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View Full Version : Is another blow to the separation of church and state coming soon?



Norman Bernstein
02-02-2017, 01:52 PM
Perhaps:


President Trump “vowed to overturn a law restricting political speech by tax-exempt churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to his political base,” the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/us/politics/trump-vows-to-destroy-law-banning-political-activity-by-churches.html?_r=0) reports.

“Mr. Trump said his administration would ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status.”

Peerie Maa
02-02-2017, 02:26 PM
Well, many of our church leaders are not backward in slagging off government policies.

Be careful what you wish for.

BrianY
02-02-2017, 02:28 PM
I'm OK with churches being able to participate in politics if they are taxed and treated like other for-profit advocacy organizations

Rich Jones
02-02-2017, 02:39 PM
I'm OK with churches being able to participate in politics if they are taxed and treated like other for-profit advocacy organizations Not a good idea. I'm a gung-ho Episcopalian, but I don't want to hear politics from the pulpit. That would tear the congregation apart. It's one place I can go and not worry about someone spouting off about politics. Our rector has declared our church a "politics-free-zone, meaning that politics are not to be discussed during a sermon or during any meeting of the various groups within the church.
As for our church being a for-profit outfit, that's laughable. I'm on the finance committee and we barely stay in the black. Churches are not set up to be "for profit". Taxation would be the death-knoll for many churches, including mine.

ccmanuals
02-02-2017, 02:41 PM
Perhaps:

I believe he said that at a prayer breakfast. What a poor excuse for a leader.

Osborne Russell
02-02-2017, 02:43 PM
I'm OK with churches being able to participate in politics if they are taxed and treated like other for-profit advocacy organizations

Churches are deemed to be untaxable because of the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment. How it is that taxes on income infringes the practice of religion is a mystery to me.

Peerie Maa
02-02-2017, 02:57 PM
Not a good idea. I'm a gung-ho Episcopalian, but I don't want to hear politics from the pulpit. That would tear the congregation apart. It's one place I can go and not worry about someone spouting off about politics. Our rector has declared our church a "politics-free-zone, meaning that politics are not to be discussed during a sermon or during any meeting of the various groups within the church.
As for our church being a for-profit outfit, that's laughable. I'm on the finance committee and we barely stay in the black. Churches are not set up to be "for profit". Taxation would be the death-knoll for many churches, including mine.

Do you not think that if a government policy runs totally counter to Christ's teaching, the church and its congregation should not be allowed to discuss it, that they should keep quiet and suck it up. Or rather should the priest not point out and lead down the moral path?

Too Little Time
02-02-2017, 03:20 PM
I'm a gung-ho Episcopalian, but I don't want to hear politics from the pulpit.
There is no requirement that your church change.

I looked at this thread because Trump wants Jerry Falwell Jr. to head a group to reform regulations on Universities. He leads a church and a not for profit university. And also a for profit university that seems to attract a lot of government guaranteed student loans. I think we can tell the direction of change.

Osborne Russell
02-02-2017, 03:47 PM
As for our church being a for-profit outfit, that's laughable. I'm on the finance committee and we barely stay in the black. Churches are not set up to be "for profit". Taxation would be the death-knoll for many churches, including mine.

If you have no profit, you owe no tax. You take in X to rent a hall for Sunday School and Y to buy materials. Those are expenses.

Better yet, just have individuals pay the bills as they come in, with their own after-tax money.

The problems are when you have to get property and liability insurance. But that's the market, not the government.

Nicholas Scheuer
02-02-2017, 03:53 PM
Might be instigated by Pence. It appears to me that he is the ONLY individual in the Trump Admin who takes religion seriously

Ian McColgin
02-02-2017, 04:40 PM
There are of course many who view church tax exemption as de facto government support of those churches, but that opinion is out of the mainstream. For an intelligent and foot note dense survey of this in US legal history, serious and non-ideologically driven readers might try http://lawandreligion.com/sites/lawandreligion.com/files/livingston.pdf . Followers of the Scalia school are advised to not pollute their minds with this stuff.

Canoez
02-02-2017, 04:45 PM
Let's be honest here - there are already many, many congregations that are politically active on both sides of the aisle.

skuthorp
02-02-2017, 04:47 PM
Here some religious organisations have recieved government funds for doing a job that government should be doing. (running an employment agency for instance) Inevitably down the track the funding is threatened if the religious organisation has ethical problems with government policy.

Rich Jones
02-02-2017, 07:31 PM
Do you not think that if a government policy runs totally counter to Christ's teaching, the church and its congregation should not be allowed to discuss it, that they should keep quiet and suck it up. Or rather should the priest not point out and lead down the moral path? We do discuss these matters and they do come up in once in a while in sermons, but it is never blamed on any particular political party. It is simply pointed out as being contrary to Christ's teachings. It's a fine line to walk sometimes and does cause some grief in that some parishioners feel their political party is being picked on. Tomorrow, for instance, we will be having a special service praying for immigrants and refugees. This will rankle some conservatives in our congregation, but the sermon will no doubt point out how Christ wants us to accept all people and help those who cannot help themselves. It will be Christ's teachings, not politics, that will be preached from the pulpit. No mention will be made of DT.

Ian McColgin
02-02-2017, 07:44 PM
It has always been a proper role for religious leaders to address, often lead in, the great moral issues of their time. It is also natural for congregants to be active in both civic organizations and in church, synagog, or mosque activities that serve in the world. The line is acting as or on behalf of a political party in any partisan manner. It is a very simple matter and something that only right wingers who want to be or to own a politician have problems with.

peb
02-02-2017, 07:48 PM
Churches are deemed to be untaxable because of the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment. How it is that taxes on income infringes the practice of religion is a mystery to me.



My gosh.... "the power to tax is the power to control". One of the most basic axioms of government of all forms. Any tax on a church is a direct violation of the 1st amendment.

This is well established legally. If it is a mystery to you, ..... Oh well.

Ian McColgin
02-02-2017, 07:54 PM
One reason I gave the link I did was that the First Amendment is NOT the reason churches are not taxed. About five seconds with history will show that religious institutions being free to tax liability goes back at least to the Babylonian empire and is mostly constant in most human societies in all kinds of different ways. Sorry I didn't mention it. Just thought basic history was our common heritage.

skuthorp
02-02-2017, 08:40 PM
The Adventists here run a large commercial business under cover of the non-taxing of churches, the Exclusive Bretheren as well. If it competes with organisations that pay tax it should as well. OTOH many large local and multinationals here pay minimal taxes but pay large donations to political parties. Add it up.
BTW, the record individual donation to a political party in Australia was paid last year, A$1.75 million, by the present Prime Minister. Bought his job it seems. At his pay rate it'll take a few years to get that back, presuming he keeps the job.

Breakaway
02-03-2017, 12:41 AM
Because of their great number of followers, too much political power could be concentrated in a church, were clergy to publicly take the side of one party or the other. For that reason, I think they should remain politically mute. Issues of the day are fine for discussion, so long as neither blame is ascribed blame nor credit taken.

Kevin

skuthorp
02-03-2017, 01:43 AM
In my youth the catholic church openly raised money for the IRA, same in the US if I remember rightly.
Terrorism or patriotism? Depends on your loyalties and opinions.

Peerie Maa
02-03-2017, 06:00 AM
In my youth the catholic church openly raised money for the IRA, same in the US if I remember rightly.
Terrorism or patriotism? Depends on your loyalties and opinions.

I am not certain, but I heard that the Boston Irish were lied to by the fund-raisers. They were told that there was real financial hardship amongst the catholic community and that the money was for welfare. A lie on two counts, Norn Iron was a part of our welfare state, and the money went on arms and explosives.

The US were definitely (unofficially) supporting terrorism, I had not heard the same of OZ.

Nicholas Scheuer
02-03-2017, 07:20 AM
Hey, the quicker the USA goes down the drain the quicker we can rid ourselves of the Orangeatan. I really don't care what the holy rollers do, anyway. If my Pastor starts preaching about how I should vote, I can always keep my Sunday envelope in my pocket.

Lew Barrett
02-03-2017, 11:46 AM
Because of their great number of followers, too much political power could be concentrated in a church, were clergy to publicly take the side of one party or the other. For that reason, I think they should remain politically mute. Issues of the day are fine for discussion, so long as neither blame is ascribed blame nor credit taken.

Kevin

It's a fiction to think partisan politics aren't already being enjoyed from the pulpit. And some big pulpits they are. The idea thar we've been protecting Religion from politics and politics from religion is a sham. Take Pat Robertson for instance. Please!

Ian McColgin
02-03-2017, 12:35 PM
Of course there's some partisan pulpit politics, especially from the right as they are not usually prosecuted or have their tax status threatened.

For example, in my community organizing days we had a land use issue - I think it was a Roman Catholic Hospital that wanted to make a big parking garage by demolishing some housing - and it came down to a village vote. I was pretty confident until I saw about a hundred nuns march in waving their brand new voter registrations. I'd forgotten there was a convent attached to the hospital. I later learned that the order had been given by a priest at the nuns' evening service.

Sometimes you lose.

But at least the possibility of losing tax exempt status keeps televangelists and priests all over from issuing clear voice political orders.

Osborne Russell
02-03-2017, 02:35 PM
One reason I gave the link I did was that the First Amendment is NOT the reason churches are not taxed. About five seconds with history will show that religious institutions being free to tax liability goes back at least to the Babylonian empire and is mostly constant in most human societies in all kinds of different ways. Sorry I didn't mention it. Just thought basic history was our common heritage.

Five seconds well spent. Clearly I was mistaken, and it appears the IRS is too:


Congress has enacted special tax laws that apply to churches, religious organizations and ministers in recognition of their unique status in American society and of their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law; however, certain income of a church or religious organization may be subject to tax, such as income from an unrelated business.

-- Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf

Churches per se don't have Constitutional rights. Tax exemptions come from statutes which can be repealed at any moment. The controversy has always been about whether the exemptions violate the Establishment Clause, not whether they are required by the Free Exercise clause.

People have Constitutional rights, one of which is freedom from established religion, hence the Establishment Clause.

Exemption is supposed to be good policy because we get our money's worth. We contract with them for services, except it's a very stupid contract, because they don't have to provide anything. No wonder the impression is that they are privileged. They are; but not by the Constitution. Tax law allows them to be exempt from taxes and provide nothing at all in return. To ask what we get out of it would violate a "policy" of "neutrality".


We find it unnecessary to justify the tax exemption on the social welfare services or 'good works' that some churches perform for parishioners and others-family counselling, aid to the elderly and the infirm, and to children. Churches vary substantially in the scope of such services; programs expand or contract according to resources and need. As public-sponsored programs enlarge, private aid from the church sector may diminish. The extent of social services may vary, depending on whether the church serves an urban or rural, a rich or poor constituency. To give emphasis to so variable an aspect of the work of religious bodies would introduce an element of governmental evaluation and standards as to the worth of particular social welfare programs, thus producing a kind of continuing day-to-day relationship which the policy of neutrality seeks to minimize.

WALZ v. TAX COMMISSION OF CITY OF NEW YORK 397 U.S. 664 , 665 (1970)

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/397/664.html

Too Little Time
02-03-2017, 03:03 PM
Churches per se don't have Constitutional rights. Tax exemptions come from statutes which can be repealed at any moment. The controversy has always been about whether the exemptions violate the Establishment Clause, not whether they are required by the Free Exercise clause.

People have Constitutional rights, one of which is freedom from established religion, hence the Establishment Clause.
History may be why we have such a constitutional provision. But the constitutional provision not history is why churches are not taxed.

Osborne Russell
02-03-2017, 03:04 PM
History may be why we have such a constitutional provision. But the constitutional provision not history is why churches are not taxed.

Your authority for this proposition is . . .