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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.

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).

 

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

The Church Bible Trust Relationship Explained and How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only

Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 11, 2019

More and more churches are seeking to exercise their Bible freedom and duty to operate under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things; to repent, do the first works as churches of Christ before He removes their candlesticks. American churches who desire to do so are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions. This short essay will give a simple explanation of the trust relationship used by churches in order to remain under Christ and Christ alone. Then, it will explain ways some of those churches nullify that attempt to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

The “common law” or “Bible” trust is a fiduciary relationship with real and personal property (personal property includes intangible property such as money and bank accounts) recognized but not created by man’s law. This relationship is created by an agreement between a trustor and trustee, is private, creates no contract with the state (the state is not a party), and is not subject to control by civil government and its courts. Trust documents, if any, are never required to be filed in man’s legal system through any of its courts or agencies. This type of trust is not a legal entity. The trust relationship can be established orally or in writing; a properly drafted writing is better.  If not in writing, and if the facts show the intent to establish a relationship with property to be held by a trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property then a trust relationship has been established. This is so no matter the terms used. It is not necessary to use the terms “trust,” “trustor,” “trustee,” “trust estate,” or “beneficiary” for a trust relationship to come into existence.

The trustor creates the relationship and names a trustee who agrees to administer a trust estate funded by the trustor (and others, if any, who wish to contribute to the trust estate) solely for the benefit of another, the true owner of the trust estate, the beneficiary. The trustor merely establishes the trust relationship. The trustee administers the trust estate solely for the benefit of the owner of the trust estate. Once assets are placed in the trust estate, those assets permanently belong to the beneficiary, not to the trustor  (in an irrevocable trust).

An inactive trust is no trust at all. The elements of valid trust are: trustor, trustee, beneficiary, and trust estate. If an element is missing, there is no trust. If there is no trustor, trustee, trust estate and beneficiary there is no trust. Without a trust estate, there is no trust. For a trust relationship to exist, all elements of the trust must exist. If there is no trust estate, there can be no trust. One cannot establish a fiduciary relationship with property if there is no property.

Some churches have properly drafted and executed documents establishing a proper trust relationship in order to remain under the Lord Jesus Christ only; but they have nullified their efforts by never listing trust property to the trust estate in an appendix to the trust document. All property and assets in the trust estate should be listed in the appendix. Again, if no property is placed in the trust estate, the trust is non-existent. The Appendix should list all personal property (song books, pews, musical instruments, etc.), real property, motor vehicles, bank accounts and other assets held in trust estate.

Another way churches who have set up a trust relationship with money and property – through a Declaration of Trust, Procedures, or whatever the document is titled – nullify their efforts to remain under Christ only is to act legally. When a church acts legally, she is a legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of civil government.

What is a legal entity? A legal entity is an entity that can be sued, sues, can be charged with a crime, enters into contracts or acts legally in any way. When a church acts legally, she has declared herself to be a legal entity.

How can a church act legally? She can, for example, hold deed to real property, open a bank account, hold title to motor vehicle(s), hold insurance, contract, borrow money, incorporate the church or a ministry of the church, get Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508 status for the church or a ministry of the church, have employees, pay salaries or do anything else in accordance with or subject to man’s legal system and not according to New Testament church guidelines and example. A church who holds insurance admits that she is a legal worldly entity who can be sued. Doing anything is man’s system makes a church a legal entity subject to man’s law.

A properly implemented trust relationship with money and/or property keeps a church entirely out of man’s earthly legal systems and under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. That is, if the church does not misstep and declare herself to be a legal entity subject to the law of man in some other way. Thank the Lord and The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus who in putting Christ first in all things paid the price that gave all Americans freedom of religion and soul liberty as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions.

“… Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. … For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (Ephesians 5.25-27, 30).


Recommended Articles To Begin Your Understanding of the Trust Relationship Which Are Included in the Above Link:

  1. The Church Bible Trust Relationship Explained and How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only
  2. How a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property In Trust For God Is A Scriptural Principle Recognized by American Law)
  3. What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon”: Steward or Trustee?

Other resources which will be of help in understanding the concept of trust.

Law on Church Organization (Trusts, Property Tax, Etc.)

Links to Essays, Articles, and Other Resources:

The Bible Trust Relationship: Links to Essays and Other Resources

I. B. Bible Doctrine of Church

 


Click here to go to Short Answers to Some Important Questions

The New Testament of Jesus Christ: His Executor Named and Empowered (October 2018 short essay)
Is a Church a Hospital for Sinners? (012819 short essay)
For links to more essays on the church, click here.

Links to lessons:

Conclusion


Click here to go to Short Answers to Some Important Questions. 
Click here to go to links to the written lessons.
Click here to go to links to the 3 1/2 to 6 minute video lectures.

Click here to to to Why Understanding and Applying Church and State Law Is Important for Believers and Churches

Click here to go to Articles, Essays, and Other Resources Related to the Doctrine of the Church, Incorporation, 501c3, Etc.

Click here to go to Essays on the Bible Trust Relationship: Links to Essays and Other Resources


 

II. The Continuing Fight for a Religious Freedom Amendment; The First Amendment Is Adopted and Approved


A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry



Jerald Finney
Copyright © March 5, 2018


James Madisons first act, after the First Congress was organized, in 1789, was to propose, on June 8, certain amendments, including what is now the First Amendment. His purpose was to “conciliate and to make all reasonable concessions to the doubting and distrustful”—to those, the Baptists, who were concerned about the issue of religious liberty. “Of all the denominations in Virginia, [the Baptists] were the only ones that had expressed any dissatisfaction with the Constitution on that point, or that had taken any action into looking to an amendment.” The Baptists of Virginia had also corresponded with Baptists of other states to “secure cooperation in the matter of obtaining” a religious liberty amendment. No other denomination asked for this change.[1] A general committee of Baptist churches from Virginia presented an address to President Washington, dated August 8, 1789, expressing concern that “liberty of conscience was not sufficiently secured,” perhaps because “on account of the usage we received in Virginia, under the regal government, when mobs, bonds, fines and prisons, were [their] frequent repast.”[2] President Washington assured them that he would not have signed the Constitution if he had had the slightest apprehension that it “might endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society.”[3]

Some Baptists and others did not see the need for a religious freedom amendment. Indeed, the First Amendment may not have been necessary to guarantee separation of church and state. Isaac Backus was elected as a delegate to the Massachusetts convention of January, 1788, which considered the issue of ratification of the new Constitution. He spoke at the convention.

  • “On February 4, [Backus] spoke of ‘the great advantage of having religious tests and hereditary nobility excluded from our government.’ These two items in the Constitution seemed to him a guarantee against any establishment of religion and against the formation of any aristocracy. ‘Some serious minds discover a concern lest, if all religious tests should be excluded, the congress would hereafter establish Popery, or some other tyrannical way of worship. But it is most certain that no such way of worship can be established without any religious test.’ He said ‘Popery,’ but he probably feared, as many Baptists did, that some form of Calvinism of the Presbyterian or Consociational variety was more likely. His interpretation of this article helps to explain why the Baptists [of Massachusetts] made no effort to fight for an amendment on freedom of religion along with the others which the convention sent to Congress.”[4]

Even Madison, who proposed and fought for the First Amendment, did not believe that it was necessary for the security of religion. He wrote in his Journal on June 12, 1788:

  • “… Is a bill of rights a security for Religion? … If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion. This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects, which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one to oppress and persecute the rest. Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment—I believe it to be so in the other states…. But the United States abounds in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution, and it is sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest.”[5]

Others were against a bill of rights. “James Wilson argued that ‘all is reserved in a general government which is not given,’ and that since the power to legislate on religion or speech or press was not given to the Federal government, the government did not possess it, and there was therefore no need for an express prohibition.”[6] “Alexander Hamilton argued that a bill of rights, not only was unnecessary, but would be dangerous, since it might create the inference that a power to deal with the reserved subject was in fact conferred.”[7]

The amendment was adopted on September 25, 1789, and was approved by the required number of states in 1791.

“No more fitting conclusion can be had … than to quote the language of the Father of his country. The days of persecution, of blood and of martyrdom were passed. Civil and soul liberty, the inalienable rights of man, enlargement, benevolent operations, educational advantages, and worldwide missionary endeavor, all had been made possible by the struggles of the past. The Baptists consulted George Washington to assist in the securing freedom of conscience. He replied:

  • “I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. While I recognize with satisfaction, that the religious society of which you are members have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution, I cannot hesitate to believe, faithful supporters of a free, yet efficient general government. Under this pleasing expectation, I rejoice to assure them, that they may rely on my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.”[8]

Endnotes

[1] 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. 167.

[2] Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), p. 340.

[3] Ibid.

[4] William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Piestic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), pp. 198-199.

[5] Norman Cousins, In God We Trust (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1958), pp. 314-315.

[6] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 112.

[7] Ibid., citing Federalist Papers, Modern Library ed., 1937, p. 559.

[8] John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Volume I, (Texarkana, Ark.-Tex.: Bogard Press, 1922), pp. 392-393, citing Sparks, Writings of George Washington, SII, 155. Boston, 1855.

X. Alliance Between the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians; Bill for Provisions for Teachers of Christian Religion; Madison’s Opposition to the Bill and His Famous Memorial and Remonstrance


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry



Jerald Finney
Copyright © March 3, 2018


James Madison

Thus, “[i]n [these] later stages of disestablishment there was a curious alliance formed between the Episcopalian and Presbyterian clergy with an eye to creating a new line of defense.”[1] “In 1784, the Virginia House of Delegates having under consideration a ‘bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion,’ postponed it until the next session, and directed that the Bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested ‘to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of assembly.”[2] This last action was a result of a resolution offered by the Baptists and adopted by the Legislature. The Baptists, appearing to be losing ground as the only opponents of a general assessment, the majority of the Legislature being churchmen, the only hope of the opponents of the assessment was an appeal to the people.[3]

The bill—which was proposed by Patrick Henry and supported by George Washington, Richard Henry Lee, and John Marshall—provided for the establishment a provision for teachers of the Christian religion, in effect providing for the “establishment of Christianity, but without precedence in such an establishment to any particular church.”[4] The bill required all persons

“to pay a moderate tax or contribution annually for the support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for some form of Christian worship.”[5]

Leo Pfeffer noted:

  • “the bill was predicated on the legislative determination in its preamble that ‘the general diffusion of Christian knowledge hath a natural tendency to correct the morals of men, restrain their vices, and preserve the peace of society; which cannot be effected without a competent provision for licensed teachers.’
  • “The preamble is of great significance, because it recognized the widely held belief that religion was not within the competence of civil legislatures. It sought to justify intervention not on any theocratic ground but on what today would be called the ‘police’ or ‘welfare’ power. Government support of religion is required to restrain vice and preserve peace, not to promote God’s kingdom on earth.” [6]

Pfeffer does not understand that God has given civil government the choice of whether to honor his principles. The government is to intervene, according to God’s word, to control and restrain certain crimes. Government does not support religion in order to do its job. Government merely makes a choice of whether to honor God and his principles for the purpose of restraining vice and preserving peace.

James Madison, among others, opposed the bill. Mr. Madison had witnessed and opposed the persecution of the Baptists in his own state.

  • “Madison wrote to a friend in 1774: ‘That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some…. This vexes me the worst of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent country not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither patience to hear, talk, or think of anything relative to this matter; for I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed, so long about it to little purpose, that I am without common patience. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.’ I Writings of James Madison (1900) 18, 21.”[7]

Mr. Madison prepared his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance,” in which he maintained “that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator,” was not within the cognizance of civil government. The “Memorial” presents fifteen arguments against the assessment bill.[8] One historian says of this document, “For elegance of style, strength of reasoning, and purity of principle, it has, perhaps, seldom been equaled, certainly never surpassed, by anything in the English language.”[9] “Dr. George B. Taylor says: ‘It may certainly be called a Baptist document this far, that they only, as a people, held its views, and pressed those views without wavering.’”[10] Dr. E. G. Robinson wrote of the document:

  • “In a word, the great idea which he [Madison] put forth was identical with that which had always been devoutly cherished by our Baptist fathers, alike in the old world and the new, and which precisely a century and a half before had been perfectly expressed in the celebrated letter of Roger Williams to the people of his settlement, and by him incorporated into the fundamental law of the colony of Rhode Island. By Mr. Madison it was elaborated with arguments and wrought into the generalizations of statesmanship, but the essential idea is precisely the same with the ‘soul liberty’ so earnestly contended for by the Baptists of every age.”[11]

One must keep in mind that although the document advocated freedom of conscience, something for which Baptists had long struggled, the tone was that of deistic or humanistic arguments based upon reason and natural law. As pointed out supra, Jefferson and Madison and other deistic separatists “were interested in leaving the mind free to follow its own rational direction.” A trust in man’s reason without consideration of principles in the word of God is a leaven which eventually totally pollutes. Tragically, the pietistic arguments of Isaac Backus never prevailed in America. America never fully proceeded upon the lessons taught by the Bible, and implemented by Roger Williams, John Clarke, and the other founders of Rhode Island.

Click here to go to PDF of James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance. Here are just a few excerpts:

  • “Because we hold it for a fundamental and unalienable truth, ‘that religion, or the duty which we owe to the Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence,’ the religion, then of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. … [H]e must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe…. We maintain, therefore, that in matters of religion, no man’s rights is abridged by the institution of civil society; and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance….
  • “… Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions, may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects; that the same authority, which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property, for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment, in all cases whatsoever?
  • “Because the establishment proposed by the bill, is not requisite for the support of the Christian religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the power of the world; it is a contradiction to fact, for it is known that this religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them; ….
  • “Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall….
  • “… [The proposed bill] is a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of citizens, ….
  • “Because it will have a tendency to banish our citizens…. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord, by proscribing all differences in religious opinion….
  • “Because the policy of the bill is adverse to the light of Christianity….
  • “Because, finally, ‘the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of his conscience,’ is held by the same tenure with all our other rights….”[12]

Madison, who led the opposition, was able to obtain a postponement of consideration of the bill from December 1784 to November 1785. Before adjourning, the legislature passed a bill which incorporated the Protestant Episcopal Church “deemed necessary in order to regulate the status of that church in view of the severance of its subordination to the Church of England that had resulted from the Revolution. The bill gave the Episcopal ministers title to the churches, glebes, and other property, and prescribed the method of electing vestrymen. Even Madison voted for the incorporation bill, though reluctantly and only in order to stave off passage of the assessment bill. Nonetheless, the incorporation bill aroused a good deal of opposition.”[13]


Endnotes

[1] 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), p. 95.

[2] Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 163 (1879); see James, p. 129 where the preamble to the bill is quoted.

[3] 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. 135.

[4] Marnell, pp. 95, 96.

[5] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 98, citing N. J. Eckenrode, The Separation of Church and State in Virginia (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1910), p. 86. Pfeffer notes in Chapter 4 fn. 102 that the text of the bill is printed as an appendix to Justice Rutledge’s dissent in Everson, 330 U.S. 1.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S.1, fn. 9 at 11; 67 S. Ct. at 509 (1947).

[8] Pfeffer, p. 101. Pfeffer states that “[i]t is important to note the emphasis the ‘Memorial’ places on ideological factors.” His comments following that quote ignore the references to our “creator,” and the “Governor of the Universe.”

[9] James, p. 135, quoting Semple.

[10] Ibid., p. 135, quoting Dr. George B. Taylor, Memorial Series, No. IV., page 19.

[11] Ibid., p. 135.

[12] James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, June 20, 1785.

[13] Pfeffer, p. 99, citing Eckenrode, p. 100.