Watchmen On the Wall - FRC

Prayer Targets: Church Tax Exemption; National Watchmen Pastors Summit; Defunding Planned Parenthood

July 29, 2015

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. Luke 20:25

Senior Vice President, Rob Schwarzwalder, leads FRC’s Communications and Policy divisions, including the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI). He spent years on Capitol Hill in leadership roles working with House and Senate Conservatives. The scholars on his team research, produce and distribute FRC’s extensive policy analysis in the form of Congressional testimony, scholarly papers, booklets, issue analyses, radio & TV appearances, speeches, articles and op-eds for national media, FRC University lectures, email publications, the Social Conservative Review and more. Excerpts from his Tax Exemption for Churches: An American Value, a Social Imperative: 

Some Americans seem to think that churches are merely large buildings that, after about noon on Sunday, lock their doors and occupy space for the balance of the week. This misperception could prove quite costly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s finding of a constitutional “right” to same-sex marriage.  Already, some are calling for the ending of tax exempt status for churches, religious-affiliated schools of all kinds, and non-profits in general if they do not actively make accommodations for same-sex partners.

Not only would this be an act of political aggression against religious entities…it would adversely affect untold millions of lives by shrinking countless church ministries to people with profound and urgent needs.

Tax exempt status for churches is a historic, even intrinsic, part of the federal tax system… In Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York (1970), Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote “the grant of a tax exemption is not sponsorship since the government does not transfer part of its revenue to churches but simply abstains from demanding that the church support the state.” …

Tax exemption for churches protects religious entities from the state. Giving government authority to tax religious entities not only breaches the protective wall of separation that guards the church from the state, but effectively knocks that wall down. Religious values have long infused American public life and law, yet as institutions, church and state are distinct...  Giving any government legal authority to tax religious entities is only a first step toward making churches institutionally subservient to that government... 

According to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, eliminating tax exemption for nonprofit organizations would amount to ...  a tax on free assembly, free religion, and free speech. This would be, in essence, a “Bill of Rights Tax."

What Churches Do for Their Communities -Churches, whether liberal or conservative… are not empty boxes sitting idle except for a few hours a week.  In addition to… Bible studies, fellowship meetings, youth group events, and other spiritually-oriented ministries… they provide services… to people in all walks and stages of life regardless of religious belief.  The financial value of these services has not been calculated, but no one can dispute it is profound and also relieves federal and state governments of duties that would cost them huge amounts of money [Rob lists a few dozen ministries that span the breadth of human need].

If the church tax exemption is lost, religion will lose even more influence and reliance on the state will become more prevalent. Religion will become a private, publically irrelevant force, as in the Soviet Union.

While God cannot be thwarted and his church will thrive even in secret, local communities around the nation will lose the benefits that churches have provided to them over the years if churches are forced out of public life. Countless Americans in need of help will be the ones who suffer.

Churches are essential to any society desiring both the amelioration of conflict and the gentle influence of voluntary charity.  They do great good for many, and discourage evil that so readily creeps onto culture’s pathway if not diligently suppressed.  Keeping them tax exempt will preserve their ability to do these things.

Writing in Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville observes, “Freedom sees in religion… the divine source of its rights.  It considers religion as the safeguard of mores; and mores as the guarantee of laws and the pledge of its own duration.” Dare we risk fraying such a lifeline to the very soul of our national character? (Read Mr. Schwarzwalder’s carefully documented, 7 page analysis, HERE)

More on Church Tax Exemption – Pastors and local churches perform sacred functions like administering baptisms, marriages, communion, funerals, confirmation, catechisms, etc. The federal government is unlikely to tax churches any time soon that restrict their activities to what secularists call “religious worship.” Yet believers who carry their faith to the public square through Christian colleges, Pregnancy Care Centers, K-12 Christian schools, and a vast array of ministries organized to minister to the spirits, minds and bodies of people outside the church are likely to be targeted first.  U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted as much and Christian college administrators are waiting on edge to see how the feds will keep Verrilli’s promise.

The IRS, which is the same agency that targeted the Tea Party and Christian groups, will be approving or disapproving the tax exempt status of new and existing Christian institutions under the new order established by the Obergefell ruling. Some Christian schools have already changed their constitutions to comply with Obergefell. Others have strengthened their constitution’s to reflect an unbending commitment to biblical marriage. Parachurch ministries will be next, and few believe local churches will ultimately go untouched. In Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., Catholic Charities closed their highly respected adoption services because their faith would not allow them to place children in same-sex couple’s homes, as was required under new same-sex marriage laws. The groundwork is now in place for this to happen nationwide under Obergefell.

When will the wholesale assault on these ministries begin? It will take time, and no one knows for sure, but unless Congress acts to protect both churches and para-church Christian ministries, it is inevitable. Given the EEOC’s recent decision to identify homosexuals as a protected class under federal civil rights laws without an Act of Congress, it would be no surprise to see them supporting discrimination lawsuits against churches that refuse to rent their facilities for same-sex ceremonies and celebrations or hire self-identifying LGBT individuals for non-pastoral jobs, etc., any day. The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is not likely to pass in either House before the August recess, but it will be an important first step to check the application of the Obergefell ruling, and protect pastors and churches from assault by the IRS. But the States must also act to protect their pastors, churches and believers from state and local governments.

Like many businesses, many non-profit ministries operate on a slim margin. The property tax, alone, would put some churches out of commission and greatly reduce the ministry capability of many more. A number of states tie their state tax exemption to the federal tax status. The sum total of federal, state and local taxes would put scores of Christian non-profit organizations out of the ministry, and unconstitutionally entangle and empower the government over the church. “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” (Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819)  (See FADA - House: H. R. 2802 and Senate: S. 1598, Same-sex “Marriage”: Pews before Pulpit; view FRC video: Christian Schools at Risk).

May God’s people arise to take a stand now, as caretakers of God’s church, both to defend God’s ministry and His treasury, both of which belong to Him! May God give wisdom to every pastor and church and may He use what some people want to use to control the church to awaken it to new devotion, vitality and power. May FADA pass speedily and overwhelmingly with bipartisan support! Gen 50:20;  Lev 27:30; Josh 6:19; Jdg 5:1-31; Ezra 6:5; Dan 2:23; 1 Cor 1:20, 30

National Watchmen Summit in Dallas Texas –True shepherds will not flee, compromise, nor stand by idly while wolves move to devour the flock (Jn 10). That is why FRC President Tony Perkins has called for an emergency Pastors’ Summit on August 24th & 25th at Prestonwood Baptist Church (North Dallas), 6801 W Park Blvd, Plano, TX 75093. The event is open to Pastors Only.  Please forward this to your pastor. If you are a pastor, get more information HERE and REGISTER HERE.

Please pray from now through the end of the Summit, that God will pour out His Spirit, wisdom and power upon the pastors. May pastors rush to be a part of this Summit, each and every one whom God wants to be there! May God guide and set forth direction and strategy that will bless His people, lead to awakening in America’s churches and benefit our nation and the nations until the Lord returns! (1 Sam 22:1-2; 2 Sam 23:1-39; Jn 10:10-17; Eph 6:10-20)

Finally, challenging days are ahead. We need to hear from God and move as one to advance the gospel, defend our churches and be the standard God promised to raise up in such a day (Is 59:19b). Please pray for swift passage: Dianne Black’s (R-Tenn.) - Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015); Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) Senate version. The Senate may vote on it before the August recess. Pray, too, that more companies will decide to stop funding Planned Parenthood (3 of 41 have already done so: Coca Cola, Ford, and Xerox). Thanks for praying!