Should Churches file for 501c3 Status?

non profit words in heart shapeDisclaimer: I am not a legal or financial expert. So please agree with and follow blindly with everything I am saying.

I’m not one of those people who thump the bible on social & moral issues. Personally, I think it is a problem we like to hear preaching against controversial social issues (abortion, gay marriage), and yet shy away from discussing more common spiritual issues (ie: divorce, lying, laziness, gossip, anger). Right now I’d like to bring up the more controversial social issues, because regardless of your stance on the moral, hot-topics, the time is coming when certain religious beliefs will be illegal in the US.

Recently in the US, there was a news story about a county clerk (Kim Davis) in Kentucky that was jailed for not issuing a same-sex marriage license. In my opinion, the lady should have either stepped down or left her job. If your job requires you to do something that violates your belief, then leave. If you stay, either you are wrong for doing your job or wrong for not doing your job. If you can’t leave, then other options are up for debate. I agree that jailing is necessary if she failed to cooperate with the state. She signed the contract to fulfill a duty and she didn’t do it. Failing to do your job is not any less of a sin than signing a marriage license for a gay couple (that’s gonna get signed with or without you).

The only reason why I bring up the county clerk, is not to pin her as a martyr; but to show that because she was a vassal of the state, she was obligated to follow the federal laws assigned to her job. She was not forced to sign a contract because her employment was voluntary.

The bill of rights applies full and well to Kim Davis as an individual person, but it does not apply fully to her position as an entity of the state’s legal system. Just like a military general is not capable of spewing military secrets and then cry about his free speech rights. His free speech rights do not apply to his position and his contractual obligations with the state.

I am not familiar with other country’s laws regarding tax-exemption and religious liberty, so I cannot comment on that. But across the US today, our churches file for non-profit (501c3) status to receive specific economic benefits. Who could object to the benefits of charitable deductions and being tax-exempt? But, with the 501(c)3 application, we’ve put the wisdom of money ahead of the wisdom of the scriptures.

Along with the privileges of tax exemption, the Church also surrenders certain liberties to keep that exemption. I would venture to say that a majority of consistent churchgoers value the bill of rights; which include the right to free speech, practice religion, & others. Yet, week-in and week-out we voluntarily nullify our rights in order to enjoy the monetary benefits of tax exemption. We’d rather sacrifice our ability to speak our mind on moral, social, & political issues for the sake of extra cash. The almighty dollar has replaced the almighty God.

Many preach from the pulpit about a society that is in spiritual decline, but it’s no wonder why it is in decline. The decline is not the world’s fault. It’s not Satan’s fault. It’s not the president’s fault. It’s our (the Church’s) fault. The almighty dollar runs and governs our churches. I understand that money is necessary for ministry. I’m not trying to cast a hex on it. Scripture clearly states that the ‘love of money’ is the root of all kinds of evil. If our desire for a little extra cash requires a small sacrifice from the message each week, then I don’t know if there’s a better example that clearly demonstrates our problem with the love of money.

Who am I kidding though? It may be that money already has too much of a tight grip in this society to force God’s people to wake up. I realize that I am preaching to myself on this topic, yet here I am discussing it because I realize how important of a topic it is.

Eventually, this society will decline enough to force churches to either stand with scripture or keep their non-profit status. Eventually, pastors are going to be jailed, churches will be closed, and deacons will be arrested; because there had been preaching against homosexuality, abortion, abstinence, drugs, or family roles. In 30+ years from now, I can’t predict what spiritual opinion will be deemed illegal, but the punishment for our social beliefs are going to happen in a US church one day.

As i looked into the topic of 501c3 status for churches, I found some contradicting information out there about the ‘what are’ and ‘what are not’ the religious rights of churches. As I stated in my disclaimer – I am not an expert on this topic, but I am fairly certain that a pastor cannot endorse any political candidate. A pastor may not be prosecuted for preaching against gay marriage or abortion today, but to endorse a candidate from the pulpit that aligns with their religious beliefs is against the 501c3 regulations.

You may agree or disagree with the overall consensus of the ‘controversial’ social issues of today; just realize that understanding the dangers of  501c3’s is what’s at stake here. Also, what’s important is recognizing how we’ve fallen in love with money in the Church.

What is your opinion of the 501c3 status for churches? Do you think it hurts or helps, in what way?

Jared Bartholomew is the author of www.tithing.com. There are over 300 articles written on research and reviews about tithing information.

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8 comments on “Should Churches file for 501c3 Status?
  1. Black says:

    Great article. I’m surprised there’s no comments on this, but then again… I’m not. lol. Most Christian churches are 501c3 and your article is mostly correct, especially about endorsing politicians. But now that gay marriage is legal nationwide, I think it is illegal to speak against it, because it’s considered to be speaking against the state. When a church becomes 501c3, they give up their constitutional rights which includes free speech.

    It not necessary to be 501c3 to be a non-profit. Actually by law, churches are automatically non-profit. But churches can qualify and receive more money if they become 501c3.

    That’s one of many reasons why the Christian church isn’t teaching correct biblical doctrine.

  2. stevec says:

    Churches are ‘corporations’ of the State, as 501c3. Scripture enjoins us to bear one another’s burdens, yet Pastors pay no taxes on their salary/incomes, yet rail against those who can’t pay their tithe due to an effective 50 % tax rate, when you include social security, state, property, federal, unemployment, and now ‘insurance’, aka Obamacare. Roman taxes, which Jesus paid were 1%, and the churches tithe was 10 % of your crops, although it might have amounted to 20 %, as the tithe was taken more than once a year. But that was supposed to be used to feed the poor and take care of the widows, something the 501C3 church has delegated to the state. Churches are about political correctness and supporting government corruption. Churches should not be 501c, and pastors, church people should pay the same tax as the rest of us.

  3. DK says:

    “yet Pastors pay no taxes on their salary/income”
    I don’t believe this is true? The info below is directly off the IRS site:
    “If a congregation employs you for a salary, you are generally a common-law employee of the congregation and your salary is considered wages for income tax withholding purposes. However, amounts you receive directly from members of the congregation, such as fees for performing marriages, baptisms, or other personal services, are generally earnings from self-employment for income tax purposes. Both the salary you receive from the congregation and fees you receive from members of the congregation are subject to self-employment tax.”

  4. JBM says:

    Just came across this site. As I understand it, the Kentucky clerk did believe she was acting for her employer, the State of Kentucky, in accordance with KENTUCKY LAW, because that state had passed their own DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) which defines marriage as limited to one [human] male with one [human] female. (I add “human” because there are some humans who have expressed publicly the desire to marry trees or sheep.)
    The question is whether such issues come under the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which leaves all issues not covered under it TO THE SEVERAL STATES. Is the Supreme Court of the U.S. entitled to redefine the language our country has been using since before the Revolution?
    Even the preeminent example of acceptance of homosexual acts, Greece of long ago, shows no history of wanting homosexual alliances to be regarded as marriages. Marriage was apparently the norm, even for those preferring same-sex acts. I presume it was because it was rational to want produce blood offspring (something that does not happen with same-sex acts) who would inherit the fruits of your life’s labor.

  5. Stewart Good says:

    I agree that the State probably will enforce its desire to be preeminent and assert its authority. Church and State do not coexist. The apostles said when confronted that we need to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
    The State passes laws that directly oppose God and imposes penalties for opposing. Kim Davis is one, Christians in Nazi Germany, the penalty of death for opposing Communism, Martyrs first Century and now.
    We already are seeing in America the conflict with people being fired if they don’t submit, businesses shut down, threats and harassment, churches being threatened if they don’t bow.

  6. Blessed says:

    Sir,

    I have extremely great respect for you and the views you expressed. I’ve read through many of it and will do moreverything in the near future, and I cannot find anything you wrote that I don’t agree with. 501c 3 that the church accepts and loving money so much is very telling of how the God’s people have fallen into a deadly snare. I don’t believe the tithe doctrine as well and I’m having hard time finding local church that aligns with my beliefs because I am tired of being pressured out of guilt to give.

    God bless you and your family. Keep up the great work.

    • ETB says:

      I was a cofounder and co-pastor of my church just stepped down as doth because the senior pastor wants to stay as a 501c3 church and preaching tithing,as I began to make myself a workman study and approved dividing the truth with no shame I finally had the courage to not please man but please God.I had no joice but to do what is biblically correct and follow the word of God instead of the law of man,it really hurts to not be a part of something that was God led because of someone’s else lack of knowledge or just someone’s miss understanding of the word of God,and stubbornness,to want to still be a 501c3 organization just to get handouts for Holidays to give to people,when we should depend on God.Not many men of God are willing to give up their titles to please God instead they are willing to sacrifice the word of God for these titles,I just thank the Holy Spirit for leading and teaching me in all truths.I am free now like the word says to know the truth is to be free( paraphrasing ) thank you for this post,and I pray that many more pastors will read and understand that as a 501c3 church Jesus is no longer the head of their church it is now the state that is the head of the church which makes the church not the body of Christ.But to him that repent and overcome God has a blessing store up for them as read in revelation in the letters of warning to the 5 churches and the other 2 churches just need to stay strong and hold on to what they have.God Bless

      • B. Desmarais says:

        God Bless You. You are a very courageous person. It takes faith and courage to make God your center, your source, let Him direct you in the place He wants you to be and deliver the messages He wants you to deliver. 501c3 contractual agreement the pastor makes with the IRS give the government the authority over the church and the pastor dictating what can and cannot preach, what resources can be used. Not contracting with the 501c3 actually takes an act of faith, and God will acknowledge you for relying on Him as your source. The bible says “Faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God” How can people hear the Word of God when the pastor has compromised the church and the Word of God. By teaching only some of the Word of God, and not other parts because the church and pastor will lose their tax exempt status? Becausethe 501c3 contractual agreement from the government says the pastor is in violation of their agreement if he preaches what the government told him not to or used the Word of God identifying government laws that are an abomination to HIM. To agree NOT TO PREACH OR TEACH THE WORD OF GOD ON ANY AND ALL ISSUES THE GOVERNMENT DEEMS AS A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE WORD OF GOD AND THE LEGALIZED LAWS OF THE LAND PASSED BY POLITICIANS is beyond my understanding if the pastor is a man of God. The last 8 years the IRS has threaten many pastors and church, because the pastors did not abide by refraining from speaking about abortion, homosexuality, transgender, etc. Some pastors were actually trying to teach future pastors 501c3 was not the way to go if they were truly men of God I asked God for the truth about the 501c3, and every aspect about it, is it mandatory, can a church get out of it, et. God showed gave me the answers, it is a violation against trust in God Almighty as well as robbing God’s people of hearing His Word. The government does not consider a church under the 501c3 as being a church, because in order to qualify for the 501c3 tax exempt, the church must be incorporated first before applying for 501c3. Therefore, the government receives the church application as a corporation, not a church. The government can and will subject all the corporation under the 501c3 to the current laws, AND all future new laws and changed laws . This makes the pastor obligated to refrain from preaching teaching on the Bible when there is a conflict on any all laws passed in the future. Also, the burden for compromising by the pastors has just begun. Laws that are in the making that will be abominable, and the cost will be more than losing tax exempt status. The person who designed the 501c3 in 1954 was LB Johnson and some of his colleagues. A senator said back then if a pastor is willing to compromise the Word of God, the very book he committed to spread the Word of God, what else is that same pastor willing to do,

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