IRS Investigation of Church Political Activity, Redux

Right out of the gate, my first post ever on WWJTD, and the next thing I know I’m seeing my chosen topic everyfreakingwhere on the Interwebz, and my information was … not as good as I thought it was. Shit. I’m embarrassed. This had better not be a harbinger of things to come, I mutter darkly to anyone in earshot.

So, here’s the down-low. In 2007,  the pastor of the Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota had announced – from the pulpit – his endorsement of Republican Michele Bachmann for her reelection to the US House of Representatives.  This was a clear violation of 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3), the Internal Revenue Code that allows exemptions from tax on certain non-profit corporations, trusts, and certain other entities.

Some gung-ho atheist activist (or maybe it was just somebody who detested Michele Bachmann on general principles; I hear such folks are common in certain circles) complained to the IRS. The Director of Exempt Organizations, Examination (DEOE) sent a notice to the church that it was initiating an investigation. According to the church, that office was not high-ranking enough to initiate the investigation, so when the inevitable administrative summons came, it refused to comply. Naturally, the IRS took the church to court to force compliance with the summons.

Special requirements must be met to investigate a church for tax noncompliance. The Church Audit Procedures Act, found at §7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, is intended to keep the government out of church affairs as much as possible. The Act allows a church inquiry when “an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes” that the church is no longer in compliance with the requirements of 501(c)(3). It defines “appropriate high-level Treasury official” as “the Secretary of the Treasury or any delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury whose rank is no lower than that of a principal Internal Revenue officer for an internal revenue region.” The regional commissioner, who this definition referred to, was one level removed from the Commissioner of the IRS.

The catch was this: in 1998 the IRS eliminated the position of the Regional Commissioner, which was the “principal Internal Revenue Officer for an internal revenue region.” In fact, the IRS did away with regions altogether, and restructured its chain of command by subject rather than by geographic area. Since the position of “principal Revenue Officer for an internal revenue region” no longer existed, and Congress did not amend the definition of “appropriate high-level treasury official” in the Church Audit Procedures Act, there was no one authorized by the statute besides the Secretary of the Treasury who could make the “reasonable belief” determination and launch an investigation of a church for not adhering to 501(c)(3) requirements. The DEOE, which had made the “reasonable belief” finding and launched the investigation into the Living Word Christian Center, was four levels below the IRS Commissioner, and therefore not ranked equivalent to the former position of Regional Commissioner.

With this opinion in one single federal District Court in one single state, IRS investigations of churches came to an inglorious screeching halt. The purpose of the Church Audit Procedures Act was more than fulfilled: government basically could no longer touch churches, even when they were blatantly violating the tax code. Churches are free to meddle in government, without repercussion, at least until the definition of “appropriate high-level Treasury official” is amended, or until the position of Regional Commissioner is reinstated.

I checked the Code of Federal Regulations. Nope, the masses blogging and reporting about this matter over the last week are right: the regulation intended to help the IRS enjoin flagrant political activity by 501(c)(3) organizations has not been updated since December 1995. Although some religious news sources advise caution, other religious news outlets celebrate, since that means church can invade the state, but the state cannot invade the church.  An attempt to update it was made in 2009, after a decision by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. noted the problem, too, but despite a public hearing having been held on the matter, nothing has yet been done. That may be because Congress will have to act, and by the time of the public hearing on the matter in January 2010, the Republicans had retaken the U.S. House of Representatives, the Tea Party held sway over all political decisions, and progressive government essentially ground to a halt.

But the ruling in the Minnesota case only applies to proceedings to enforce a summons issued by the IRS, not to actual enforcement of the law, so presumably there’s some other way to address the issue. Presumably. Maybe. If there is, I can’t find it. Shit.

What gets me is the IRS guy I spoke with while writing my piece last week told me that the IRS is still taking complaints about political over-reaching by churches. He directed me to the appropriate form, and he said that it definitely should be filed. When I started stumbling across article after blog post after news item about this, I had to wonder about the disconnect. Now, after actually researching the history of the problem, it seems ludicrous to me that Tim Geithner or any Treasury official ranked one level below him is going to bother themselves with hundreds of complaints about churches. In fact, it seems ludicrous that any Treasury official ranked that high would. Maybe that’s why only one church has ever had its tax-exempt status yanked, ever. Ever.

Now I’m mad.

Their own hero said it.

How the hell is it that we’re supposed to have a separation of church and state, but that separation can only go one way? Government has to keep out of church business – and I agree that it should, unless the church is violating the law. But when the church gets all up the the government’s business, and I find out that the government has essentially hamstrung itself so that it can’t take remedial action, my blood boils.

I live in one of the most Christian-dominated states in the U.S. If we are to trust the numbers collected by the Huffington Post, though, probably only half of Americans are strong Christians. That leaves the other half of us, who aren’t riding the Jesus Train and think we ought not to have a theocracy, wondering why churches are allowed to have such strong voices, and why they are allowed to drown out the other half of us.

Then I consider when this happened. The decision by the Minnesota District Court was issued January 30, 2008, just 15 days after Barack Obama was sworn in as President. And something started to be done by the summer of 2008, but federal rule-making takes a long time. And by the time it came down to it, Congress was cram-packed full of tea-partying wackjobs and I guess the Treasury Department was a bit sidetracked, what with the biggest economic crisis in a century enjoying prominent headlines and the Treasury Department embroiled in a little problem having to do with things like debt ceilings and such.

They should buy these political buttons at zazzle.com

Capital punishment will show the little buggers how to act. And remember, boys and girls: we don’t hit.

Why do we have laws that aren’t enforced? Before you think this is a rhetorical question, consider the likes of Charlie Fuqua, an incumbent Republican candidate for the state legislature from my own home state, who thinks we ought to pass a law permitting parents to kill their disobedient children. After all, the Bible says it’s fine. And we won’t really enforce it, just hang it over the little darlings’ heads until they stop behaving like mini-monsters.

Then there’s the notorious Billy Graham ad. Fortunately, FFRF is all over that one. OF course, the letter Annie Laurie Gaylor sent to the IRS demanding an investigation was sent to the DEOE – yes, the same official the Minnesota District Court said wasn’t high-ranking enough – so it may not go anywhere unless it gets kicked up the chain of command.

But the media is reporting on it, supplying the quotes from church leaders, photos of church marquees, and reports or violations that the IRS will need if it ever gets its administrative ass in gear and decides to institute Regional Commissioners or persuade Congress to correct the structural issues based on the Treasury Department’s structural reorganization.

As for those of us who feel strongly that churches do not speak for us and should stay out of politics, we can still form brigades waving stacks of Form 13909, filling them out and submitting them to the IRS in hopes that the government will actually get around to enforcing the law.

Sure, the First Amendment stands for free speech, but it also stands for separation of church and state.

Frankly, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if all churches paid taxes. Render unto Caesar and all that, you know.

++++++++++++++

Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

 

  • Cunning Pam

    Thank you for looking further into this issue, even if the information is rather discouraging. It sound like our efforts would be better spent by lobbying our congresscritters to update the pertinent regulations.

  • http://workingforrevival.wordpress.com/ Preacher

    I disagree with some of the foundational premises and think that your dis belief in God colors your view of justice and law in an “intolerant” way. It seems clear that the first amendment was meant to prevent a state church, not the expression of ideas in the public and even political spectrum. What you seem to fear (a throcracy) is not on the minds of anyone I know and I haven’t seen evidence absent ancedotal that indicates it is a desire of anyone. Churches do pay taxes, each member first “renders unto Ceaser” under the tyranny of forced tax collecton through employers. Each member then voluntarily gives to God as an act of worship through their church to support it’s operation and ministry efforts. Churches do not try to speak for you, you have your own voice and are free to use it both personally and collectively, Christians have the same rights. Billy Graham placed an add that did not endorse one politician or even one party, he encouraged others who believe as he does to live their beliefs in the voting booth. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as Americans? Isn’t that what you do? You are free as am I to accept or reject God by faith. As a believer, a fundamentalist believer in Jesus Christ, I served in the military for most of my adult life to defend your right to hold a belief that I am radically opposed to. My beliefs and convictions drive my life and they give me the desire to uphold your right to both believe and promote your beliefs. What is the matter with your system of belief that does not allow me to have the right, both personally and collectively, to compete with you for the direction of my country and for the hearts and minds of mankind? Are you really that intolerant in reality while claiming false intolerance for anyone who disagrees with you? Do you really think that the government should quiet all dissenting voices to yours? Have you ever read of the French Revolution and it’s devastating effects on that nation because of real intolerance enforced by mob rule? Do you love this country? Do you want this? Why won’t you tolerate me and my beliefs while demanding that I tolerate yours? Do you know that churches don’t have to file for 501C3 to be tax exempt? What seem just according to the constitution about silencing collective voices of millions of Americans this way to you? Is it your position that only atheists and humanists and secularists should be able to have groups that speak collectively? Who will stand for you when you have won this battle and are now the voice in dissent? Who will protect your right for a collective and individual voice in the affairs of this great nation? Really, is this what you want? http://fb.me/1coJOQVEg

    • RuQu

      You are missing a couple of substantial points.

      When a Catholic Bishop says voting for Obama puts a person’s soul at risk of eternal damnation, that’s a unique form of pressure that cannot be applied by non-religious entities. It sounds absurd to non-believers, but a devout Catholic who otherwise supports Obama may feel compelled to vote for Romney based on this edict. It’s literally blackmail: vote for my candidate or face eternal torment.

      As for theocracy, any law that is passed based solely on a person’s religious beliefs or teachings of their personal holy book is a form of theocracy. When a Jewish mother who believes that life and a soul begin when “God breathes the breathe of life” into a body cannot get an abortion because a Christian group that believes it starts at conception passed a law preventing abortions if there is a heartbeat…that’s theocracy. It’s a form of state religion, Christianity imposing its belief on Jews, not to mention the rest of us who think any talk of souls is absurd.

      • Preacher

        If a Catholic priest said that it is not blackmail, again, each individual soul gives account of themselves to God. A soul is nothing more than a living person, who they are, and they are individually accountable to God for their eternal life. There is no religious tenant in Catholicism that I am aware of (not a catholic) that would give the priest authority to condemn your soul.

        You example of a Jewish mother does not constitute a theocratic government where all laws are made by the dictates of God and God alone rules our nation. The laws of America are made through an entirely secular process where representatives of the people vote their conscience and the people elect them based on their conscience. It is not possible for a law in America today (if ever) to be put in place “solely on a persons religious beliefs”. This seems to be a straw man argument for continued intolerance on the part of Atheists. This country is a representative republic with democratic principles, each American has the right to effect their representative or representation as much as the next regardless of their religious position.

        • Brad1990

          If I say to you, “You will vote for this person or I will kill you”, that is blackmail and intimidation. If a preacher says to someone, “You will vote for this person or your eternal soul will be damned to eternal torment”, that is intimidation and blackmail, providing of course that the target audience is devout enough to actually believe what the preacher says. The two are clearly the same; “you will carry out action X or else punishment Y will be applied to you”. They are exactly the same.

    • Cunning Pam

      Soooo much that tempts me in this Gish gallop of a comment, but I’ll be lazy and pick the low-hanging fruit:

      Preacher, you say both “Churches do pay taxes, each member first “renders unto Ceaser” under the tyranny of forced tax collecton through employers.” and ” Do you know that churches don’t have to file for 501C3 to be tax exempt?” So, which is it? Do churches (the defined entities CHURCHES themselves, not individual church members) pay taxes, or are they exempt from paying taxes?

      • preacher

        Thank you for your laziness. I appreciate the backhanded insult that I am sure I deserve. These things are not contradictory unless you want to try to make them seem that way. I simply pointed out that we pay the same taxes as the little league, high school booster clubs, whatever other groups of individuals who voluntarily meet together in a jointly held cause. The difference is of course we have a world view that clashes with some peoples who really don’t mind the tax exemption if they think it will keep the gospel quiet. And as I already stated I don’t believe that this double taxation should go on for not for profit groups period. Churches are voluntary groups of people who believe the same and are not threat to you. Why not invite them to the table as equal participants? God is still involved no matter how the society or government might decide to treat churches or christians. Wow! What a great God we serve.

        • Brad1990

          “Wow! What a great God we serve.”

          Yeah, hurricane Sandy was awesome.

    • baal

      Talk about missing the point. Preacher, if every church had to pay taxes like every other social organization that doesn’t abide by the rules of tax exempt status; your and your churches freedom of speech is entirely intact. What you want is also from the French Revolution – having your cake and eating it too.

      “Churches do pay taxes, each member first “renders unto Ceaser” under the tyranny of forced tax collecton through employers. ”
      This statement is bizarre. Is it not Christian to pay for roads, schools, firefighters, police and other vital bits of government that underlie the society in which you live? Also, you cannot claim that your organization pays taxes because the members of that organization pay them. Football players pay taxes on their income but the team and the Stadium, their booster clubs and anyone else who has transactions or income streams also pay taxes – both as individuals and as the organization. Why should your group get a special pass when others don’t?

      There is a term for citing the Nazis in a thread (linking to a youtube of the death camps counts). It’s called a Godwin. It’s usually done by scoundrels who are unwilling or unable to actually deal with substance of an argument.

      Lastly, please google “Dominionist”. Two of them ran for president on the (R) ticket this time around. It is a rational fear based on evidence that a variety of fundamentalist do seek a theocracy. As a punctuation point, google Roy Moore and his views on how the bible trumps State law. he just won election to the Supreme Court of Alabama.

      • preacher

        All of this dismissiveness! It was not the Nazi’s that are cited it is the citizens. I would love to have a rational discussion but you all have to quit trying to box everyone into a place where you can dismiss them. If you watched the question was to us as citizens. It was not a pro christian video it was a pro “We The People” video. Come on, where is all that atheist intellectualism I hear about? No I don’t want my cake and eat it too. The football analogy does not seem the same to me because the football players are not giving voluntarily to support their stadium or team as an act of worship. Each of these entities while interdependent are profiting from the public at large purchasing the entertainment product they are selling. We are different than that as our founders understood when they wrote the separation clause. I don’t know anything about a term for citing nazi’s in a thread as I have never been in one but as I said earlier a little attention to the point should eliminate your concern. I don’t need to google “Dominionist” , I understand dominion theology enough to know that it is not anything more than what you stated “a variety” of fundamentalists who do seek a theocracy. They have a right to believe that, run for office, and if the people of their districts desire to have them in office to represent them, that is there right. That sounds more like a representative republic rather than a theocracy to me.

        • smrnda

          The reason we have a constitution is to protect minorities from a majority voting their rights away. Even if people vote for theocracy, it violates the constitution which is why we have a separate judicial branch.

  • commodorewolf

    Obama was elected in 2008 sworn-in in 2009. So if it happened in 2008 it was under bush

    • http://www.aramink.com Anne

      Brain fart. you’re right, of course.

      • fwtbc

        I was going to point this out too.

        Brainfart or not, you should probably actually update the post to fix the error.

  • smrnda

    Theocracies seem to be right in line with what is preached at many churches.

    Also, freedom of speech means that I am permitted to publicize my beliefs. If I had a newspaper or magazine, I could print articles in opposition to or in support of any candidate I so chose. However, I would be considered a for-profit business and I would be taxed as such.

    Nowhere in ‘freedom of speech’ is there any guarantee of some special tax status. Basically, if you want the special non-profit tax status, you’re limited in what you can do, both financially and in terms of what kinds of statements and endorsements a nonprofit can make. This is a totally separate issue from just ‘freedom of speech. So I’m all for churches going out and preaching politics, but once they do, why do they feel entitled to special tax status? Taking away a special tax status doesn’t silence an organization. My take is churches can choose what they consider more important, their charity work, promoting their beliefs, or making political statements.

    And yeah, that tyranny of forced taxation. It isn’t like we can vote about that or anything. This election I got direct input into a number of taxation policies.

    • Preacher

      How many churches have you been in

      • http://www.aramink.com Anne

        Groovy. Another uninformed religious person who thinks that atheists reject religion because we’re NOT familiar with it. (((heavy sigh)))

        • preacher

          No actually, I hit the enter key on my mobile key board at the wrong time. My complete question is: How many churches have you been in that are preaching that God should be the government? I am in churches many nights of the year and NEVER hear advocated nor do I advocate a church takeover of our government. I do hear and advocate for God’s people to vote their covictions and I hear Biblical principles used to measure current public policy. It is our duty before God and to our country to both pray for and proclaim truth. Our “special tax status” is first a product of the first amendment since giving to God is an acto of worship. What 501c3 status does priarliy is give the churches the ability to issue tax deductable receipts to individuals who give to the church. With that comes the ever contested political constraints on political speech. These constraints are constantly being reviewed and often changing. My take is that the author of this article is advocation for churches to pay taxes institutionally because money is given to them. I believe that we have too much of this double taxation already. Every dollar should be taxed only once. All citizens should contribute to the roads, military, ets…. Doesn’t it amke sense for everyone to pay some and leave the collective voices free to advocate in our public square? Don’t we have the right without excessive governmental control to be a country where ideas are contsted? As fr the tyranny, we ultimately only vote on what is presented to us to vote on. When we would disagree with the government we have the duty under our declaration of independence to change the government. We do that at the ballot box. Unfortunately the power of incumbancy keeps us from actually dealing with the issues that are eroding our liberty and prosperity. The tyranny is not against Christians but any who would like to be able to reign in an out of control government by saying no to funding until they listen to us. BTW thank you for the transparent reaction of immediately reducing me to an uninformed person, I will try to avoid the same uninformed assumptions about you.

      • baal

        Preacher, smrnda’s attendance at church is a non-issue. Please deal with the points smrnda made. Also consider that the majority of atheists were raised in churches and have a very good idea what exactly they are about.

  • smrnda

    The notion that ‘giving money to got is an act of worship’ doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the first amendment, but it fits in with the Christian tendency to use words like ‘worship’ or ‘ministry’ in a way that the categories are inherently fuzzy, so that anything can be proclaimed to be ‘worship’ or ‘ministry’ and thus exempt for either taxation or legal regulation. The first amendment provides a right to worship and itself says nothing about how taxes are to be levied one way or another. Religious people might want to take a cosmic view that everything is an act of worship, but the law needs to define precise boundaries. I’m fine with churches having a tax-exempt status provided that they follow the rules, as I would be fine with secular non-profits getting the same benefits for following the rules. I don’t think the author of this article has protested the existence of the non-profit status, just that churches are clearly breaking the rules for lack of any enforcement mechanism. There’s nothing stopping individual church members from stating their views, just that non-profits have been barred from making political endorsements on the institutional level.

    Your perception of whether or not Christians are seeking to impose their values on others is going to depend a lot on whether you are on the inside or outside. There are plenty of churches (you might want to look up ‘Dominionism” or “Reconsctructionism”) who advocate for imposing their vision of “Biblical” values on the rest of us. My own experience with attending church (I did attend an evangelical church for about 8 months) was that nothing was preached from the pulpit about establishing theocracy, but people I met there were fine with having public schools explicitly teach that Christianity is true and other religions are false, that businesses should be able to fire people for refusing to convert to Christianity, that a town should be able to vote against non-Christian houses of worship being established, or that people who rent properties should be able to turn tenants away based on ‘immorality’ that might occur on the premises , and that public schools, rather than providing sex education, should simply promote ‘Biblical Values.’ . These were people who didn’t seem that extreme at first, and they seemed totally oblivious to their own double-standard as they would have protested the same treatment to themselves. It’s just that, in their eagerness to proclaim ‘the truth’ they had no respect for any notion of neutrality or for how to live in a pluralistic society, and no interest in just co-existing with people who didn’t believe the same things. I mean, out of politeness I don’t go around telling everybody I work with my own opinions on everything, but I find that many Christians cry foul if they’re told they can’t proselytize at work.

    So for many Christians, they don’t see a government biased in their favor as biased, and they see ‘neutral’ as hostile, but whether you perceive this is going to depend on which group you are a part of.

    • preacher

      Couldn’t resist one last comment. Whether or not you see giving to God depends on the same. You can bash my understanding of Biblical worship but that does not change the argument that at the root of this article is “be quiet christian” (as a christian) in politics. The banner add says “fighting religion tooth and claw”! Just looking for some honesty. I hope you were as welcomed and loved in your eight month stint in an evangelical church as I have been in my few moments here with you. However I don’t think your evidence on it’s merit is anything more than anecdotal from your perspective about their perspective. Hey, maybe you heard me preach during those eight months……That would be great!

      • smrnda

        I didn’t point to my experiences as anything except my anecdotal reports of a few months at one church. I mostly stayed quiet since my goal was to listen and observe, and not rely on other people’s assessments about what churches preached or what Christians were like. Everybody was cheerful and welcoming, but it seemed more like walking into a car dealership than anything authentic, and overall, I felt like the interest people had in me was simply as a project and not as a person. Nothing preached seemed controversial, just mostly run of the mill motivational speaking, but the kind of ‘us’ and ‘them’ contest, with the goal of winning seemed to be what really motivated people.

        My take on the tax exempt status is, let’s say that I proclaim I worship the Lucky Success Cat Goddess. My business is a temple to this deity, and therefore, I ask that the government not levy any taxes on my income derived since it’s all religious activity – the income is given to me as donations to the high priestess and are offerings to a deity. My take is that you’d probably look at this as a scam, but I pick this to show that the government has to draw a distinction, or else ‘this is a religion’ is just a ticket to being a law of one’s own.

      • DR

        What dishonesty! If you wish, as a Christian, to be politically active, absolutely nothing is preventing you to do so. Just start a PAC. The law does not prevent you from being active; it prevents religious INSTITUTIONS from being active. There is a huge difference.
        You get a tax break because you claim to be a religion, as opposed to a political organization. You can’t be both. You can be religious and be have a political organization, just not BE a religious and also BE a political organization. That’s the price for not having the government put its nose into your business.

        Now, if you’re willing to open your books, and become a regular non-profit, such constraints wouldn’t apply. But religious organizations always refuse transparency. One has to wonder what you’re trying to hide.

        And donations to religious organizations are not charity, and they are not given to “god”. They are given to clerics such as yourself, and you use it for your own enjoyment. As far as I know, donations from your flock don’t vanish into thin air, no? They go into a bank account, and a good chunk of that money goes into your pockets, no? So they give it to YOU, not to god.

      • Parse

        If smrnda went to church, claimed they knew your holy book better than the preacher, and insisted that Christians worship the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Red-headed Stepsister, then I’d guess they would be treated about the same as you’ve been here – with a combination of scorn, pity, and mockery.
        If you’re interested in an actual conversation, try listening to what we think, instead of repeating every atheist strawman you’ve ever heard as fact.
        If you’re just interested in earning your martyr stripes, well, on that you failed. You deserve scorn, pity, and mockery, not due to your faith, but because you’re an idiot who refuses to learn.

  • preacher

    Thanks you all, it has been……informative and confirming. I leave you with my prayers to almighty God for you. My best political social advice: When I don’t what to hear the voices of those I disagree with, I change the channel, stop reading the article, even throw the book in the trash (electronically speaking), what I don’t try to do is shut down their right to say it. There is a time and a place, but common courtesy and respect would do many a great deal of good. God bless you all!

    • baal

      You cannot claim common courtesy and tell atheists that you will pray for them. We find it offensive and rude.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Cheers for your prayers Preacher, I’ll be sure to mention you when I sacrifice a goat to Satan.

    • NakedAnthropologist

      By “respect and common courtesy” I get the impression that you just want us to shut up and agree with whatever you say. By having dissenting opinions, requiring fact-based evidence, and not believing what you say merely and your say-so we’re now discourteous? My impression of you from your comments here is that you’re not that interested in discussion, but conversion efforts. As others have said, most of us grew up in a religious environment and many were quite religious before they became atheists/agnostics/humanists, and so on. To dismiss our arguments because they do not agree and kow tow to yours is quite disrespectful, and telling. If anything, the repeated axiom by some believers that “if you don’t agree with me you’re stupid, lazy, and obviously prejudiced” just convinces me ever-more of my non-belief, as it reminds me of why I questioned my religious upbringing in the first place. I remember all the tiresome and tireless arguments I held within myself as well as with others, and I am reminded that it was my commitment to humanity, justice, and truth that propelled me along the path of non-belief. For that Preacher, I thank you. In closing, I would also advise you to perhaps read something more substantial if you are interested in atheism than just blog posts and replies. Granted, I really enjoy JT’s blog and look forward to a good commenting session, but its not the same as reading Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World” or Dawkin’s “God Delusion”. Just sayin’.

  • smrnda

    To actually count the number of churches I have been in, I believe my total is between 12 and 15. Obviously one time visits aren’t going to tell me much, so I can only go with the experiences I had from a more prolonged exposure, where I took what I considered to be the church least likely to ascribe to a theocratic viewpoint, and spent some time there. My take was that it seemed that even while attempting to oppose it, many members of the church were fine with theocracy. I don’t think that this theocracy push is so much coming from the pulpit but from various Christian media empires, some of which also hold tax-exempt status.

  • Ged

    Surely in a country with a huge budget deficit, another source of tax income would be… appealing?

  • InsiderAnalyst

    I would like to take you all into a secret which some of you might be aware of. All these churches, especially the Christian ones, are very soon, going to be destroyed by the same political powers they have taken a ride on for centuries. This action will be worldwide. It will include other religious entities that are non-christian but have similarly meddled in politics and large business as well. One only has to read just a little bit of religious history to see how much they deserve to be punished for making the whole world “drunk” by their teachings. And one doesn’t need to go back to the Dark Ages for that. See how religion, in its various forms, whether in Christendom or in non-christian countries, has goaded on their people to war, to hatred of minorities and to actually trying to efface those with an ideology different from theirs. Besides INTENTIONALLY misleading their flocks, the religious leaders blatantly fleece them of those contributions that they want us here to believe are made “for worship” or “the ministry”. Those religious people who have been commenting on this forum will laugh at my comment, but that’s for lack of a keen understanding of “the truth” they are so quick to claim to stand for. The TRUTH is that right now there are elements in the worldwide grouping of political entities that are calling for abolishing religion. It has hampered their efforts towards global peace for as long as history has been written. The religious leaders have had it their own way for a long long time, preaching young men into battle for their own benefit and committing so many heinous crimes in the name of religion. [Little wonder we now have atheists]. If someone with just HALF an objective mind really looks into the affairs of religions and churches as we know them right now, he would not be filled with love for them or for God. So the God whom they so claim to worship and adore, is bringing upon them what they deserve.

    And the irony of it all is that it is written in the very same Bibles they DON’T read anymore.

    Right now someone from their camp will be quick to write that I have my own interpretation. Ask them what is THEIR OWN understanding of Revelation chapters 17 and 18, especially of 17:12-13, 15, 16. They don’t want to talk about those phophetic Scriptures. But what we are witnessing is a growing anti-religious feeling not only in the so-called Christian countries but elsewhere where religion has dominated the people.

    About churches not playing according to the rules when in comes to taxes, http://www.ministrywatch.com also provides another interesting angle, listing those churches or ministries they have investigated but that are failing to live by their end on the bargain, so to speak, when it comes to how they use the funds they get from donations, so that they keep claiming their tax expemption status.


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