Every Catholic Church in this country and over eighty percent of Protestant Churches receive the 501(c)(3) tax exemption, which allows them receive financial contributions, donations, and tithes without having to render unto Caesar his taxes on those monies. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
While much of what Father Andrew Kemberling said was good, when we say that we don’t want to obey the law, or the that law is unjust, but simultaneously insist on taking advantage of the benefits of the law (tax-free contributions) it sounds like we believe we are entitled to something here. It sounds not much different from those people who feel that they are entitled to food stamps.
I do believe that there can and should be an honest discussion had about whether contributions to religious institution should be protected under the provisions of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but to say that we are going to disobey the law while we go ahead and take advantage of its benefits isn’t Christian.
Here are the choices that religious institutions under the law of the 501(c)(3) have – EITHER:
1. Comply with the law, and shut up about it.
2. Comply with the law, while fighting to change its restrictions, or
3. Forfeit the 501(c)(3) and render unto Caesar his taxes.