Instead of analyzing the tax problem, the tax problem tends to be used to introduce ‘bigger’ ideas about the Constitution, religion, and politics. In the current scholarship, the context of the issue – religion and politics – tends to become substituted for the substance: federal income taxation. The critical issue, however, is federal income taxation.”
  2. Professor Hatfield states that he uses the terms ‘Taxable Church’ and ‘Tax Exempt Church’ to make it clear that churches need not be Section 501(c)(3) organizations.…
  3. Professor Hatfield states, “A tax without a cost has no meaning.… Because of the unique treatment churches receive under the Internal Revenue Code, the impact of the revocation is likely to be more symbolic than substantial.”
  4. He states: “Churches ought not make guesses about the value of their assets or their moral convictions. There is no reason to believe that most American churches are eager to claim an express political identity, though there are indications that, more and more, religious and political identities in America are being fused. For churches with a clear moral conviction to campaign, the implication of the Asset Management Analysis is clear: crunch the numbers. Determine the cost of losing tax exemption. Decide if that cost is worth campaigning. Do not be distracted by imaginations as to what tax exemption is about. It is about taxes. It is about money. It is not about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to be a church, which is a religious issue and not a tax issue. It should be – and presumably is – the religious convictions and not the tax worries of churches that keep them out of politics.”

Thus, a New Testament Church (“NTC”) – that is, a church operating according to New Testament principles – is non-taxable, because even if the term “taxable” is used, civil government cannot, according to its own IRS law, tax a NTC because (1) all her income is from gifts (See Section 102 of the IRS Code; Professor Hatfield points this out in his article), and (2) a NTC spends every dime given in tithes and offerings for church ministries.  Since gifts are not net income, what is left after subtracting expenses from net income? Even a business with no net income pays no taxes. And an individual or a business has to make a certain amount of money before paying any taxes.

How can it be that “Bible believing” Christians have gotten the churches of America so far astray from the principles for churches laid down by God in His Word? Are pastors and Christians ignorant or are they willfully ignorant? We cannot hope to straighten America out unless we first straighten our churches out, but it seems that more Christians are concerned about the state of America than they are about the state of the churches in America. God’s people and God’s churches, as well as America, are being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge.

Note. The sodomites understand what 501(c)(3) for churches means, yet pastors and other Christians continue to ignore the issue because they, like lepers to whom the leprosy has spread to the head, have ‘their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciciousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4.18-19).  Here is a link to a sodomite article on the issue: “Equality is what we’re all about in Maine” (110518: Checked link; link is no longer active).