Tag Archives: 26 U.S.C. § 508

A Biblical and Legal Analysis of “How to Start a Church” by Helping Hands Outreach

Other relevant essays and articles:

  1. Church Internal Revenue Code Sections 508(c)(1)(A) Tax Exempt Status (042814)
  2. Federal government control of churches through IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exemption (121012)
  3. The church incorporation-501(c)(3) control scheme (121021)
  4.  The Rules and Regulations that Come with Church IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) Tax-Exempt Status (031722)
  5. Are Churches Automatically Tax Exempt? (040822)
  6. A Biblical and Legal Analysis of the Helping Hand Outreach Publication, “WHY ALL CHURCHES SHOULD BE A 508(c)(1)(a).”
  7. Legal answer to Pastor’s inquiry concerning whether a potential donor of substantial gift an claim a tax deduction under IRC Section 508 even though the church will not give an IRS acknowledgement (123118)

1 John 2:5: “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”

John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

Please feel free to call me at any time to discuss church organization. If you get a voicemail, please leave a message and I will return your call at any time, as does Helping Hand Outreach. This is a  ministry and does not charge for ministry services or time. God bless.

Jerald Finney
Copyright © April 24, 2022

This article, and the resources linked to herein, explains why  Helping Hand Outreach is devoid of both Biblical and legal understanding. The Bible–not mysticism, man’s reasoning, man’s philosophies, or man’s law–is to be the sole foundation for all matters of faith and practice. The word of God gives the principles which every Christian and church should seek to honor when considering church order. According to Bible church doctrine, “NO CHURCH SHOULD BE 508(c)(1)(A)” or a legal entity of any kind.

Helping Hand Outreach and its website were pointed out to me by a pastor who took the time to seek out the matter of proper church organization. He examined what they had to say. He stated the charges for their services are considerable and continuing. Then he found the Churches under Christ Ministry website, studied materials on the website, and contacted the ministry. He is now organizing the church he is head elder of according to New Testament principles. This article reveals that Helping Hand Outreach – like StartCHURCH, other similar organizations and many “Christian” lawyers and law firms – are worldly organizations that help churches grieve our Lord and dishonor their His Word, the Bible, by violating New Testament church doctrine. They do so  by entangling churches with the state and federal governments. These organizations prey upon the ignorance of pastors, church leaders, and churches. They lead the unlearned into darkness.

Of course, Helping Hand Outreach adds a new twist. The website states:  “We are the leader in starting Faith Based Organizations as 508(c)(1)a)’s. We have been performing for 12 years and our FBO’s are operating in 48 out of 50 states.” They state that all churches should be “508(c)(1)(A).” The truth is that no church should be 508(c)(1)(A), 501(c)(3), or a legal entity of any kind.

When I went to the  website and clicked the “get started” button and filled in the requested information, they sent me an email which read, in part:

  • Thank you for expressing interest in starting a 508(c)(1)(a) Ministry. How your ministry if formed is crucial to what it can and cannot do. Nonprofit organizations are not all the same; some have rights and benefits that others do not.
  • Please complete one of the following options. 1) Fill out the order and pay online through our secure shopping cart at https://www.helpinghandoutreach.com/product/508/ or, 2) Fill out the attached PDF “508 Application” and return with payment of a check or payment made by credit card over the phone.
  • The filing includes the 1) articles of incorporation, 2) certificate of incorporation, 3) certificate of good standing, 4) SS4 with TEIN from the IRS, 5) the charities registration exemption letter, 6) draft bylaws, and 7) sample first minutes of the board meeting. This is a Washington State filing. The 508 is good in all 50 states and recognized in all foreign countries that have signed the Hague Convention. It is common for ministries to be formed in one state but operate in other states. We serve as the registered agent for your organization.
  • The total fees includes recording, all recording fees and the first year of registered agent services is $2500. We do accept pay plans and do not charge any interest on balances. The ministry filing is completed within 20 days.
  • In addition we can acquire an apostille if your ministry will be doing international work. An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. A list of countries that accept apostilles is provided by the U.S. State Department. The fee for an apostille is an additional $30.
  • After formation, once a year the 508(c)(1)(a) Ministry needs to be renewed. The renewal fee, including the state fee, is $110. Please let us know if you have additional questions.
  • Jerald, we look forward to helping you be a light to the world!

See the Endnote for the entire email.

Let me explain, uniquivocally, why “NO CHURCH SHOULD BE 508(c)(1)(A)” and no church should be a legal entity of any kind.

A church dishonors God when she recognizes any authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ep, 5:25). He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Our Lord wishes churches to choose to keep Christ the head (authority) over all things to the church (See, e.g., Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 1:18).

A church under Christ alone is a spiritual non-taxable entity only protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and outside the jurisdiction of man’s law. The pastor of such a church, as well as the church, has all the protections of the First Amendment. He can preach as the Lord, not the federal government, leads.

A church who becomes a legal entity of any kind has chosen another authority, civil government, for many purposes. A legal entity is a temporal earthly entity which can contract, sue, be sued, be charged with a crime, or act legally in any other ways. A church can only become a legal entity through man’s law: through non-profit corporation law, unincorporated association law, charitable trust law, business trust law, Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) tax exemption law, etc. For thorough Biblical and legal explanation see God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. See also, Short Answers to Some Important Questions for shorter quicker answers to some important matters. A church who chooses to become a legal entity has voluntarily placed herself, as a legal person, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution for many purposes.

Of course, the Helping Hand Outreach publication has a small amount of truth mixed with a lot of lies. For example, as Helping Hand Outreach states,  there is considerable confusion about what pastors can and cannot say from the pulpit. Their article does not address the cause of the confusion. The cause of the confusion is a lack of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of God’s word and the application thereof. Pastors and members of churches who choose to remain under Christ and Christ alone have not been confused. They have always, even under penalty of death, preached what the Lord leads them to preach. They have always exercised their God-given freedoms and principles regardless of the laws of civil government. They have always honored civil government as long as civil government law did not require them to disobey God.

America, by making the First Amendment part of the highest law of the land, became the second civil government, with any lasting influence, to protect religious freedom and soul liberty. Originally, the First Amendment applied only to federal jurisdiction. However, in 1833, Massachusetts became the last state to abolish the requirement for church establishment (church incorporation) on the state level. Church legal entity status is a choice, but not a requirement, on the state level. However, most American churches have betrayed God and chosen to become corporations or other types of legal entities on the state level and/or either to apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or claim 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status on the federal level. The Lord Jesus Christ as sole authority over the church is not sufficient for them. See, The History and Meaning of the First Amendment.

Click here to see what President James Madison, the man who had led the fight for the adoption of the First Amendment in 1791, wrote on February 21, 1811 in vetoing with a bill which would have incorporated a church in Washington D.C.

Because of the First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions, churches can choose, without persecution, to do things God’s way which is explained in the New Testament. The First Amendment provides for religious freedom and soul liberty. The First Amendment protects those churches who choose to remain under Christ alone.

Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status, not Form 1023 as stated in the Helping Hand Outreach publication, violate the First Amendment. Form 1023 is merely an application form, not a law. The tax exempt law, 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A), violates the First Amendment as to churches. Both 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) are laws passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The First Amendment 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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thus, by voluntarily submitting to a law such as 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A), a church has taken herself from under the founding law of the land, the highest law regarding religion, speech, association, and press while submitting to a legislative law which on its face is unconstitutional for churches. Churches choose to do this because of ignorance of God’s will and for perceived “benefits.”

For a complete analysis of church 508(c)(1)(A) status, see Church Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) Tax Exempt Status. That essay explains in some detail matters such as the difference between church 501(c(3) and 508(c(1)(A) tax exempt status, and church First Amendment non-taxable status.

Even a business which does not make a profit will pay no taxes. Is a church to be an earthly temporal organization whose gifts to the corporation operates under man-made law, rules, and regulations? Or is a church to be a spiritual eternal body ordered according to the principles of God and which uses money given to God according to the will of God? The real reason for federal tax-exempt status, whether through 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A), is to assure donors that the IRS will approve tax deductions for gifts. In the event of audit, the donor must show an IRS Acknowledgment from the 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) church. The IRS may require the giver to the 508(c)(1)(A) church to prove that it was a church he gave to. Of course, 501(c)(3) churches are on the IRS list of approved tax exempt organizations.

By giving IRS Acknowledgments, the 508(c)(1)(A) church claims tax exempt status without having filed Form 1023. She has put herself in the same position, by claiming the same status, as the 501(c)(3) church. She has taken herself from under the First Amendment and put herself under a law, a law which the First Amendment forbids, as to churches.

Of course, churches do not have to worry too much anyway. The IRS, to this point in time, does not have the resources and personnel to keep an eye on churches. Besides, cannot churches and pastors can be trusted to proceed with honesty, integrity, knowledge, understanding and wisdom? Or can they? Those who feel that the 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt church is not under the same rules and regulations as other tax exempt churches certainly cannot.

For analysis of 501(c)(3) see: Federal government control of churches through 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exemption and The church incorporation-501(c)(3) control scheme .

The Helping Hand Outreach teaching, WHY ALL CHURCHES SHOULD BE 501(c)(1)(A), mentions only one rule that comes with 501(c)(3), the Johnson Amendment. The truth is that Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status for churches come with five rules and a host of regulations. Note Rule 5, “Shall not violate fundamental public policy,” has not “yet” been applied to churches. See, The Rules and Regulations that Come with Church IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) Tax-Exempt Status.

No Christian or church should go to Helping Hand Outreach for help with the matter of church organization.

For an examination of many false reasons churches give for legal entity status, see Analysis of False Reasons of Christians and Lawyers for Church Corporate, 501(c)(3), 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status or Legal Status of Any Kind.


Endnote

508(c)(1)(a) Application
Yahoo/Inbox
  • Dan Peterson <info@helpinghandoutreach.org>Unsubscribe
    To:Jerald
    Tue, Apr 26 at 7:03 PM
    508(c)(1)(a) Application
    Hello Jerald,
    Thank you for expressing interest in starting a 508(c)(1)(a) Ministry. How your ministry if formed is crucial to what it can and cannot do. Nonprofit organizations are not all the same; some have rights and benefits that others do not.
    Please complete one of the following options. 1) Fill out the order and pay online through our secure shopping cart at https://www.helpinghandoutreach.com/product/508/ or, 2) Fill out the attached PDF “508 Application” and return with payment of a check or payment made by credit card over the phone.
    The filing includes the 1) articles of incorporation, 2) certificate of incorporation, 3) certificate of good standing, 4) SS4 with TEIN from the IRS, 5) the charities registration exemption letter, 6) draft bylaws, and 7) sample first minutes of the board meeting. This is a Washington State filing. The 508 is good in all 50 states and recognized in all foreign countries that have signed the Hague Convention. It is common for ministries to be formed in one state but operate in other states. We serve as the registered agent for your organization.
    The total fees includes recording, all recording fees and the first year of registered agent services is $2500. We do accept pay plans and do not charge any interest on balances. The ministry filing is completed within 20 days.
    In addition we can acquire an apostille if your ministry will be doing international work. An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. A list of countries that accept apostilles is provided by the U.S. State Department. The fee for an apostille is an additional $30.
    After formation, once a year the 508(c)(1)(a) Ministry needs to be renewed. The renewal fee, including the state fee, is $110. Please let us know if you have additional questions.
    Jerald, we look forward to helping you be a light to the world!
    May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
    Dan Peterson
    253-459-9553
    Why All Churches Should Be A 508(c)(1)(a)
    Many professionals have been asking for more detailed information on Section 508(c)(1)(a). We have prepared a legal analysis about the legislative history, intent, and court rulings concerning Faith Based Organizations organizing and operating under Section 508(c)(1)(a) and Section 501(c)(3). If you value freedom of speech and freedom to express religion, please click on the link below to our website for this important information.
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Are Churches Automatically Tax Exempt?

Jerald Finney
Copyright © April 8, 2022

Many Christians and churches take the position that churches who do not file Form 1023 in order to obtain federal tax exempt status are “automatically exempt.” They believe that Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) grants automatic tax exempt status to churches. Is this position correct? For emphasis, this brief essay will go directly to that one question which I have already answered in more extensive and comprehensive writings such as Church Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) Tax Exempt Status, and  The Rules and Regulations that Come with Church IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) Tax-Exempt Status.

508(a),(c)(1)(A) states:

“(a) New organizations must notify Secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status

“(c) Exceptions
“(1) Mandatory exceptions Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to
“(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches….”

501(c)(1)(A) does not state that churches are “automatically exempt.” Clearly, 501(c)(1)(A) states that churches are mandatory exceptions to the requirement for for filing for (501)(c)(3) tax exempt status. “Churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches” (not other types of other organizations)  may claim 501(c)(3) status without filing for it.  501(c)(3) rules and regulations are part of 501(c)(3) status.  One cannot separate the status from attributes that go with it. The attributes of the status define the status. A church may claim the status without filing for it.

The IRS understands this simple truth. Page 3 of IRS Publication 1828 states, churches that meet the requirements of § 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS” [Bold red emphasis mine]. The IRS repeats this on page 24 of IRS Publication 557, “Tax –Exempt Status for Your Organization.” Under Organizations Not Required To File Form 1023 churches are listed. The following sentence is included: “These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).” [Bold italicized emphasis added.].

With 508(c)(1)(A) the government declared in law that they trusted churches and “Christians,” of all people, to understand their actions and to honor their agreements. The government made it more convenient for churches, and for no other type of organization, to obtain tax exempt status. They falsely believed that Christians and churches were bound by a higher law and could be trusted to diligently honor their word. Some are, but churches who are corporations,  Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt, or legal entities of any kind are not bound by a higher law. They have forsaken higher law by submitting to authorities other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

One requirement for 501(c)(3) status is that the church give donors IRS Acknowledgements for tithes, offerings, and gifts. Should the IRS audit a donor who claimed a deduction for gifts to a church, the IRS will want the IRS Acknowledgment and proof that the giver of the Acknowledgement was a church.

The requirements of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(1)(A) status are given in The Rules and Regulations that Come with Church IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) Tax-Exempt Status.

Some Christians argue that they don’t care what the government requires in order for granting them the “benefits” of tax-exempt status. They know that their authority, the IRS, probably will not catch them since they do not have the resources to monitor churches and pastors. These Christians and churches take God out of the equation. The Lord knows all and does not honor such behavior by believers and churches. He expects his children to honor their word and their agreements which they voluntarily enter into. They are dishonoring God and man, and ignorance will not excuse their misdeeds:

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:1-10).

My reply to pastor teaching on Matthew 16.18 and Ephesians 1.22 thereafter questioned by accountant about church non-taxable status and the First Amendment

CLICK HERE TO GO TO
LETTERS AND QUESTIONS FROM PASTORS AND OTHERS ANSWERED

Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 14, 2019

CONTENTS:
1. THE PASTOR’S E-MAIL
2. MY REPLY

 1. THE PASTOR’S E-MAIL

Hello Brother Finney,

I have been preaching/teaching on Mt. 16:18 and Eph. 1:22 for the last two weeks. After the service one gentleman (who is an accountant) asked me to show him where in the First Amendment it says that churches are non-taxable.

Just checking with you if I answered him correctly. The phrase, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF….”  Would not taxing the church fall under, “…prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”?

Thanks for the 15 page article it was very helpful, also the one about Sovereignty.

And to your question, yes our church would like to be one of your “Lighthouse Churches”.

Keeping the Faith,
Brother ________________ for
________________________

 2. MY REPLY

Dear Brother ____________________,

What a blessing to hear that you are teaching these matters. By so doing, you are already a “lighthouse church.” I hope to set up some online conferences for pastors and churches who are fighting this battle for Christ’s churches. I will let you know when we get that going. Keep up the good work and let us keep in contact.

The only way a church, an individual, or a business can become taxable is for Congress to pass a law taxing them. For Congress to pass a law taxing churches is forbidden by the First Amendment. You correctly pointed out to the accountant that for Congress to tax a church would violate the First Amendment free exercise clause. It would also violate the First Amendment establishment clause because taxing churches would require a law made by Congress which would control churches, a law respecting an establishment of religion.

It does not violate the First Amendment for civil government to tax individuals and businesses. Only churches and religions have First Amendment protections. Of course, due to the 501(c)(3) and 508 laws made by Congress in 1954, churches can choose to place themselves under federal government controls by becoming tax exempt as opposed to non-taxable. First Amendment churches are non-taxable. 501(c)(3) and 508 churches are tax exempt. When a church freely applies for 501(c)(3) status or claims 508 status, that church becomes tax exempt, not non-taxable. Tax exempt status places another authority over a church other than the Lord Jesus Christ; and certain rules enforceable by the Internal Revenue Service come with that status. First Amendment non-taxable status gives churches protection from federal government intervention in any way, unless the church has chosen to become a legal entity by applying for state non-profit corporation status or has made herself a legal entity by some other action.

I believe 501(c)(3) and 508 are unconstitutional as applied to churches in that they violate the First Amendment religion clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.” 501(c)(3) or 508 status for churches respects an establishment of religion and prevents the free exercise thereof. Yet most churches, not being churches of Christ or churches under Christ, freely embrace 501(c)(3) and 508 status, thereby betraying their first love.

The accountant, like almost all attorneys, including myself until 2005, never knew the true history of the First Amendment. I had studied a Christian revisionist history of the First Amendment. The real history of the First Amendment makes very very clear that the First Amendment was meant to separate church and state and, in so doing, it was meant, among other things, to prevent the federal government from taxing churches and/or using tax money to support any religion or church.

In addition, the United States Supreme Court, although wrong about removing God from civil government matters, was right to declare that the First Amendment has erected a high and impregnable wall between church and state, a wall that was meant to keep church and the federal government completely separate:

  • “The constitutional inhibition of legislation on the subject of religion has a double aspect. On the one hand it forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship…. On the other hand, it safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion…. The interrelation of the ‘establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ clauses [according to the United States Supreme Court] has been well summarized as follows: ‘The structure of our government has, for the preservation of civil liberty, rescued the temporal institutions from religious interference. On the other hand, it has secured religious liberty from the invasion of the civil authority.’” Donald T. Kramer, J.D. Annotation: Supreme Court Cases Involving Establishment and Freedom of Religion Clauses of Federal Constitution, 37 L. Ed. 2d 1147 § 2 citing Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 91 L. Ed. 711, 67 S. Ct. 504, 168 A.L.R. 1392 (1947), reh’g denied 330 U.S. 855, 91 L. Ed. 1297, 67 S. Ct. 962. For a full discussion of Everson and the removal of God from practically all civil government affairs, see Section V of God Betrayed.

In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’” McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 210-211 (1948). Jefferson, contrary to the assertions of Christian revisionists, clearly believed in a secular state and separation of church and state.

Separation of church and state does not equate to separation of God and state. It does not mean that civil government should keep God out of civil government. God ordained civil government in order for man to have direct control over certain matters: the protection of life, liberty, and property. God desires every individual, family, civil, and church government to choose to recognize Him and to operate within the jurisdictional boundaries He set out in His Word. He also desires total separation of church and state. See Part I of God Betrayed for explanation.

I would also suggest that you refer the accountant to the Law Review Articles linked to on the following webpage: LAW REVIEW ARTICLES: 501(C)(3), 1ST AMENDMENT HISTORY, ETC.

May the Lord continue to richly bless you and and this Churches Under Christ Ministry as we go forward for His Glory.

Brother Jerald Finney

Federal government control of churches through IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) tax exemption


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012
Revised April 26, 2014


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 4 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application; Chapter 4 of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities


Click here for audio recording of this teaching.

The 501(c)(3) Song

A 501(c)(3) church agrees to abide by the rules that come with the status. A 501(c)(3) church also has many regulations which it is required to honor. See article below for full explanation of those rules and links to the IRS regulations. See Publication 4221: Compliance Guide for Tax Exempt Organizations (“Federal tax law provides tax benefits to nonprofit organizations recognized as exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code). The Code requires that tax-exempt organizations comply with federal tax law to maintain tax-exempt status and avoid penalties….”).

Click here to go to: ANSWER TO QUESTION REGARDING A LAWYERS FALSE STATEMENTS CONCERNING CHURCH CORPORATE 501(c)(3) STATUS

Requirements_501c3

Uncle Sam Wants God's Churches
Uncle Sam Wants God’s Churches

In the twentieth century, the federal government added more cheese to the trap—26 U.S.C. or Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) § 501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)” or “501c3”) tax exemption. The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) exerts a certain amount of control over an incorporated 501(c)(3) “church.” Scripture makes clear that God wants no one else—especially the unregenerate—controlling, defining, and restricting His bride from totally following His precepts. IRC terms set limits on and control the activities of the corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization. Definition of terms used in the IRC by IRS personnel who do not have the expertise to define biblical terms further results in the operation of a corporate 501(c)(3) organization in ways inconsistent with biblical principles.

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. A New Testament church, which is a non-legal entity, is also a First Amendment church. 501(a),(c)(3),(h) reads in relevant part:

Ҥ 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…” (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) (2007) in relevant part).

1Notice, in the above law, that churches are not mentioned in 501(c)(3). It does mention, among other things, “[c]orporations … organized and operated exclusively for religious … purposes.” Even the federal government thereby recognizes that the basic character of a church who seeks and obtains 501(c)(3) status has changed and that church has become a “religious organization.” That happens when a church incorporates under state law. When a church incorporates, it becomes a corporation organized exclusively for religious purposes.

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, not God, defines “religious purposes” as to an incorporated church. What if an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization considers an activity to be God-ordained and spiritual, but the civil government disagrees? The civil government with authority over that issue controls.

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

LBJ led the charge for Rule No. 4 in IRS Code Section 501(c)(3)
LBJ led the charge for Rule No. 4 in IRS Code Section 501(c)(3)

“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,

Rule No. 4
Rule No. 4

“5. the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy” (IRS Publication 1828 (2007), pp. 3, 5. This and all IRS publications referred to may be accessed at irs.gov. IRS details on proscription #3 are on pp. 5-6 of IRS Pub. 1828. Just mentioning a candidate may violate proscription #4. Detailed guidelines with consequences of violation of proscription #4 are on pp. 7-11 of Pub. 1828. As to proscription #5, public policy is determined by the courts.).

Notice that the last requirement—“may not violate fundamental public policy”—is not from law; that is, it is not listed as a requirement in § 501(c)(3). This requirement was made law by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bob Jones University, 461 U.S. 574, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582-583, 586-588, 588, 591 fn. 10, 595-596, 602 fn 28, 603, 604, fn. 29 at 604 (1983):

  • “On January 12, 1970, a three-judge District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the IRS from according tax-exempt status to private schools in Mississippi that discriminated as to admissions on the basis of race…. Thereafter, in July 1970, the IRS concluded that it could ‘no longer legally justify allowing tax-exempt status [under § 501(c)(3)] to private schools which practice racial discrimination.’ IRS News Release, July 7, 1970, reprinted in App. in No. 81-3, p. A235. At the same time, the IRS announced that it could not ‘treat gifts to such schools as charitable deductions for income tax purposes [under § 170].’ Ibid. By letter dated November 30, 1970, the IRS formally notified private schools, including those involved in this litigation, of this change in policy, ‘applicable to all private schools in the United States at all levels of education.’ …
  • The IRS implemented Rule No. 5, and the highest authority for the 501c3 religious organization upheld the IRS rule.
    The IRS implemented Rule No. 5, and the highest authority for the 501c3 religious organization upheld the IRS rule.

    “The court permanently enjoined the Commissioner of Internal Revenue from approving tax-exempt status for any school in Mississippi that did not publicly maintain a policy of nondiscrimination….

  • “Bob Jones University [was] a nonprofit corporation located in Greenville, S. C. Its purpose is ‘to conduct an institution of learning …, giving special emphasis to the Christian religion and the ethics revealed in the Holy Scriptures.’ Certificate of Incorporation, Bob Jones University, Inc. [Bob Jones University had a policy that] Students who date outside of their own race will be expelled…. After failing to obtain an assurance of tax exemption through administrative means, the University instituted an action in 1971 seeking to enjoin the IRS from revoking the school’s tax-exempt status.
  • “The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina held that revocation of the University’s tax-exempt status exceeded the delegated powers of the IRS, was improper under the IRS rulings and procedures, and violated the University’s rights under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment…. The District Court found, on the basis of a full evidentiary record, that the challenged practices of petitioner Bob Jones University were based on a genuine belief that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage.
  • “The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a divided opinion, reversed…. The Court of Appeals concluded that § 501(c)(3) must be read against the background of charitable trust law. To be eligible for an exemption under that section, an institution must be ‘charitable’ in the common-law sense, and therefore must not be contrary to public policy. In the court’s  view, Bob Jones University did not meet this requirement, since its ‘racial policies violated the clearly defined public policy, rooted in our Constitution, condemning racial discrimination and, more specifically, the government policy against subsidizing racial discrimination in education, public or private.’ … The court held that the IRS acted within its statutory authority in revoking the University’s tax-exempt status. Finally, the Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s arguments that the revocation of the tax exemption violated the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.
  • “[Included in the case was Goldsboro Christian Schools, a nonprofit corporation located in Goldsboro, N. C., a private Christian school which prohibited interracial dating based upon sincerely held religious beliefs.]
  • “[The Supreme Court reasoned in adding the ‘public policy’ requirement to the [IRC]:]
  • ‘The general words used in the clause …, taken by themselves, and literally construed, without regard to the object in view, would seem to sanction the claim of the plaintiff. But this mode of expounding a statute has never been adopted by any enlightened tribunal — because it is evident that in many cases it would defeat the object which the Legislature intended to accomplish. And it is well settled that, in interpreting a statute, the court will not look merely to a particular clause in which general words may be used, but will take in connection with it the whole statute… and the objects and policy of the law….’ … (emphasis added by the Court).
  • ‘Section 501(c)(3) therefore must be analyzed and construed within the framework of the Internal Revenue Code and against the background of the congressional purposes. Such an examination reveals unmistakable evidence that, underlying all relevant parts of the Code, is the intent that entitlement to tax exemption depends on meeting certain common-law standards of charity — namely, that an institution seeking tax-exempt status must serve a public purpose and not be contrary to established public policy.
  • ‘This ‘charitable’ concept appears explicitly in § 170 of the Code. That section contains a list of organizations virtually identical to that contained in § 501(c)(3). It is apparent that Congress intended that list to have the same meaning in both sections. In § 170, Congress used the list of organizations in defining the term ‘charitable contributions.’ On its face, therefore, § 170 reveals that Congress’ intention was to provide tax benefits to organizations serving charitable purposes. The form of § 170 simply makes plain what common sense and history tell us: in enacting both § 170 and § 501(c)(3), Congress sought to provide tax benefits to charitable organizations, to encourage the development of private institutions that serve a useful public purpose or supplement or take the place of public institutions of the same kind.
  • ‘The predecessor of § 170 originally was enacted in 1917, as part of the War Revenue Act of 1917, ch. 63, § 1201(2), 40 Stat. 330, whereas the predecessor of § 501(c)(3) dates back to the income tax law of 1894, Act of Aug. 27, 1894, ch. 349, 28 Stat. 509, infra. There are minor differences between the lists of organizations in the two sections, see generally Liles & Blum, Development of the Federal Tax Treatment of Charities, 39 Law & Contemp. Prob. 6, 24-25 (No. 4, 1975) (hereinafter Liles & Blum). Nevertheless, the two sections are closely related; both seek to achieve the same basic goal of encouraging the development of certain organizations through the grant of tax benefits. The language of the two sections is in most respects identical, and the Commissioner and the courts consistently have applied many of the same standards in interpreting those sections. See 5 J. Mertens, Law of Federal Income Taxation § 31.12 (1980); 6 id., §§ 34.01-34.13 (1975); B. Bittker & L. Stone, Federal Income Taxation 220-222 (5th ed. 1980). To the extent that § 170 ‘aids in ascertaining the meaning’ of § 501(c)(3), therefore, it is ‘entitled to great weigh.’ … [the Court analyses ‘charitable trusts’]….
  • “Act of Aug. 27, 1894, ch. 349, § 32, 28 Stat. 556-557. The income tax system contained in the 1894 Act was declared unconstitutional, Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 158 U.S. 601 (1895), for reasons unrelated to the charitable exemption provision. The terms of that exemption were in substance included in the corporate income tax contained in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909, ch. 6, § 38, 36 Stat. 112. A similar exemption has been included in every income tax Act since the adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment, beginning with the Revenue Act of 1913, ch. 16, § II(G), 38 Stat. 172. See generally Reiling, Federal Taxation: What Is a Charitable Organization?, 44 A. B. A. J. 525 (1958); Liles & Blum….
  • ‘The exemption from taxation of money or property devoted to charitable and other purposes is based upon the theory that the Government is compensated for the loss of revenue by its relief from financial burdens which would otherwise have to be met by appropriations from other public funds, and by the benefits resulting from the promotion of the general welfare.” H. R. Rep. No. 1860, 75th Cong., 3d Sess., 19 (1938).
  • ‘A corollary to the public benefit principle is the requirement, long recognized in the law of trusts, that the purpose of a charitable trust may not be illegal or violate established public policy. In 1861, this Court stated that a public charitable use must be ‘consistent with local laws and public policy,’ Perin v. Carey, 24 How., at 501. Modern commentators and courts have echoed that view. See, e. g., Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 377, Comment c (1959); 4 Scott § 377, and cases cited therein; Bogert § 378, at 191-192….
  • ‘[The Court then explained why racial discrimination now violates clearly defined public policy.]
  • “[The Court concluded:]
  • ‘Racially discriminatory educational institutions cannot be viewed as conferring a public benefit within the ‘charitable’ concept discussed earlier, or within the congressional intent underlying § 170 and § 501(c)(3)…. ‘This Court has long held the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to be an absolute prohibition against governmental regulation of religious beliefs, Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 219 (1972); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 402 (1963); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303 (1940). As interpreted by this Court, moreover, the Free Exercise Clause provides substantial protection for lawful conduct grounded in religious belief, see Wisconsin v. Yoder, supra, at 220; Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707 (1981); Sherbert v. Verner, supra, at 402-403. However, ‘[not] all burdens on religion are unconstitutional…. The state may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest.’
  • ‘On occasion this Court has found certain governmental interests so compelling as to allow even regulations prohibiting religiously based conduct. The governmental interest at stake here is compelling.
  • “[The Court noted:] We deal here only with religious schools — not with churches or other purely religious institutions; here, the governmental interest is in denying public support to racial discrimination in education.
  • [The Court also stated:] “The IRS policy at issue here is founded on a ‘neutral, secular basis,’ Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437, 452 (1971), and does not violate the Establishment Clause.”

Bob Jones Univ4Although Bob Jones University was limited to religious schools in that a church was not being attacked in that specific case, the same rationale that supported the Court’s conclusions can also be applied to 501(c)(3) religious organizations, although more hurdles will have to be jumped. It is common knowledge that the IRS regularly attacks such organizations for infractions of requirements of IRS regulation. The outcome of such a case against a church hinges upon the liberal-conservative makeup to the Court. Liberal dominated courts have no problem clearing whatever logical, legal, and/or spiritual hurdles they encounter.

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 and read, e.g.,

God wants members of His body, the church, to decide what is spiritual and what is not. If His body messes up, He will take care of it. The IRS rules and regulations require instruction, definition, and control by the federal government. The IRS determines, subject to costly and time consuming court challenge, whether a restriction has been breached by a 501(c)(3) religious organization. These restrictions subject a religious organization to suit in the courts for violating a federal government law.

Especially notice the last 501(c)(3) rule, fundamental public policy. Fundamental public policy is above biblical principle if the two conflict. Certain public policies can, do, and will conflict with biblical principles. It is the responsibility of the church, not the state, to determine biblical principle as to the doctrines of the church. A nineteenth century Supreme Court wisely observed:

public-policy“The question, what is the public policy of a state, and what is contrary to it, if inquired into beyond these limits, will be found to be one of great vagueness and uncertainty, and to involve discussions which scarcely come within the range of judicial duty and functions, and upon which men may and will complexionally differ; above all, when that topic is connected with religious polity, in a country composed of such a variety of religious sects as our country, it is impossible not to feel that it would be attended with almost insuperable difficulties, and involve differences of opinion almost endless in their variety. We disclaim any right to enter upon such examinations, beyond what the state constitutions, and laws, and decisions necessarily bring before us” (Vidal v. Gerard’s Executors, 43 U.S. 127, 198; 11 L. Ed. 205; 1844 U.S. LEXIS 323; 2 HOW 127 (1844)).

Internal Revenue Code § 508
Internal Revenue Code § 508

New Testament churches under God are non-taxable. 501(c)(3) and IRC § 508 religious organizations are tax exempt. 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” (26 U.S.C. § 508 (2007)). [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. § 508(c)(1(A) churches are an exception to the civil government requirement that certain organizations file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

The beginning of a multi-page document to be filled out by a church who cares not that they dishonors the Lord.
The beginning of a multi-page document to be filled out by a church who cares not that they dishonors the Lord.
A law of man which enacts some biblical principles.
A law of man which enacts some biblical principles.

However, a church should rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, not on § 508(c)(1)(A) status for three reasons. First, the First Amendment is a statement of the biblical principle of separation of church and state. This principle is fully explained in Sections I-III and the history of how the blood of millions of Martyrs led to the adoption of the First Amendment is explained in Section IV of  God Betrayed (PDF OF God Betrayed online version of God Betrayed, Order Information for God Betrayed and other books by Jerald Finney). When a church relies on the First Amendment, they are relying on a biblical principle. Should the biblical principle be abused or ignored by the civil government, so be it—a church should then rely only on the biblical principle.

Second, to rely on § 508(c)(1)(A) contradicts the First Amendment. The First Amendment religion clause states:

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

Obviously, § 508(c)(1)(A) is a law made by Congress which regards an establishment of religion. § 508(c)(1)(A) does not state that the First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law in violation of the First Amendment and, therefore, a church is non-taxable. § 508(c)(1)(A) states that Congress is declaring an exemption for churches. Hence, an adversary in a court proceeding can argue that a church has submitted herself to Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) regulation and ignored her First Amendment status by relying on a law instead of the First Amendment. The Internal Revenue Service Publication 1828 states, that “churches which meet the requirements of § 501(c)(3) are automatically tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS.” However, the New Testament (First Amendment) church will not be in court anyway for several reasons: the church is not a legal entity; is not a business; has no income; has no employees or staff; claims no § 508 status; and, no matter what the particular civil government does, honors the biblical principle of separation of church and state which is reflected in the First Amendment in America.

IRS Publication 1828, page 3
IRS Publication 1828, page 3

Church_BusinessThird, a New Testament church (a church organized according to the principles of the New Testament), among other things, receives no income, has no employees or staff, and runs no businesses (daycare, “Christian” schools, cafes, etc.). Church members give their tithes and offerings to God, not to a religious organization, for use in ways consistent with New Testament teaching. All monies given to God are disbursed in accordance to the guidelines of the New Testament, and no money is left over. Even a business which makes no profit pays no taxes. A church which does have net income should be taxed since she is operating as a business and not as a New Testament church.

If a church does not apply for § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or claim § 508 tax exempt status, and if it is organized as a New Testament church, according to the First Amendment which agrees with the biblical principle of separation of church and state, the non-taxable status of that church must be honored. No matter what the civil government claims, that church cannot be taxed anyway because they have no income.

If a church successfully applies for § 501(c)(3) or claims § 508(c)(1)(A) exempt status, the government is granted some jurisdiction over the church since the civil government now declares and grants an exemption.

oru_tax_exempt_letter_sample“EXEMPT, a. Free from any service, charge, burden, tax, duty, evil or requisition, to which others are subject; not subject; not liable to; as, to be exempt from military duty, or from a poll tax; to be exempt from pain or fear. Peers in G. Britain are exempt from serving on inquests.

“2. Free by privilege; as exempt from the jurisdiction of a lord or of a court. “3. Free; clear; not included. “4. Cut off from. [Not used.]                                                                                   Shak.” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828)).

“exempt 2: free or released from some liability or requirement to which others are subject” (WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 406 (10th ed. 1995)).

“PRIV’ALEGE, n.

“1.A particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or society, beyond the common advantages of other citizens. A privilege may be a particular right granted by law or held by custom, or it may be an exemption from some burden to which others are subject.“2. Any peculiar benefit or advantage, right or immunity, not common to others of the human race. Thus we speak of national privileges, and civil and religious privileges secured to us by our constitutions of government…. “3. Advantage, favor, benefit” (Ibid.).

8In spite of the fact that biblically sound churches are non-taxable, many, if not most, churches line up to incorporate and to become 501(c)(3) religious organizations. Why do churches apply? The IRS knows the answer:

“IRS concurrence that a religious organization is indeed a church is the best protection for a donor that his or her contribution to the church is tax-deductible and will not be challenged in an audit.  This knowledge makes a church’s fundraising efforts much easier” (Peter Kershaw, Hushmoney (Branson, Missouri: Heal Our Land Ministries), p. 30, citing Michael Chitwood, Protect Your Contributions (referring to statement of IRS on p. 3 of IRS Publication 1828)).

God had reasons for denying jurisdiction to the state over spiritual matters and restricting state authority to earthly matters. One reason has to do with qualification for determining the meanings of words. The interpretation of laws and regulations requires the defining of words. Employees of civil government are not qualified to determine the meanings of spiritual terms; but, by dealing with spiritual matters, such people are called upon to determine the meanings of spiritual terms. They must determine the meaning of “religion,” “religious,” “church,” and many other words. Since these employees are operating outside their realm of expertise, the outcome of their decisions on these matters will conflict with the biblical meanings of those words. In defining words, therefore, civil government officials intrude upon the jurisdiction of the church—the church is subjected to the state.

For example, what does the word “religion” mean? The word “religion” is used only five times, in the Bible, and only once in a good sense:

“Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Ac. 26.5).  [Bold emphasis mine]. “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (Ga. 1.13, 14).  [Bold emphasis mine]. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Ja. 1.26-27).  [Bold emphasis mine].

definitionThus, from a biblical perspective, religion in the good sense may be defined as:

“2. Religion, as distinct from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men, in obedience to divine command, or from love to God and his law. James i. “3. Religion, as distinct from virtue, or morality, consists in the performance of the duties we owe directly to God, from a principle of obedience to his will. Hence we often speak of religion and virtue, as different branches of one system, or the duties of the first and second tables of the law. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Washington” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “RELIGION”).

Since the Bible also teaches that there is only one true God, there can only be one religion in the good and true sense. This means that all other religions are bad and false. All other “gods” are actually no gods at all:

  • “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Co. 8.4-6).
  • “What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (1 Co. 10.19-21).
The world does not understand God and the one true religion.
The world does not understand God and the one true religion.

Since there is only one true God, there is only one religion with power from God. Before one can know that one true God, one must know Jesus Christ, God the Son: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him” (Jn. 14.6-7).

The Bible, as pointed out above, recognized the Jewish religion. Members of the Jewish religion (and any other religion) who do not recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign God are false religions and have no piety or power from God. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28.18).  Unconverted Jews deny that Jesus Christ is God the Son. The Jewish religion, like all other religions except true biblical religion, is therefore a false religion. The IRS and the federal government to a great extent, however, have concluded that all religions are equal and have created a pluralistic code and a pluralistic nation.

Civil government officials are required by § 501(c)(3) to define “church.” By providing that churches can become legal entities by incorporating and obtaining 501(c)(3) status, the civil government assured that the IRS and the courts would have to define “church” because, first, a lot of churches would seek to incorporate and get government declared tax exempt status, thereby voluntarily taking themselves out from under First Amendment or New Testament status; and second, many religious organizations would claim to be churches so as to obtain the benefits offered by civil government. As one court noted,

“We hasten to emphasize that by its use of the term ‘church,’ Congress must have intended a more narrow classification than that embodied by a term such as ‘religious organization.’ Despite the lack of guidance from Congress, and in the absence of a more explicit regulatory definition of the term ‘church,’ we will continue our efforts to give a distinct meaning to this statutory classification” (Foundation of Human Understanding v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 88 T.C. 1341, 1361; 1987 U.S. Tax Ct. LEXIS 75; 88 T.C. No. 75 (1987)).

IRS Publication 1828
IRS Publication 1828

In attempting to define “church,” the IRS has “given certain characteristics [14 criteria] which are generally attributed to churches” (IRS Publication 1828 (2007), p. 23).  The court has recognized that 14-part test in determining whether a religious organization was a church. The 14 criteria are:

“(1) a distinct legal existence; “(2) a recognized creed and form of worship; “(3) a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government; “(4) a formal code of doctrine and discipline; “(5) a distinct religious history; “(6) a membership not associated with any other church or denomination; “(7) an organization of ordained ministers; “(8) ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies; “(9) a literature of its own; “(10) established places of worship; “(11) regular congregations; “(12) regular religious services; “(13) Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young; “(14) schools for the preparation of its ministers.” (American Guidance Foundation, Inc. v. United States, 490 F. Supp. 304 (D.D.C. 1980)).

“In addition to the 14 criteria enumerated above, the IRS will consider ‘[a]ny other facts and circumstances which may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status.’ Internal Revenue Manual 7(10)69, Exempt Organizations Examination Guidelines Handbook 321.3(3) (Apr. 5, 1982)” (88 T.C. at 1358).

The most glaring inaccuracy in the IRS criteria used to decide whether something is a church is the omission of God’s principles from the characteristics. When the natural man defines a church, he leaves God out; or, should he include God, he must have an incorrect conception and definition of God, since he does not know God. That is the most apparent problem with the IRS conception of a church. The natural man, as exemplified by the IRS characteristics of a church, overlooks the fact that Jesus is the one who builds and is the chief cornerstone of the church. If Jesus, and Jesus alone, is not the builder, there can be no church. Paul wrote, speaking to the church:

“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 growth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.19-22).

The results of the attempts of the courts and IRS to define “church” are twofold: First, some of those “religious organizations” which are not “churches,” but have sought to be recognized by the civil government as “churches,” have been declared to be “churches” by the civil government; and second, New Testament churches which have sought and obtained incorporation and/or “tax exemption” have become legal entities and lost their status as New Testament churches solely under God.

The state and federal provisions and actions derived and resulting from those provisions which allow incorporation and declaration of tax exempt status of churches and religious organizations demonstrate:

(1)  the wisdom embodied in the First Amendment which recognized that the civil government is not qualified to “make [any] law regarding an establishment of religion, or [to prevent] the free exercise thereof.”

(2)  the undesirable consequences of deviation from the biblical principles that the church is a spiritual entity, the only spiritual institution ordained by God; the state is an earthly entity ordained by God to operate only within its God-given earthly jurisdiction; and that neither the church nor state should be over the other, but God should be over both.

(3)  that the federal government (and the states since the incorporation of the First Amendment by the Fourteenth Amendment) violates the First Amendment when civil government provides for incorporation and tax-exempt status for churches or any other religious organization.

(4)  most importantly, that most churches have abdicated their responsibility to honor their husband, the Lord Jesus Christ.

15Just 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” (Internal Revenue Service Private Letter Ruling 8833001, 1988 PRL LEXIS 1594). 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” (Ibid.).

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.

The lost and most believers have no clue as to the true meaning of “New Testament (First Amendment) church,” and America is not a nation under God. The civil governments in the United States, following Satan’s principles, have constructed a code that undermines incorporated 501(c)(3) and 508(c)(1)(A) religious organizations. Yet most American “Christians” are fearful and more concerned with pleasing civil government than they are in pleasing the Lord, more concerned with allowing their members to claim a tax deduction than with pleasing their Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Savior grieves.