Tag Archives: government control of churches

Federal government control of churches through IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508 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.

A 501c3 church agrees to abide by the rules that come with the status. See article below for full explanation of those rules. A 501c3 church also has many regulations which it is required to honor. 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.

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 requirements require instruction, definition, and control. 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 IRS requirement. 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 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 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 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 is a law made by Congress which regards an establishment of religion. § 508 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 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 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 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.

The incorporation-501(c)(3) control scheme


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 5 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application; Chapter 5 of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?


From IRS Publication 1828. Click the image to go to the publication.
From IRS Publication 1828. Click the image to go to the publication.

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

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

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

The Religion Clause of the First Amendment
The Religion Clause of the First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” (U.S. CONST. amend. I). [Emphasis mine.]

Parts of the IRC violate the First Amendment Religion Clause because those parts constitute a law respecting an establishment of religion which invites churches to give up their protection from civil government control and their free exercise of religion. The purposes and effects of that law is the subject of this chapter. The relevant IRC sections constitute an unconstitutional exemption-control scheme that allows the federal government to not only control and define “church,” but also to teach satanic principles to a church.

1Ti.3.1-5Churches which incorporate are legal entities. Churches which incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status are legal entities. Such churches have “a form of godliness, but den[y] the power thereof” (See 2 Ti. 3.5).  They are ignorant and unconcerned regarding the biblical issues of the sovereignty of God, state, church, and separation of church and state. That is because “they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Ti. 4.3-4).

Usually a church who is an existing or prospective corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization relies upon “Christian” lawyers who scratch her itching ears. Such a church does not mind or gives little or no thought to the fact that she is breaking the heart of her spiritual Husband, Jesus Christ. Christian lawyers are among the most “educated” of Christians as to secular matters. Many advise churches to incorporate and take a 501(c)(3) status. The problem with those lawyers is that their secular humanistic education has far exceeded their biblical education in the issues of church, state, and separation of church and state. Some examples of advice given by “Christian” lawyers and other Christians concerning church incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exemption follow:

  • Incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status. As long as the preacher preaches “the gospel,” the church can organize any way it wants to organize (Untold numbers of preachers, deacons, “Christians“ and the vast majority of “Christian” lawyers and law firms).
  • Incorporate [and get 501(c)(3) status]. It is the “path of least resistance” (Clergy & Professional Tax Conference, (1997) Michael Chitwood, p. 28, cited in Peter Kershaw, In Caesar’s Grip (Branson, Missouri: Heal Our Land Ministries, 2000), p. 72).
  • Incorporate [and get 501(c)(3) status]. Incorporation is not the same as accepting a license. “License” means permission by competent authority to do an act which, without such permission, would be illegal. Incorporation is just a way to hold property (Christian Law Association and Attorney David Gibbs. Horrible logic and a lie about what a corporation really is. Both licensing and incorporating along with 501(c)(3) status violate biblical principle. Just because one is wrong doesn’t make the other right.).
Jerald Finney
Jerald Finney

On the other hand, a few Christian lawyers give the following  legally and biblically sound advice to churches:

Do not incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status. There is no excuse for incorporating or operating as any other type of entity that violates biblical principles regarding separation of church and state. The Lord is grieved when His wife, the church, places herself, even partially, under another’s jurisdiction (Christian attorney Attorney Jerald C. Finney).

The authority of those attorneys who encourage churches to incorporate and get the 501(c)(3) exemption is either a false theology, human reasoning based upon a humanist philosophy contrary to principles in the Word of God, and/or a combination thereof. The outcome of their efforts has been not only one nation under man’s law (not under God), but also one church under man’s law (not totally under God). It is impossible to back up their position with a correct interpretation of Scripture.

SeparationOfChurchAndState4Many of those lawyers and firms that encourage churches to subjugate themselves to the state are there to “help churches, pastors, and members” if they get into trouble. They have seminars all the time in which they go over the constantly changing case law so that churches can continue to modify doctrine, behavior, and speech to comply with man’s ever changing laws, rules, and definitions. They will protect you. Corporate 501(c)(3) religious organizations will need these state lawyers because God will not be there to help no matter how much they pray and no matter the proclamations of such a church and her lawyers that God is blessing their “ministries.” Those lawyers proclaim victories (among mainly obvious defeats) which, in God’s eyes, are no victories at all. Satan is happy to see this continue because he would much prefer that churches voluntarily submit to him. The ultimate results which have been visibly transpiring for many years is the gradual devastating erosion of the law, fewer people being saved due to the demise of New Testament churches and Christianity, moral awfulness, and political anarchy in America.

In return, all that “Christian” lawyers who advise incorporation and 501(c)(3) status for churches need is for thousands of churches and individual church members to send regular contributions to support their law firms and pay their salaries while they hob-nob with high ranking civil government officials including Senators, Representatives, and even Presidents. This would be fine if not for the fact that they are not in line with biblical principles. If they were in line with the Bible, although powerful people would have nothing or very little to do with them, many churches might return to God, and God might begin to move and bring positive changes to the churches of this nation. Instead, most corporate 501(c)(3) churches remain in, at best, a lukewarm state.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Re. 3.14-19).

SupremeCourtBecause some “Christian” lawyers have relied upon man’s reasoning—their own humanistic philosophies and beliefs as well as the humanistic reasoning found in man-made laws and court cases—America has seen a steady erosion in establishment clause jurisprudence, as well as in true biblical preaching and teaching in churches in all areas of theology, but especially in regards to biblical principles regarding the sovereignty of God, church, civil government, and separation of church and state. The word “Christian,” as a noun from a biblical perspective means: “a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828) definition of “CHRISTIAN”) Piety has been defined as follows: “1. Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service. Piety is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man.” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828) definition of “PIETY.”).

Even though the state still recognizes that a church is different from other religious organizations, it does not know what a church is:

  • The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The term is not used by all faiths[.]” (IRS Publication 1828 (2007), p. 2).
  • “Churches and religious organizations may be legally organized in a variety of ways under state law…” (Ibid.).
  • “Unlike churches, religious organizations that wish to be tax exempt generally must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status unless their gross receipts do not normally exceed $5,000 annually” (Ibid., p. 3; see also, IRC (26 U.S.C.) § 508).
Click the above image to learn more about Richard Garnett
Click the above image to learn more about Richard Garnett

Nonetheless, the state wants to control churches. Some legal scholars know what the civil government is up to with the incorporation-exemption-control scheme. For example, Richard Garnett, assistant professor at Notre Dame Law School, in a well-documented law review article wrote:

  • “The imposition of a tax is, after all, an assertion of power and an ‘application of force’ (Richard W. Garnett, A Quiet Faith? Taxes, Politics, and the Privatization of Religion, 42 B.C. L. Rev. 771, 772 (2001), citing Stephen L. Carter, The Free Exercise Thereof, 38 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1627, 1639 (1997)(“It is the application of force, not the happenstance that one is able to apply it with legitimate authority, that generates the power that destroys the specialness of religion.”)). The same is true of the decision not to tax, or to exempt from taxation. A power is no less real that is exercised selectively or indulged with restraint. The decision to exempt certain associations, persons, activities, or things from taxation presupposes and communicates the ability to do otherwise; definitional lines drawn to mark the boundaries of such exemptions implicitly assert the power to draw them differently…. My claim here is that the decision to exempt religious associations from federal taxation may reasonably be regarded as an assertion of power—the power, perhaps, to ‘destroy’—over these communities, their activities, and their expression….
  • “In other words, maybe the power to tax churches, to exempt them from taxation, and to attach conditions to such exemptions really does as Chief Justice Marshall quipped, ‘involve the power to destroy’ religion. Neither heavy-handed repression nor even overt hostility toward faith is required, but merely the subtly didactic power of the law. Government need only express and enforce its own view of the nature of religion—i.e., that it is a private matter—and of its proper place—i.e., in the private sphere, not in politics—and religious believers and associations may yield to the temptation to embrace, and to incorporate, this view themselves….
  • “It is an exemption-and-restriction scheme in which the government extends an invitation to ‘religious organizations’ to receive a tax exemption in return for allowing the government to interpret and categorize the expression and activities of the church. “There is the danger that, having made their own the government’s view of religion’s place, now-humbled and no-longer-prophetic religious associations will retreat with their witness to the ‘private’ sphere where—they now agree—they belong, leaving persons to face the state alone in the hollowed-out remains of the public square….
  • “Still it strikes me that the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)’s exemption-and-restriction scheme is noteworthy in the extent to which it invites government to label as ‘propaganda’ or ‘campaign[ing]’ what are, for religious believers and communities, expressions of their faith and responses to their calling. It is far from clear that this is an appropriate task for the liberal state….
  • “My concern … is that the premises of the conditional exemption scheme, the labeling it invites, and the monitoring of distinctions it creates will tame religion by saying what it is and identifying what it is not, tempt religion to revise its conception of itself and of its mission, and convince religious consciousness to internalize the state’s own judgment that faith simply does not belong in politics….
  • “[The tax exemption] is simply the government’s way of paying churches not to talk about certain things, enforce certain beliefs, or engage in certain actions—in other words, it’s the government’s way of privatizing the church….
  • “By determining for its own purposes the meaning of religious communities’ statements and activities, and by enforcing the distinctions it draws, government subtly reshapes religious consciousness itself. In other words, by telling religion what it may say, really is saying, or will be deemed to have said, and by telling faith where it belongs, government molds religion’s own sense of what it is….
  • “[Certain pronouncements] led my colleague, Professor Bradley, to suggest in another context that ‘[t]he Court is now clearly committed to articulating and enforcing a normative scheme of ‘private religion.’ Indeed, he argues powerfully that the Court’s post-Everson v. Board of Education cases ‘are most profitably understood as judicial attempts to move religion into the realm of subjective preference by eliminating religious consciousness.’ … [T]he Court turned to privatization ‘as the ‘final solution’ to the problem of religious faction.’ Its ambition—not merely the unintended effect of its decisions—is not only to confine the potentially subversive messages of religion to a ‘nonpublic ghetto,’ but also to revise and privatize the messages themselves. Having acquiesced to judicial declarations that it is a private matter, and accepted that its authority is entirely subjective, religious consciousness is unable to resist the conclusion that its claims to public truth are ‘implausible nonsense,’ and therefore cannot help but concede the field of public life and morality to government….
  • “[T]his privatization of religion is not simply its institutional disestablishment or an entirely appropriate respect on government’s part for individual freedom of conscience and autonomy of religion institutions. Nor is the claim only that the exemption privatizes religion by deterring political activism and silencing political advocacy by religious believers and communities. It is, instead, that the exemption scheme and its administration subtly re-form religion’s conception of itself. Government evaluates and characterizes what churches say and do, and decides both what it will recognize as religious and what it will label as political….
  • “[P]rivatization of the church is its remaking by government and its transformation from a comprehensive and demanding account of the world to a therapeutic ‘cacoon wrapped around the individual.’ It is a state-sponsored change in religious believers’ own notions of what their faith means and what it requires…. The government tells faith communities that religion is a private matter, and eventually, they come to believe it.
  • “And finally, the retreat of religious associations to the private sphere suggests an ill-founded confidence that government will not follow. But it will. The privatization of religion is a one-way ‘ratchet that stems the flow of religious current into the public sphere, but does not slow the incursion of political norms into the private realm.’” (Ibid., pp. 772, 774-777, 779, 796-800 (citations omitted)).

How is the 501(c)(3) tax exemption-control scheme implemented? Simply by invitation. In the exemption and restriction scheme, the government extends an invitation to incorporated “religious organizations” to receive a tax exemption in return for allowing the government to interpret and categorize their expression and activities. In effect, this is, as to churches, an invitation which tests (1) the biblical knowledge of churches and church members, especially pastors (as to God’s biblical instructions in the area of church and state); and (2) their love for the Lord. Satan wants God’s children to voluntarily betray God.  He probably gets much more enjoyment from this than he would by forcible means. Certainly he knows that he is furthering his cause much more than he would by force and persecution which are always accompanied by many more people being saved, and an increased love for the Lord by His children who glorify God much more when being persecuted.

From IRS Publication 1828
From IRS Publication 1828

The IRS doesn’t hide the fact that the exemption-control scheme is implemented by invitation. The IRS openly proclaims:

“Although there is no requirement to do so, many churches seek recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS because such recognition assures church leaders, members, and contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits…. Unlike churches, religious organizations that wish to be tax exempt generally must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status unless their gross receipts do not normally exceed $5,000 annually” (IRS Publication 1828 (2007), p. 3).

Would Christians not believe that churches are not required to obtain 501(c)(3) exemption should their pastor teach them the truth of the matter from the Bible? Sadly, most pastors believe the lie that churches must incorporate and obtain a 501(c)(3) status. Most “Christians” rely on their American education rather than God’s Word.  They put their trust in the government, and not in God.

But just imagine how the Lord feels about those few churches who keep His Word and do not deny His name. To the church in Philadelphia, God wrote:

“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name…. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Re. 3.8, 10-12). [Bold emphasis mine.]

A church is hypocritical if she incorporates and seeks 501(c)(3) status thereby becoming a religious organization which has entered into agreements with the state and federal governments, and then either complains or refuses to comply with the court’s decision after civil government intervenes in her affairs and the church fights the intervention through the court system and loses. After all, that church has already agreed to the sovereignty of the civil government when she signed her corporate contract and obtained 501(c)(3) status.

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

Jerald Finney
Copyright © September, 2009
Jerald Finney teaches on “The Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme” Left click to hear Jerald Finney teaching on this subject. Right click the link and then left click “Save link as…” to download. The teaching is preceded by a hymn sang by Rocky Otwell, a great man of God, and prayer. The teaching is approximately 25 minutes, not including the song.
Click here to go to: ANSWER TO QUESTION REGARDING A LAWYERS FALSE STATEMENTS CONCERNING CHURCH CORPORATE 501(C)(3) STATUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A study of relevant law, as well as IRS regulations and legal scholarship reveals that 501(c)(3) is voluntary and that it is a control-definition scheme.

IRC § 508(a),(c), in line with the First Amendment, says churches are excepted from obtaining § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. In other words, churches are non-taxable; and, therefore, churches are an exception to the civil government requirement that certain organizations file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Thus, the law recognizes that a New Testament Church is non-taxable under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The IRS doesn’t hide the fact that churches are non-taxable under the First Amendment and IRC § 508(a),(c) and that the exemption-definition-control scheme is implemented by invitation. The IRS proclaims in IRS Publication 1828 (2007):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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