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Set Your Church Free

Ignorance of the true nature of the "income" tax has gagged, gutted and seduced-into-disgrace America's ministerial community. This must change.

THE ART OF TYRANNY IS THE ART OF CO-OPTING a large enough or influential enough portion of the population so as to be free to use the power of the state for one's own purposes without being stopped. Over the last 75 years, the progressive operators of the state have secured freedom to pursue their socialist and self-enriching agenda in large part by successful co-option of America's ministers.

During that 75-year period, American pulpits have been transformed. They have abandoned center-stage roles as vocal and inspiring bastions of liberty and the rule of law and taken up service as muted props on the sidelines of the public square.

At one time our churches were grounded in the Biblical and Jeffersonian principle that rights are God-given and unalienable, and said so. At one time our churches recognized the state to be a mere subordinate construct of men made solely for the purpose of securing those rights against all assaults, foreign and domestic, and said so.

At one time our churches were deeply suspicious of state claims to any power to determine or compromise the extent of our rights, and said so. At one time our churches encouraged and nurtured that mature perspective in their congregations. But today most churches are silent enablers, if not outright cheerleaders for the state's ambitions and the means by which they are pursued.

The cause of this transformation is simple-- the widespread misunderstanding of the "income tax".

HERE'S HOW THAT WORKS: Because most folks are successfully misled about the limits of the tax and the activities to which it applies, they believe themselves to benefit from IRS-approved charitable-contribution deductions. Consequently, churches feel themselves better able to attract donations and tithes if they can claim IRS-approved status, either by virtue of actually applying for "501(c)(3)" status or by conforming to the speech restrictions required for that status.

The speech restrictions imposed by 501(c)(3) essentially gut any and all political advocacy. Deductibility of donations under the 501(c)(3) rules is invalid if the recipient organization engages in advocacy on behalf of any candidates for political office or attempts to "influence legislation". The bias of the IRS toward finding reasons for denying deductions and other benefits being as well known as it is, any organization wanting to preserve 5010(c)(3) deductibility feels compelled to refrain from all political advocacy.

Peter Kershaw of 'Heal Our Land Ministries' offers this summary of the effect of subordination to 501(c)(3) rules:

When a church accepts the 501(c)(3) status, that church:

  • Waives its freedom of speech.

  • Waives its freedom of religion.

  • Waives its right to influence legislators and the legislation they craft.

  • Waives its constitutionally guaranteed rights.

  • Is no longer free to speak to the vital issues of the day.

  • Becomes controlled by a spirit of fear that if it doesn’t toe the line with the IRS it will lose its tax-exempt status.

  • Becomes a State-Church.

Thus, churches believing that tax deductibility of donations is important must make a deal with the devil, accepting state censorship of their political views for money. The tragedy (aside from the disgrace of this "bargain" generally), is that the self-imposed gag is completely unnecessary.

Other than perhaps churches located within shooting distance of the Washington beltway, few if any congregants in most churches actually owe any "income" tax in the first place. Hence, these folks actually have no need for any deductions. A deduction is of no benefit to someone who has no taxable "income" from which to deduct it, and who will have no tax burden to reduce by that means.

All that is necessary to free these churches from the bonds of censorship is the widespread understanding of the liberating truth about the tax.

Freeing America's churches is no small thing, and it is no surprise that the worshippers of the State view our churches as dangerous opponents and have long striven to emasculate them as a meaningful force in public life. In our unbound churches, the State is put in its proper place-- below God and Man; a tertiary thing created by men for limited purposes, and endowed with no authority not inherently possessed by the individual men and women whose mere agent it is.

Look, for instance, at how an unbound church leader speaks to his congregants and the world at large. Here are a few words of Ezra Taft Benson, the president of the Mormon church from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s:

"I don’t know how you feel, my brethren and sisters, but I’d rather be dead than to lose my liberty. I have no fear we’ll ever lose it because of invasion from the outside. But I do have fear that it may slip away from us because of our own indifference, our own negligence, as citizens of this land. And so I plead with you this morning that you take an active interest in matters pertaining to the future of this country."

"Because some Americans have not kept faith with our Founding Fathers, the Constitution faces severe challenges. Those who do not prize individual freedom are trying to erode its great principles. We believe the Constitution will stand, but it will take the efforts of patriotic and dedicated Americans to uphold it. . . . We, as Latter-day Saints, must be vigilant in doing our part to preserve the Constitution and safeguard the way of life it makes possible."

"A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning.

There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me…

In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn't go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime."

Christian theologian R. J. Rushdoony says this, when speaking unbound:

"...Biblical faith assert[s] that the source of ultimate order is not the state but God. Ultimacy and ultimate order are transcendent rather than immanent. For the state to claim jurisdiction beyond its realm is sin. The Bible gives us numerous examples of what constitutes signal evil on the part of the state. Drafting youth for non-military services to the state and taxing beyond the head tax to as much as 10% (a tithe) of a man’s wealth or income is cited as evil (I Sam. 8). For the state to claim a priestly role, and ’ the control of religion, is evil (II Chron. 26: 16-21). Expropriation of property by the state is a very serious transgression (I Kings 21). Debasing the coinage is charged against Judah as part of God’s indictment (“Thy silver is become dross,” Isa. I:22). Much, much more could be cited."

C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength is a book-length contemptuous and appalled indictment of the modern state.

Many other ministers and church leaders, of every denomination, have expressed similar sentiments, when unconstrained. But were a minister in any church, Mormon or other, to exhort his congregation to support or oppose legislation or any candidate in harmony with these positions, donations or tithes to that church would be denied deductibility.

And so, misled into their devil's bargain by misunderstanding of the tax (which really means seduced into a disgraceful abandonment of principle in favor of what is seen as a practical necessity), many churches which otherwise would be vocal, virtuous and powerful forces for good stand silent and simply watch as America slides into a collectivist tyranny in order to protect a "benefit" which actually offers them nothing at all.

 SPREAD THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TAX, and if you are a member of a church, focus a lot of your attention there. I firmly believe that few pastors are happy about the deal they imagine themselves obliged to make. For example, here is what Dr. Joel McDurmon of the American Vision has to say even while oblivious to the realities of the tax:

For now, churches need to be aware that their path to freedom is not within 501(c)3, but outside of it. You don’t need it, and in fact you can only speak freely without it.

Further, these ministers are truth-tellers by nature and by calling. Once informed of the liberating truth about the tax and its fundamental harmony with scripture (as well as the fundamental dissonance with scripture of the tax as commonly misunderstood), these good folks will quickly become especially-effective word-spreaders themselves.

"Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God"

-Thomas Jefferson


Set Your Church Free II

IN PART I OF THIS ARTICLE I spoke about the shameful transformation of America's churches and religious leaders over the last 75 years. In that short span our ministerial community has gone from being fiercely independent voices in the community unhesitating and uncompromising in their support of the law over the State, and of the individual over what is claimed to be the collective will or interest by those who speak in the name of that fiction to being a subordinate, self-censored enabler-- if not an active cheerleader-- for the unbridled ambitions of a State gone almost totally rogue.

The impetus behind the churches and minsters having so compromised themselves-- and the simple means of reversing the transformation-- are explained in that previous article. Today I want to ruminate a bit more widely, and get into darker motivations and mechanics.

CONSIDERING MOTIVATIONS, the first thing that must be remembered is that churches (or religions) independent of the State have always been rightly seen as dire threats to the lawlessness that is the natural ambition of every State apparatus, including our own. Rogue States have always sought to suborn or crush independent religious voices.

Indeed, a State's basic legitimacy can be usefully measured by study of its comfort with influential voices encouraging popular allegiance to natural law. Legitimate States are embodiments of natural law, and will find no threat to their well-being and freedom of action by a resort of the people to that authority. Only a rogue State is discomfited by "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence.

States-- by which is meant the organisms of government-- chafe at natural law because its upholding of the rights of the individual over the powers of the state hinder the accretion of wealth and power to those controlling the state apparatus. States dislike independent religious voices because they remind the people that their rights do not come from the State and therefore subordinate the State to the law, rather than the other way around as the operators of the State would prefer.

So the transformation of American churches from independent celebrants of natural law into silence or state-cheerleading offers big benefits to the State itself. We must therefore entertain the notion that the mechanism by which this has been accomplished-- the thoroughly encouraged and well-watered misunderstanding of the "income tax" planted into the American consciousness in the 1940s and the adoption of rules leveraging that misunderstanding into censorship of American churches-- were motivated at least in part by a deliberate desire to assault and destroy America's churches.

The Constitution wisely and foresightedly defends American churches from forcible State subordination. Though they are often misunderstood and imagined to be directed at preventing the State from coming to be dominated by a religion, this is the point of the Constitution's "separation of Church and State" provisions.

The big concern of the Founders and Framers was not that a Church would dominate the State. Their big concern was the danger of the State subordinating America's independent religious views and voices, and transforming them into some form of a State- or State-approved church serving State ambitions. This had been the experience of their English ancestors with Henry VIII's creation of the Church of England, and of many of the colonists themselves prior to the Revolution.

 The founding generation feared the use of American pulpits by a rogue State as an opiate by which the People are drugged into a quiet acceptance of temporal injustice and exploitation by encouragement to keep their eyes and expectations focused on the afterlife. Even more troubling was the prospect of the use of American pulpits and all their influence as organs of the State itself, generating outright popular support and defense of the State's agenda. And today, that's just what we have in many American "churches", because...

 THE MECHANICS OF THE SUBORDINATION OF AMERICAN CHURCHES to the censoring protocols of government approval in the mistaken notion that donors have a valid interest in the tax-deductibility of donations is that of pushing genuine theologians out of view and therefore out of influence even within the individual church, and of elevating jingos and sycophants.

The overall effect on a speech-focused activity like preaching of a regime under which it is imagined that state-disapproved speech will invite a penalty is not to silence speech entirely, but rather to encourage whatever is imagined to be state-approved speech. When one doesn't know just what will invite disfavor (and when that's what is seen as important), one's best course is to stay a good distance away from the dividing line with an excess of favored speech. It doesn't take a handbook to know that echoing the State's own rhetoric and boosting its programs puts one safely in that "prudent" territory.

As a consequence, we have "churches" across the land whose sermons focus not on peace, humility, forgiveness, and elevation of God's law above the State's, but rather on militarist jingoism and perniciously abusive misrepresentation of scripture, such as that of Romans 13: as discussed in the second section of the article found here.

Once our ministers spoke as Jesus did, putting truth above all and urging congregants to stand on principle come what may in any contest where it was an issue (and most such contests are with the State as adversary-- one only has tests of one's commitment to principle when contending with a superior power). Now our ministers encourage our children to go off into other people's lands and kill them when asked to do so by the State, and to quietly submit to any abuse of State power at home.

When was the last time any of you heard from the pulpit that it is wrong to submit to a warrantless search? When was the last time you heard it taught in Sunday School that stealing is wrong, no matter if it is done by one thief or by a government, notwithstanding  claims by the latter that a bunch of your neighbors had said it had their approval?

Our Constitutional structure was carefully designed to protect our churches from the influence and control of the State. By allowing the modern mythology about the "income tax" to stand uncorrected, we've let what were once critically-important counter-weights to State power turn into its co-conspirators against liberty and the true rule of law.

"An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against..."

-James Madison