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XI. The Fight against the Assessment Bill Continues; The Virginia Act for Religious Liberty, Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Passes instead; Thomas Jefferson’s Unswerving Position on Religious Liberty, All Vestiges of the Establishment Removed


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry



Jerald Finney
Copyright © March 5, 2018


Virginia Bill For Religious Freedom -Passed in 1786. Click above image to go to the online PDF.

The people were against the assessment bill, and the Presbyterians reversed their position, opposed the bill, and for the first time, on August 10, 1785, the whole Presbyterian body supported Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom,” “although that bill had been before the Legislature since June 1779.” The Baptists asked all counties which had not yet prepared a petition to do so and agreed to prepare a remonstrance and petition against the assessment. Thus the Presbyterians and Baptists stood together, but for different motives. Mr. Madison’s opinion was that the Presbyterians were “moved by either a fear of their laity or a jealousy of the Episcopalians. The mutual hatred of these sects has been much inflamed by the late act incorporating the latter…. Writings of Madison, I., 175.”[1]

Patrick Henry, the leading proponent of the assessment bill was elected governor, “depriving the bill of its ablest legislative leader.” The Memorial and Remonstrance had received wide distribution. At the next session, the General Assembly was flooded with petitions and memorials from all parts of the State, overwhelmingly against the bill. The bill was defeated by three votes.

On January 16, 1786, the Virginia Act for Religious Liberty, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was passed instead. That bill provided for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Click here to see the entire PDF of the Bill. 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; …
  • “II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
  • “III. And though we well know that this assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to her own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet, as we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural right of mankind, and that if any act shall hereafter be passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural rights.”[2]

The act included three factors: church, state, and individual. It protected the individual from loss at the hands of the state incursion into his church affiliation, and implicitly banned church establishment. “It did not attempt to define the relations between Church and State except in terms of the individual.”[3]

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the above bill, never swerved from his devotion to the complete independence of church and state. He wrote:

  • “The care of every man’s soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well, what if he neglect the care of his health or estate, which more clearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he shall not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.”[4]
  • “But our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God….
  • “Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”[5]

The Baptists continued their struggle to remove all vestiges of the establishment until 1802 when the glebes were sold and all religious societies were placed on equal footing before the law. The glebes were tracts of land and buildings built thereon for the accommodation of the minister and his family, all at the expense of the people within the parish. The Baptists fought to have the act incorporating the Episcopal church repealed. Reuben Ford and John Leland attended the first 1787 assembly meeting as agents in behalf of the Baptist General Committee.[6] On August 10, 1787, the act incorporating the Episcopal church was repealed, and until 2001—when Jerry Falwell and trustees of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, who were joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, challenged the Virginia Constitutional provision forbidding the incorporation of churches in federal district court—no church in Virginia could be incorporated.[7]

“The Baptists continued to memorialize the Legislature … and in 1799 that body passed an act entitled ‘An Act to Repeal Certain Acts, and to Declare the Construction of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution Concerning Religion,’ which act declared that no religious establishment had legally existed since the Commonwealth took the place of the regal government, repealed all laws giving to the Protestant Episcopal church any special privileges, and declared that ‘the act establishing religious freedom’ contains the true construction of the Bill of Rights and of the Constitution; but no order was given for the sale of the glebes.”[8]

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.”[9]

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.”[10]


Endnotes

[1] Lenni Brenner, editor, Jefferson and Madison on Separation of Church and State (Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc, 2004), p. 74 (letter dated August 20, 1785); 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. 134-139. Madison’s quote was from a letter to Mr. Jefferson.

[2] Cited in Norman Cousins, In God We Trust (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1958), 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.

[3] 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. 96-97.

[4] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 94, citing Saul K. Padover, The Complete Jefferson (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1943), p. 943. Keep in mind that although Pfeffer’s quotes of Jefferson and others often spoke of God and His sovereignty and freedom of conscience, Pfeffer passes over God as though he had not been mentioned.

[5] Pfeffer, citing Joseph L. Blau, Cornerstones of Religious Freedom in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1949), pp. 78-79.

[6] James, pp. 142-146.

[7] See Falwell v. Miller, 203 F. Supp. 2d 624 (W.D. Va. 2002).

[8] James, pp. 142-145.

[9] Marnell, p. 130.

[10] Ibid., p. 98.

Reply to man who inquired regarding “the only reason [he has] been exploring actually starting a Church is to find a way to allow the tax deduction to donors,” “organizing and operation as a non-tax exempt church or a tax paying church,” “full blown” lone wolf “ministry,” etc.

My Reply follows the E-mail inquiry

E-mail Inquiry

On Friday, March 1, 2019, 12:35:10 PM CST, _______________________ <______________________> wrote:

Dear Brother Finney:

I have been studying the articles, opinions, legal issues, etc. on your website.  As far as planting a church is concerned, I agree with nearly everything you propose. If I should ultimately decide to form a church, I will be calling on you for assistance.  However, should a great number of churches begin to follow your lead, I would be surprised if the government did not seek another way to crush that movement.  Being right would not make much difference.

I did also find very interesting the articles regarding organizing and operation as a non-tax exempt church or a tax paying church.  If I read you correctly, short of forming as an NT church, a church, by choosing to initially organize or switch to a tax paying church status, avoids restrictions imposed by the government regarding campaigning or preaching against law or public policy.  Correct me if I am wrong.

The only thing I am not convinced of at this point is that any ministry should or must grow out of or be attached to the Church, NT church or not.  In my case, I believe I have been called to evangelism.  As I believe the Spirit stated it, “I mean a full blown ministry.  Don’t think small.”  The only reason I have been exploring actually starting a Church is to find a way to allow the tax deduction to donors, as a ministry outside a Church has to have 501(c)(3) exemption for that to be possible.   I have almost come to the conclusion to operate a a tax paying ministry to avoid government restrictions on what I can or cannot say.  If some potential donors won’t donate due to lack of a deduction, so be it.  I would not enter into this if I was interested in getting rich.  Even as a for profit, tax paying ministry, it would be my sincere intent to use nearly all income to the ministry for promoting the gospel and saving souls, which is as it should be.

Oh.  I see I left out my main complaints with most Churches in general:  They don’t teach the full Gospel.  They use watered down translations/versions of the Bible.  They often speak against listening to anyone that might be preaching on TV.  Although I certainly do not accept all that may be heard there, I have found that some on TV actually teach more of the KJB than I ever heard in Church.  At this point, I wonder how many other poor slobs have been shorted on the truth of the full Gospel.

I know you are a busy man, Sir, but if you find the time, any comment from you would be valued.

Thank you.
_______________________


My reply

Jerald Finney jerald.finney@sbcglobal.net To: ___________________ Mar 2 at 12:30 PM

Dear __________________________________,

I could write many pages or even a book addressing your e-mail. I will briefly but humbly and in love answer some of the matters raised in your e-mail. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27.6).

Let me just say a few relevant things. The purpose of this ministry is to help otherwise properly ordered churches (according to the KJB) organize according to New Testament church doctrine, no matter what positions civil government or church/state establishment takes on the matter. Fortunately, churches in America can organize according to Bible principles without persecution. This is because of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions. Of course we can see the writing on the wall – the day will come when Christ’s remnant churches in America will have no choice but to go underground.

There is no such thing as tax paying status for a church. A New Testament church (a First Amendment church) is non-taxable. A 501c3 or 508 church is tax exempt. I have explained this in online essays and books. I do not have time to explain it in this e-mail. The real reason churches seek tax exempt status is so that contributions are tax deductible. This means that people give for a tax deduction, not because they love the Lord, the latter being the only reason God will honor anything one gives.

First Amendment churches are non-taxable and submit themselves to no federal government rules (that is, if they are not incorporated under state law or have become a type of legal entity other than a corporation). Churches are not businesses. Unlike churches, businesses are not protected by the First Amendment. The only way that a church can become taxable is for the government to pass a law stating that churches are taxable. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from passing any such law.

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.” Nonetheless, the federal government passed laws, Sections 501(c)(3) and 508 of the Internal Revenue Code which apply not only to non-church organizations but which also “respecting an establishment of religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Churches can choose to apply for 501(c)(3) status or claim 508 status, but they are not required to do so because of the First Amendment. If they choose to do so, they submit to the Internal Revenue Service rules that come with 501(c)(3) and 508 status.

I would also give conclusory answers to some other issues you raised that can be verified with a lengthy, Holy Spirit led KJB New Testament study:

  • God ordained His churches, not ministries outside His churches. Ministry is to be under the authority of a visible New Testament ordered church under Christ and Christ alone, not government (or any other entity) or Christ and another entity. Lone wolf ministries are not in God’s perfect will. I understand from experience that the Holy Spirit may call a church member to initiate a ministry which the church will not support since most pastors and churches are locked into their traditions of supporting only certain ministries; most restrict the working of the Spirit. Most do not understand that the Holy Spirit lives in, comforts, instructs, and directs every believer according to his gift(s) and calling. In that case, the member may have no other choice but to go it alone.
  • The New Testament principle and model for an evangelist is for him to be ordained and sent out from a local New Testament church.
  • God has principles for His churches which you do  not understand, as proven by your e-mail.
  • You wish to establish for an extra-biblical organization which will ultimately do much harm to the cause of Christ.

Question: Where did the Holy Spirit state:

“”I mean a full blown ministry.  Don’t think small.”?

What do you mean by small? A Bible principle is:

“Little is much when God is in it. Much is Satanic when God is not in it.” God’s Word makes clear that few enter God’s gate (the narrow way) and many enter Satan’s ways (the broad way). For example, mega churches think big in the worldly fleshly sense but minimize or eliminate the eternal and spiritual because doing otherwise means persecution or rejection by the multitudes of lost people and spiritual babies who fill their coliseums and contribute to their temporal earthly goals and ambitions.

I agree with you that few, if any, churches preach the whole Gospel. Even relatively good pastors fear touching some essential doctrines including the doctrines of church, government, and separation of church and state. Many are heretical. Most are apostate. They are not churches under Christ. They are not Christ’s churches.

Believers should proceed in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. One can start a church, but he cannot start a church under Christ outside His guidelines. Christ’s churches are built by Him and are under Him in all things. He has an order for church planting. Any church started, organized, and operated outside His plan is not His church. It may be a church (an ekklesia, an assembly of people) but it is not His church.

God bless.
Brother Jerald Finney

 

Texas Property Tax Law, Booklet, Form, and Sales Tax Law and Forms

This page links to resources and gives excerpts from resources, to include some cases in the Endnote, and is not a legal analysis of any law or the constitutionality thereof.

Texas Property Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations

Texas Constitution, Article 8, Section 2

Texas Tax Code – TAX § 11.20. Religious Organizations

Texas Property Tax Assistance Website (forms, video etc.)

Handbook of Texas Property Tax Rules (April 2018)

Texas Property Tax Exemptions [Click link to download the booklet.]

Brief list of and notes on cases – See Endnote

Sales Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations

The exemption for religious organizations is provided for in Sections 151.310, 156.102 and 171.058 of the Texas Tax Code,
and more detailed information can be found in Comptroller’s Rules 3.322, 3.161, 3.541 and 3.583.

AP-209 Application for Exemption – Religious Organizations

Included on that form is the following statement: ” Special note to unincorporated entities: Include your organization’s governing documents, such as the bylaws or constitution.”


Endnote

904 S.W.2d 621 (1995), CORPUS CHRISTI PEOPLE’S BAPTIST CHURCH, INC., Petitioner, v. NUECES COUNTY APPRAISAL DISTRICT et al., Respondents. No. D-4333. Supreme Court of Texas. Argued October 20, 1994. May 25, 1995. Rehearing Overruled September 14, 1995. [History of property tax exemption. See I. below for excerpt]

194 S.W.3d 501 (2006); CAMERON APPRAISAL DISTRICT, Petitioner, v. Thora O. ROURK, et al., Respondents. No. 04-0359. Supreme Court of Texas. June 2, 2006. [Regarding administrative procedures for contesting property taxes]

846 S.W.2d 554 (1993) BEXAR COUNTY APPRAISAL REVIEW BOARD, et al., Appellants, v. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, et al., Appellees. No. 04-89-00543-CV. Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio. January 20, 1993. Rehearing Denied January 20, 1993. {Good on Walz, etc. “We consider first the district’s contention that the exemption violates the Texas Constitution, which mandates a tax exemption for “actual places of religious worship” and states that “all laws exempting property from taxation other than the property mentioned in this Section shall be null and void.” Tex. Const, art. VIII, § 2. The district argues that the parking lot at issue in this case is not an actual place of religious worship, and that to exempt it from property taxation goes beyond article eight, § 2 and is void.”]

“For purposes of the tax exemption, a place of religious worship includes not only the sanctuary, but also those grounds and structures surrounding the sanctuary which are necessary for the use and enjoyment of the church.” [See the dissent for good info.]  City of Austin v. University Christian Church, 768 S.W.2d 718, 719 (Tex.1988).[3]

I.

904 S.W.2d 621 (1995), CORPUS CHRISTI PEOPLE’S BAPTIST CHURCH, INC., Petitioner, v. NUECES COUNTY APPRAISAL DISTRICT et al., Respondents. No. D-4333. Supreme Court of Texas. Argued October 20, 1994. May 25, 1995. Rehearing Overruled September 14, 1995.

This case involved a late application made after the application law was enacted. The case gave a brief history of the application law:

I.

Taxes are imposed upon real property each year as of January 1. Tex.Tax Code § 21.02. On that date a lien authorized by article VIII, section 15 of the Texas Constitution attaches to the property to secure their payment. Id. § 32.01. The amount of taxes assessed is not determined until later in the year, however, when appraisals have been completed and tax rates set. Id. §§ 26.01 & 26.05. Tax bills must be mailed by October 1 of the year for which taxes are assessed, or as soon thereafter as practicable. Id. § 31.01. Taxes are due upon receipt of the bill, and if not paid by February 1 of the following year, the taxing unit may sue to collect the tax and foreclose its lien. Id. §§ 31.02 & 33.41.

Article VIII, section 2(a) of the Texas Constitution authorizes the Legislature to exempt the property of religious organizations from taxation, and the Legislature has exercised this authority. Id. § 11.20. To be entitled to the exemption, however, a religious organization, like certain others claiming tax exemptions, must apply to the chief appraiser in the district where the property 623*623 is located before May 1 of the first year for which the tax exemption is claimed. Id. § 11.43(a), (c) & (d). Application for the exemption in subsequent years need not be made unless the chief appraiser requires it. Id. § 11.43(c).

An application for exemption was first required of religious organizations in 1982, after section 11.43 of what was then the new Tax Code took effect. Act of May 26, 1979, 66th Leg., R.S., ch. 841, § 3(a), 1979 Tex. Gen.Laws 2217, 2313. Before 1980, under the prior law, the procedure for claiming the exemption was for a religious organization to file with the taxing authority a sworn, itemized list of exempt property. Act approved May 14, 1931, 42nd Leg., R.S., ch. 124, § 1, 1931 Tex.Gen.Laws 211, 211-12 (formerly TEX.REV.CIV.STAT.ANN. art. 7150(1)). This statute was repealed, effective January 1, 1980, by the enactment of the new Tax Code. Act of May 26, 1979, 66th Leg., R.S., ch. 841, §§ 3(f) & 6(d), 1979 Tex.Gen.Laws 2217, 2315, 2330. The religious organization exemption under section 11.20 of the new Tax Code, which simply carried over from the prior law, became effective on January 1, 1980, along with other parts of the new Code. Act of May 26, 1979, 66th Leg., R.S., ch. 841, § 3(f), 1979 Tex.Gen.Laws 2217, 2315. As already noted, however, this was two years before the effective date of section 11.43, governing applications for exemption. Thus, in 1980 and 1981 a religious organization was not required to file a list of property, make application, or do anything else to claim the property tax exemption.

The requirement of an application and the deadline for filing that application appear to have caught religious organizations and other tax-exempt persons unaware, with the result that some lost their exemption because they did not timely apply for it. See House Comm. ON WAYS & MEANS, BILL ANALYSIS, Tex.H.B. 835, 73rd Leg., R.S. (1993) (explaining the reason for the twelve-year extension enacted in 1993, which also applies to the six-year extension enacted three years earlier.) In response, the Legislature in 1990 enacted section 11.433, effective September 6, 1990, which states:

  • 11.433. Late Application for Religious Organization Exemption

(a) The chief appraiser shall accept and approve or deny an application for an exemption under Section 11.20 [for religious organizations] after the filing deadline provided by Section 11.43 if the application is filed not later than December 31 of the sixth year after the year in which the taxes for which the exemption is claimed were imposed.

(b) The chief appraiser may not approve a late application for an exemption filed under this section if the taxes imposed on the property for the year for which the exemption is claimed are paid before the application is filed.

(c) If a late application is approved after approval of the appraisal records for the year for which the exemption is granted, the chief appraiser shall notify the collector for each taxing unit in which the property was taxable in the year for which the exemption is granted. The collector shall deduct from the organization’s tax bill the amount of tax imposed on the property for that year if the tax has not been paid and any unpaid penalties and accrued interest relating to that tax. The collector may not refund taxes, penalties, or interest paid on the property for which an exemption is granted under this section.

(d) The chief appraiser may grant an exemption for property pursuant to an application filed under this section only if the property otherwise qualified for the exemption under the law in effect on January 1 of the tax year for which the exemption is claimed.

(e) An application may not be filed under this section after December 31, 1991.

Act of June 6, 1990, 71st Leg., 6th C.S., ch. 8, § 1, 1990 Tex.Gen.Laws 46. This is the provision at issue in this case. In 1993, the late application deadline was further extended when subsection (e) was amended to read as follows:

(e) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the chief appraiser shall accept and approve or deny an application for an exemption under Section 11.20 after the filing deadline provided by Section 11.43 if the application 624*624 is filed not later than December 31 of the 12th year after the year in which the taxes for which the exemption is claimed were imposed and if the application is filed before January 1, 1995. This subsection expires January 1, 1996.

Act of May 30, 1993, 73rd Leg., R.S., ch. 971, § 1, 1993 Tex.Gen.Laws 4235. Section 11.433 does not extend the time for applying for an exemption if the taxes have already been paid, nor does it permit refunds.

Section 11.433 is similar to two other statutes enacted in 1991 permitting late applications for tax exemptions, although the permission granted by those two statutes has now expired. TEX.TAX CODE § 11.434 (six-year extension for school exemption until December 31, 1992); § 11.435 (two-year extension for charitable organization exemption until December 31, 1991); Act of May 27, 1991, 72nd Leg., R.S., ch. 836, §§ 6.3 & 6.4, 1991 Tex.Gen.Laws 2890, 2894-95. The Legislature has also extended the deadline for claiming a homestead exemption for a year after taxes are paid or become delinquent. Tex.Tax Code § 11.431. Section 11.431, unlike sections 11.433-.435, appears to have been motivated by constitutional concerns. See Op.Tex. Att’y Gen. MW-259 (1980) (“A legislatively designated cutoff date for homestead exemption claims under article VIII, section 1-b of the Texas Constitution will not alone operate to deprive a taxpayer of an exemption …”); see also Op.Tex. Att’y Gen. JM-221 (1984) (section 11.431 permits tax refunds when homestead application is filed late).

 

Virginia Property Tax Exemption Law and Forms and Sales Tax Exemption Form

Information collected February 8, 2019.

Virginia Property Tax Law

Virginia Constitution: Article 10: Section 6. Exempt property.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the following property and no other shall be exempt from taxation, State and local, including inheritance taxes:

(6) Property used by its owner for religious, charitable, patriotic, historical, benevolent, cultural, or public park and playground purposes, as may be provided by classification or designation by an ordinance adopted by the local governing body and subject to such restrictions and conditions as provided by general law.

Note. The above constitutional provision clearly indicates that the property does not have to be in the name of the church: “Property used by its owner for religious …purposes.” However, the law and forms may present a problem.

The Code of Virginia § 58.1-3606. Property exempt from taxation by classification.

  1. Pursuant to the authority granted in Article X, Section 6 (a)(6) of the Constitution of Virginia to exempt property from taxation by classification, the following classes of real and personal property shall be exempt from taxation:
  2. Property owned directly or indirectly by the Commonwealth, or any political subdivision thereof.
  3. Real property and personal property owned by churches or religious bodies, including (i) an incorporated church or religious body and (ii) a corporation mentioned in § 57-16.1, and exclusively occupied or used for religious worship or for the residence of the minister of any church or religious body, and such additional adjacent land reasonably necessary for the convenient use of any such property. Real property exclusively used for religious worship shall also include the following: (a) property used for outdoor worship activities; (b) property used for ancillary and accessory purposes as allowed under the local zoning ordinance, the dominant purpose of which is to support or augment the principal religious worship use; and (c) property used as required by federal, state, or local law.

TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS BODIES (http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/finance/Pages/Tax-Exempt_Churches.aspx )

Virginia law authorizes tax exemption on real and personal property owned by churches or religious bodies and exclusively occupied or used for religious worship or for the residence of its minister and such additional adjacent land reasonably necessary for the exempt use. Property can be held by incorporated churches or by unincorporated churches or religious bodies in the name of a Court-appointed trustee, an elected or appointed bishop, minister or other ecclesiastical officer with proper authorization or a corporation created pursuant to §57-16.1 of the Virginia Code, as amended, to hold the property.

Tax Exemptions for Churches and Religious Bodies Brochure

Application for Exemption (This is for the County of Prince William. See https://hampton.gov/433/Tax-Exemption for property tax exemption webpage for Hampton VA. You can click the link at the bottom of that page to go to the application for exemption. Section 6 a states: “6. Under sections A, B or C please check the qualifying use for which exemption is being sought (one only). A. Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia – current qualifying uses; owned and exclusively occupied by churches or religious bodies for religious worship or for residences of their ministers.” There is no specific subsection of Section 6 that fits holding in property in trust as we do it. I mention this so that you know that you may have to deal with the tax board to get exemption on property and may have to litigate this issue if you try to claim a property tax exemption for property used by the church. I would be glad to talk with you more about this.)

Exemption for Church Owned or Leased Vehicles.

Affidavit Affirming That a Privately Owned or Leased Vehicle is Used for Church Purposes. 

We have gone over Indiana Property Tax Exemption law and what you need to do at closing to keep the property tax exemption. As we discussed, you will emphasize to the Title Co. what they need to do at closing and make sure they do it. I will talk to them as well as to the name of the owner in the  deed, and the way the Trustee is to sign the deed.  Call me at any time for any reason.

Virginia Sales Tax Law

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA SALES AND USE TAX CERTIFICATE OF EXEMPTION is at: https://tax.virginia.gov/sites/default/files/taxforms/exemption-certificates/any/st-13a-any.pdf

Question and reply concerning setting up a trust for a “ministry” from a “prophetess” dedicated to “the manifestation of prophecies”

Jerald Finney
February 1, 2019

I received the following e-mail with questions concerning setting up a trust (identifiers omitted):

Hi,

I really appreciated your site.  I am starting a prophetic ministry.  I will be operating out of a trust to cover office and travel expenses and whatever other needs, but no salaries or profits, and relying on donations.  I was wondering if  you could answer a couple of questions:

Click the above to go to the LDS article, “5 Righteous Women Called ‘Prophetess’ in the Bible”

1) Is there anything I need to do with any conceivable “entity” to declare myself a ministry?  I am not a pastor, but a prophetess.  My ministry will be dedicated to the manifestation of the prophecies in the Bible.  To the best of your knowledge, must the ministry be connected to a church?  I am a believer in the house church and am not a part of an established church.

2) Is an IRS information return needed for donations received?  I understand that this is required of a 501c3.

3) Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?

Quote from LDS Elder, L. Tom Perry

4) I am encountering a tricky thing regarding beneficiaries, as I don’t want to name other ministries.  Truly the ones with beneficial interest are the “people of God” as a whole, especially the people of the Promised Land, which I believe to be the USA.  I don’t know if I can say that legally.  In addition, the projects that I plan to start in order to bring this about will involve people, places and things that have not yet come into being.  Do you know of anyone who can counsel me about how to establish the beneficiaries of a trust in this prophetic context, in which the Spirit will be my guide?

This comes with a prayer for you, your family, your church, and your ministry – that God may pour out His blessings on you, as you do on us!

Sister _____________________

My Reply

Dear Ms _____________________,

Thanks for your desire to please the Lord. Since you have asked me questions and given me information about what you are doing, I must answer you honestly and in love.

A New Testament ministry must be under the authority of a church under Christ in all things. One cannot separate a God ordained ministry from a church under Christ. A ministry that is not under the authority of a church under Christ is not in God’s perfect will. Also, to be approved of God, a church and a ministry must be called of God and in line with Bible teaching in all things including  leadership, makeup, doctrine, etc.

To answer to your question, “Do I call myself a non-profit organization, or is does that apply to a 501c3?” would require more time than I have, so I just address one facet of the question. If you organize a church or ministry of a church as 501c3 or 508, you have just submitted that church or ministry to a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Why set up a trust (a properly ordered trust, not the type of trust you envision) and defeat its purpose by placing the entity you are trying to keep completely out of man’s control, and then partially submit it to man’s control?

I can see by your e-mail that you do not understand the concept of the Bible trust and the beneficiary thereof. The “people of God” are not the beneficiaries of a church Bible trust. The trust used by this Churches under Christ Ministry is patterned after Bible trust doctrine and is recognized, not created, by American law as a non-legal entity.

These matters took me many years of Holy Spirit led study of the Bible (the KJB being the Word of God in English), history, and law. When even a lost person, much less a born again believer, grabs bits of information for which he/she has no studied understanding, he cannot implement the information with knowledge and wisdom. Only those born of the spirit can understand spiritual matters, and the basis of understanding for that person in all matters concerning faith and practice is the Word of God (the King James Bible in English).

Some people such as Peter Kershaw, Ben Townsend of the so-called Ecclesiastical Law Center push a ill-informed and flawed “trust” scheme and other deceivers misdefine and misapply the corporation sole (a type of non-profit corporation whose only difference from any other non-profit corporation is that it has only one, as opposed to several, officers) to allegedly help unknowledgeable pastors and churches organize outside man’s law.  The former mislead  churches in their application of the concept “church” trusts. The latter do not understand but nonetheless falsely promote and define “corporation sole” for unwitting churches who are seeking to do things the Bible way. These frauds who falsely claim to have specialized knowledge and skills mislead believers who seek to do things God’s way rely on these deceivers.

The Bible conclusively proves that the USA  is not the “Promised land” and reveals other errors in your e-mail which I do not have time to address.

I know no one who can help you, including myself, because one of us has been misled by the wrong spirit. I am a born again believer in God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and am convinced that God the Holy Spirit has guided me through my studies so that what I believe and teach is in line with God’s Word. I invite anyone to show me, from the KJB only without reference to any interpretation of the Bible or any other writing, where I am wrong on these matters.

Click the above image to go to ““What Books Should I Read?”: Essential Readings in Mormonism for Every Member”

Again, I trust that you are sincere, but sincerely uneducated and misinformed about many matters. The evidence suggests that you have fallen for the lies of the LDS cult; if not, your email assertions match some LDS lies. I believe that the LDS church uses the King James Bible but other books take priority and are considered as authoritative. I believe that the LDS church teaches that the King James Bible is correct insofar as it is correctly translated and interpreted and that other LDS books fill in a lot which your prophets and teachers, as led by the god of this world, assert was left out of or incorrectly preserved in the KJB. Those deceivers have to correct it and fill in so as to accommodate the teachings of the devils, disguised as angels, who inspired them to believe their lies. The LDS church teaches a false Jesus and false doctrine and leads millions to hell.

I write this to you in love hoping that you will see the error of your ways. I am not your enemy because I tell you the truth. I especially suggest that you diligently seek the Lord and the salvation He offers through His son (not the false Jesus of the LDS religion). I recommend the following as you seek the truth about God and eternity: What the Word of God teaches about Salvation and After Salvation.

For His Glory,
Jerald Finney

Remnant Churches under Christ in America

Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 30, 2019

Since the inception of the church during Christ’s earthly ministry, He began to build his first assembly, his first church (ekklesia). He called out His apostles. Disciples followed Him. As he walked and assembled with His apostles and disciples, He taught them and answered their questions (See The New Testament of Jesus Christ:  His Executor Named and Empowered).

An assembly of people meeting regularly for some purpose is a church. However, most such assemblies are not churches of Christ, churches under Christ. When Christ declared that “Thou are Peter and upon this rock [Himself], I will build my church” (Matthew 16.18), he knew that there were already churches (ekklesias) in existence that were not His churches and that there would be such churches in the future. He said “I will build my church,” speaking of an institution that would be made up of local autonomous assemblies under Him in all things (See Epheisians 1.22; Colossians 1.18) each following His New Testament principles as to organization, purpose, calling, make-up etc.

1Only a very small remnant of churches who name the name of Jesus and give Jesus Christ and the Bible (The King James Bible) or some interpretation of the Bible lip service are churches of Christ, churches under Christ. This is easily ascertained because almost all churches are legal entities, mainly corporate and Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508 religious organizations. That alone disqualifies them as churches of Christ. Why? Because such churches have chosen to submit themselves to more than one authority. They have betrayed their first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. See What does church, inc. mean? for explanation of church incorporation.

4Likewise, a church who obtains Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508 tax exempt status has further betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a church chooses to submit herself to the federal government through its agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the rules that come with 501(c)(3). For more details on 501(c)(3) and 508 status, see What is 501c3?, Should a Church Be a 508 Church?

A church who submits to any authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ has betrayed her first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. She, like the church of Ephesus about 30 or 40 years after Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Ephesus, had left her first love (Revelation 2.1-7). Christ commended her on her many good works. Yet, he said to her, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5). A church whose candlestick is removed by Christ is no longer a Christ’s light for the world, no matter her “good works.”

Some churches and believers are ignorant of Bible teaching on these matters. Some do not understand what church incorporation and 501(c)(3) and 508 status are. They do not understand that church legal status puts a church under an authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ. They have never been taught the principles and facts and have not studied these matters out for themselves. Once they have been enlightened but continue in their betrayal of our Lord, God holds them to a higher standard. They no longer have an excuse; and if they continue in their sin, Jesus Christ will remove their candlestick. They will be churches, ekklesias, assemblies of people, but they will no longer be churches of Christ.

Other Short Lessons and Essays:

  1. What is a Spiritual entity?
  2.  What is a legal entity?
  3. Is a church a Spiritual entity, a legal entity, or a Spiritual/legal entity?
  4. Is it illegal for a church in America not to incorporate? Does a church have to be a 501c3?
  5. Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated?
  6. Should a Church Be a 508 Church? 
  7. Does a church in America need an Employer (Tax) ID Number?
  8. Did President Trump do away with 501(c)(3) Requirements?
  9. What does church, inc. mean?  
  10. Who Is the head of an incorporated church? 
  11. What is 501c3? 
  12. What is 508? 
  13. What is the history of the First Amendment? 
  14. What is the History and Meaning of “Establishment of Religion” in America? 
  15. What is an established church? 
  16. What is a First Amendment Church? 
  17. Question from a Church Concerning Church Organization 

Is a Church a Hospital for Sinners?

Jerald Finney
January 28, 2019

I received the following e-mail on January 28, 2019:

Good morning Brother Finney,

I’m going to use your outline “The Doctrine of the Church” to teach on Wednesday evenings. My question is one that we so often hear; I’d like your response to it: “The church is a hospital for sinners.”

I’ve always had a problem with that statement.

Thank you,
Pastor ___________________
__________________ Church

I responded to his inquiry as follows:

Dear Pastor ________________________,

I am humbled that you are using my outline to teach the doctrine of the church. I know that you will carefully examine it and modify it as the Lord leads. Please let me know if you find things that you feel need to be clarified, corrected, etc. according to the Word of God.

I humbly offer the following response to your question concerning a church being a hospital for sinners. I have heard that preached by so-called fundamental Baptists who probably got it from some heretic or apostate of another denomination.

Is a church a hospital for sinners? Yes and no. An assembly of people meeting regularly for some purpose is a church. However, most such assemblies are not churches of Christ, churches under Christ. When Christ declared that “Thou are Peter and upon this rock (Himself), I will build my church,” he knew that there were already churches (ekklesias) in existence that were not His churches and that there would be such churches in the future. He said “I will build my church,” speaking of an institution that would be made up of local autonomous assemblies under Him in all things (See Epheisians 1.22; Colossians 1.18) each following His New Testament principles as to organization, purpose, calling, etc.

Christ commissioned his church to go into the world and preach the gospel, baptize, evangelize the saved and to do all that he commanded them.

  • Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
  • Mark 16:15-16:  “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
  • Luke 24:46-47: “And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

See, for more information on the foundation of Christ’s churches: The New Testament of Jesus Christ:  His Executor Named and Empowered

Before our Lord ascended to heaven, the Lord, being assembled together with His church:

Acts 1:4 : “… commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” … Acts 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Thus did the disciples; and, on the day of Pentecost, Christ filled them with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2.1-4) as foretold by John the Baptist (Matthew 3.26; Mark 1.8, Luke 3.16).

Immediately, Peter stood up and preached the gospel (Acts 2.1-36).  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2.41). Three thousand souls were added to them (Christ’s church which had waited at Jerusalem)! Those who were saved were baptized and added to the only church under Christ in existence at that time, the church at Jerusalem.

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

This is the  pattern for all believers and churches from that time on: salvation, baptism into a local church body, discipleship in the assembly, and going into the world in accord with His will. God makes this clear as one studies his doctrine of the church as given us by the apostle Paul in his epistles.

God’s epistles written by the Apostle Paul further develop the doctrine of the church. Those epistles “fully reveal and instruct as to the purpose of local churches as to their unique place in the counsels and purposes of God.” Through those epistles we know that a church under Christ:

  • “is not an organization, but an organism, the body of Christ; instinct with His life, and heavenly in calling, promise, and destiny. Through him alone we know the nature, purpose, and form of organization of local churches, and the right conduct of such gatherings.”

A New Testament church is a spiritual organism made up of born again believers. God reveals the make-up and purpose of a church under Christ in Ephesians; 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12.3-8 and other passages:

Ephesians 4:11-16 “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.”

New converts are immediately added to the family of God. God desires them to be baptized into a local church body under Christ. Sadly, such churches are few and far between in America and elsewhere in the world. We see this progression in Ephesians 2:19-22:

  • “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.”

First, addition to the household or family of God, then baptism and church membership. Of course there are those who get saved and do not become church members, but that is not God’s ideal. He wants every believer to be a member of a local church of Christ.

God’s churches under Christ are for the saved and their purpose is stated in Ephesians 4.11-16, 1 Corinthians 12, and other passages. A church is for the saved, not for the lost. Saved church members are to assemble for the purposes given in Ephesians 4.11-16. Then, they are to go out into the world as ambassadors for Christ and preach the gospel to every creature! When sinners get saved, God wants them to be baptized into a local church under Christ.

I suggest that 1 Corinthians 2 gives insight into why the local assembly is for the saints, not the lost. The lost are worldly, fleshly. The saved are heavenly, spiritual. Lost people cannot know the things of God as can born again believers. They are  dead in trespasses and sins whereas the saved are spiritually alive. They serve the god of this world. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2.1-2).

The New Testament teaches that new believers are to be baptized into a Bible believing church under Christ according to Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12.3-8. There they enjoy the fellowship with other believers in the Holy Spirit and are equipped to go to their homes, to the workplace, and to the world as ambassadors winning the lost to Christ and baptizing them into a local New Testament church of Christ.

Instead, many churches tell their members to bring the lost to church where they will hear the gospel and do little to mature the spiritual babies in the assembly. Many of those churches will preach nothing but “salvation” on Sunday morning; and, at other times and at best, little more than a few simple fundamentals of the faith. As a result, most believers remain spiritual babies fed with milk (See 1 Corinthians 3.1-3; Hebrews 5.11-14 and 6.1-2) distracted and misled by the many lost in their midst. A small remnant of Christ’s churches carry out His commission and purposes as the mega-churches and false prophets (such as Joel Olsteen) preach the heresies of the devil to assemblies of lost people (for the most part) and lead untold millions to hell (See, e.g., 2 Corinthians 11.13-15).

I hope this is helpful. Again, let me know if you believe something needs correction.

For His Glory,
Brother Jerald Finney