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Should Churches Pay Taxes?

By Dr. Don Boys
© 1997 Cornerstone Communications

When there was discussion about bringing churches under the new Social Security system in the days of President Franklin Roosevelt, he quickly replied, "But that would be taxing God!" And so it would. But those days are behind us. Public officials are more arrogant, asinine and audacious than ever, and they are desperately looking for new sources of revenue.

Local, state and Federal governments are hurting for money since they have been spending it as if it grows on trees. Or put another way, they have been spending it as if it is someone else's money-and it is! Because of this fact, entities of governments are looking for "cash cows," and they have noticed the steepled buildings on every street in town-churches. Make no mistake about it, the good, easy days are gone forever. Your church is in the bull's eye.

Berkeley, California has already taken a shot at churches within its jurisdiction by demanding that all churches and non-profit organizations pay an annual $51.00 license fee and 60 cents for each $1,000.00 of receipts as an income tax. Even liberal Baptists refused to pay the tax at the advice of the American Baptist Churches of the West while the Presbyterian Church paid with a mild protest. Another protester was the local pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Some of the protesters, while protesting the tax did so using nebulous arguments. The big pitch was that churches should not be taxed because of the contributions they make to the city in education, feeding the homeless, AIDS education, day care, etc. But that is not the heart of the argument. Churches should not pay taxes because the government does not have the authority to demand it!

Does not the Constitution clearly prohibit the government from making any law restricting religion? Does not the ability to tax actually mean the ability to control – or destroy? I thought most of us believed in the separation of church and state (but not separation of God and state), but if so, how can any government entity presume to tax the church? After all, a "higher" always taxes a "lower," and will any Bible believer maintain that government is over the Church of the Living God? I thought Christ was preeminent over all.

Will a Bible church take money given for Christian purposes and give it to Caesar? Well, Jesus did say to give unto Caesar what belongs to him and unto God what belongs to Him; however, Jesus was giving that command to persons not churches. If a church will pay an income tax to the government are they admitting that the church is a business like the local pizza parlor? And what will be the limit of the tax? Sure, they could pay 1% of income but what will they plead when the tax is 10% or more? You can't plead convictions because convictions would not permit you to pay any percent.

If the government is over the Church of God, I'd like to know when it took place. Someone will remind us that churches receive benefits from government such as police and fire protection, garbage pick-up, etc., but then the members have paid for those benefits as individuals.

No, churches must not, under any conditions, pay taxes. After all, the power to tax is the power to destroy (or control). Wouldn't it be ironic for Bible-believing Christians to participate in an effort to dig out the foundations of the church in an attempt to "do the right thing"? The "right thing" is for churches to maintain their sovereignty and refuse to pay taxes even when church leaders are dragged off to jail, and when church buildings are sold at public auction to pay the illegal tax on God. Sounds tough, but Christ didn't promise us a rose garden – only a cross but we have to pick it up.

Copyright,1997, Don Boys, Ph.D

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