The Churches gladly set themselves up as 501(c)(3) organizations. And why shouldn’t they? A tax-exempt status is a great position to be in. If the State took money from these Churches, the Churches would not be able to conduct ministries to the extent that they do. I am of course leaving aside the important fact that many Churches define “ministry” far differently than the Scriptures do –with fun houses, rock concerts, and free popcorn. But my point is clear, a small, gospel-centered Church would have a much harder time in a world where they’d have to pay more in taxes.
But the dark side of this seemingly grand situation is the fact that the 501(c)(3) status depends in part on the agreement that Churches are not allowed to take part in the following:
Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
…voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
Now of course it is my own opinion that Churches, in the pulpit and in ministry should steer clear of the evil and despicable world of politics and public policy (which are different from political theory and exposition of relevant Scriptures). The Gospel promises, in part, to save people from such worlds and to call them home to a Kingdom that is far separate from the destructive world of politics. Let not a Pastor as Pastor endorse a political Candidate.
But what are the implications from the fact that Christian groups and non-profits with a Bible-based perspective are not allowed to announce “public statements of positions,” lest they lose their tax exempt status? The answer is that the Christian influence of speaking moral law and standard is diminished. By stating that, for example, “Thou shall not steal” even if you are a government official, this Biblical standard is turned into a political stance, which in turn is self-incriminating. And the consequences from such a stance, is that you have to pay taxes. And what of another politically-related standard? How about the fact that government-led welfarism is also theft? What if a Christian group put forth that idea? This too would cause them to be forever fined as an organization.
This 501(c)(3) is effectively a giant payoff for silence. The Christians and their principles are kept by the wayside for fear of having to give up more money. This is how the State works. And now what? Well, now that the Church has been silenced, the number one voice that IS allowed to influence society, through control of the Schools, through subsidies with strings, through political buy-offs, through despicable promises to voters, is the State itself!
The solution is not necessarily to rid the Church of its non-profit status, although the answer though does lie in a nullification of these Federal Laws, to commit to local level authorities as a way to branch off from the DC nightmare. Christians ought to be more bold, trusting God and Truth, to protect them, not financial buy-offs. By way of the 501(c)(3), the Christian organizations of this country have been suckered into a “good deal” that turns out to be a vicious trap. It sounds great for Churches. It even sounds like a blessing. The situation appears like a Sheep. But the other side of the coin is a Wolf.
It’s time to unleash the Word of God onto the State –let us not be silenced.