Regarding churches losing tax free status

I’m not so worried anymore. I did a search on where various denominations stand on marrying same sex couples and it doesn’t seem like there is that much to worry about. I know this is a sort of punishment that various extreme groups would like to inflict on non-compliant churches (including the Catholic Church), but we are far from alone on this issue.

I thought I would look across the pond first. The Church of England doesn’t marry same sex couples. I was actually surprised by that. I thought that since Europe is so much more liberal and secular than the US that they would have accommodated same sex marriages. I guess I was surprised, but I read the arguments and they sound quite reasonable.

In addition to the vast majority of Baptists in the US (you can include the church in Charleston, which demonstrated the beauty of forgiveness and love of neighbor despite the hate driven murder of nine of their members), one branch of Presbyterians, most Lutherans, all Anglicans, all Mormons, all Muslims, two of the major branches of Judaism, and the Methodists. Now, that last group, the United Methodist Church, is interesting because Mrs. Clinton is an active member. In fact, she just addressed the women’s conference last year. I doubt that she would go after her own beloved denomination. I cannot imagine the extremists suing all these churches and the synagogues, the mosques (and some Buddhist and Hindu temples) for not marrying them.

All along, I thought the major point behind pushing for gay marriage was because of the tax benefits couples enjoy and also for important things, such as counting as 'family’when one spouse is hospitalized. The government has granted them that. Regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, they have all the same rights as other married couples. There are many churches they can get married in but it’s the state that grants them the rights to all the benefits that I thought they were seeking. Honestly, I understand their point of view on that. Especially making medical decisions for each other. What if they are estranged from their family and their spouse is the only one who knows their wishes? I do not agree that it’s a sacramental marriage, but I didn’t think they were seeking that. Getting married in the Catholic Church doesn’t give you tax benefits. It’s that little slip of paper from the courthouse that you get before the church wedding. Wasn’t that the goal in the first place, or am I entirely mistaken?

These extreme groups calling for punishing the churches that won’t marry them seem vengeful and petty. Should I sue because I could not get married in a mosque or a synagogue, or even a Mormon temple, if I felt like it? Should divorced couples that would like to re-marry without an annulment sue the Catholic Church? If a pastor or priest turns a couple down, for any reason, should he get sued?

What are your thoughts? Do you think they will have any success in punishing all religions that do not do same sex weddings? What if they just go after one group, but not all? Certainly, that would be seen as unfair by the courts. If you sue us Catholics, you also have to go after Muslims, for example. If you attack Mormons, you have to go after the Baptists. You are also touching a race issue here in the South because many historically black churches would have to close without the tax free status. These are small, neighborhood churches, that provide a sense of community. Do they really want to attack them?

I have heard multiple people tell me they think churches should lose their tax exempt status. This is an extremely poorly thought out position for a number of reasons.

First of all tax exemption exists for churches because of this idea of separation of church and state. It is as old as our government. Government doesn’t meddle in the Church’s affairs, and vice versa. If we take that away, and the government starts taxing churches, then that separation becomes breached. Now the churches can become more involved in politics, can be legally subsidized, etc. This is the benefit you get for paying taxes. Tell that to a militant atheist and see if they like the sound of that.

Secondly, if you are going to tax churches and religious organizations, then you will have to tax all other nonprofits as well, otherwise that is discrimination.

Thirdly, one of the most common objections to tax-exempt status is that supposedly churches take up land that could generate revenue, creating a greater burden on the properties around them. Truth be told, the difference would be negligible. Churches don’t take up a lot of property in the state. Also, we could make the same argument again for all nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations. An obvious example would be a public university. Not only do universities take up tons and tons of land, they also put a burden on the local infrastructure: the police, transportation systems, etc. So in other words, universities don’t pay taxes but they benefit from the services that our taxes pay for. Talk about a free ride. Imagine what kind of revenue we could generate from taxing those organizations. Granted, nobody would be able to afford tuition…

Also churches provide a public good. They are involved in soup kitchens, hospitals, and other community service. The fact that there are people who don’t go to church or disagree with churches does not give excuse to remove tax exempt status. There are people who don’t get college educations, there are people who disagree with Planned Parenthood and don’t use their services, but they remain tax exempt. As much as the left hates to hear it… the constitution requires them to be tolerant. They can’t discriminate against churches just because they are churches.

I think that the people that push for the Church to lose tax exempt status (or who are worried that the Church will lose tax exempt status) do not really understand tax exempt status.

I’ve seen so many people say things like “The Church cannot comment on politics or else they will lost tax exempt status.” But just look at Planned Parenthood. They are a non-profit organization and thus are tax exempt. And they certainly do their best to influence politics. You don’t hear anyone worrying about them losing tax exempt status. :shrug:

With regards to the tax benefits and medical stuff, that has always been a red herring. Most of that has already been handled in other ways. All it takes is a few tweaks to hospital visitation policies and people utilizing things like “wills” and “power of attorney”. But it is an argument that pulls on the heart strings, so it continues to get used. If people think the only benefit of marriage is a tax break and clearing some administrative red tape, then it is little wonder that so many have so easily acquiesced to a redefinition of marriage.

Thank you for your responses. It is difficult to settle the disconnect between the politics of the US with my Catholic faith. I haven’t quite sorted it out fully. I do cherish the freedoms we enjoy and wish people would see the beauty of a sacramental marriage that is open to children. The standard for a Catholic marriage is high, too high for many Catholics, but it’s there to give us the ideal we were made for. We were made to love God and, if it’s our vocation, to love another and cooperate with God’s will in bringing forth children. Marriage was cheapened long ago by our culture. Abuse, neglect, and infidelity have been there since the beginning, but our modern culture added birth control, abortion, divorce, pre-nuptials agreements, and even IVF to further degrade marriages. I’m afraid it is for tax benefits and convenience in many modern marriages.

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those
who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate
with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts,
same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The
First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and
persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach
the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their
lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to
continue the family structure they have long revered.

The court included that in their decision. Churches are not bound.

This is an old argument that has been used for other issues. The fact is, if churches [and/or other tax- exempts] were taxed, the tax burden on everyone else would not go down. It would be just more money that politicians would find a place to spend.

Your post is a good one, but you left out a major part: churches [and other tax-exempts] are not prohibited from engaging in politics as long as they avoid supporting or opposing candidates for public office, and their political activity is only a small part of their overall activities. :thumbsup:

Interesting article from the Catholic League:

Right now I don’t think you have to worry about it. The people who promote this are very smart politically. To attack churches right now would rally those against SSM. The country had to be forced to do this by the courts. It is still not that popular, except in certain places. It would be unwise to press that issue now. But, in a few years they most definitely will go after the churches. This movement offers no quarter and is, of course, evil.

What they’ll go after first are religious institutions such as schools. They’ll be on very good ground here and win. Bob Jones University was denied tax exempt status because of racially discriminatory policies. Like in the case of racial discrimination the government now has a compelling interest in rooting out discrimination of homosexuals and same sex marriage. Of course many religious schools will not put up a fight and will cave if they have not already.

If they are smart, and they are, they’ll first go after unaffiliated institutions. They will be easier to pick off since they are on their own. But eventually, and after some wins, they’ll go after the Catholic Church and its institutions.

By the way don’t expect the court to be fair and say this must apply to Muslims if it applies to Baptists. The courts are anything but fair these days.

It’s not the churches themselves that are in danger. It’s non-church religious institutions: Christian schools/colleges; Church-affiliated hospitals; Church-affiliated charities; etc.

Remember, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exemption because it banned interracial dating among students. I did not agree with their position and thought it was based on a wrong interpretation of Scripture, but it was a religious belief and resulted in the government stripping them of tax-exempt status.

The Bob Jones case made it to the Supreme Court and that court found that the government could strip a religious institution of tax-exempt status if its religious beliefs were found to go against national public policy.

I need to make a correction. The Charleston church was not Methodist, but AME (African Methodist Episcopal)… The AME churches do not support either gay marriage or gay clergy, so my point was correct, but I misidentified the denomination. I sincerely apologize.

So we wait until the bear is banging on our front door?

From the article: “Anyone who thinks that radical activists will stop with gay marriage is ignorant …”

I suppose I was ignorant. Or perhaps just hoping to be treated with civility. Apparently, these radical groups are bent on revenge for perceived wrongs. They paint all Christians with a broad brush based on those few who speak out in an ugly manner. I refuse to treat them likewise. They do not represent all who have alternative lifestyles, just like my views are not represented by the hateful words spoken by those who have forgotten to love one’s neighbor. There are groups on the side of Christians that would seek to harm others because of their behavior. They do not represent all of us. You can love the person and not condone the behavior.

I love my cousin, but I don’t refer to his friend as his boyfriend or use words of encouragement regarding his relationships. But, that is just one small aspect of who he is. He is a wondrous creation of God and, therefore, he is easy to love.

There are strange forces at work.

Thanks for sharing that link. The “Internet and Mass Deliberation” section is prophetic in describing the polarization of opinion we see in America and the world today. The abdication of responsible journalism in the media hasn’t helped. Everyone is after the “clicks” so titles are deliberately inflammatory.

That which seems ludicrous today could be tomorrow’s headline if enough people become appropriately offended.

There is no such thing as separation of Church and state. It is made up.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

That’s it. That’s what the US constitution says. It applies only the the USA and only to congress. It says nothing about state and local governments nor about religion’s ability to get involved in politics.

Completely made up, and only applicable to the US congress.


I agree that the whole “separation of church and state” thing has become overblown. It has always meant the refusal to create a tax-supported church–not the complete secularization of the public sector.

In regards to the Establishment Clause applying only to Congress, the courts now apply it to states (and therefore local governments since states are unitary governments). You are correct that originally, the Bill of Rights (which includes the Establishment Clause) only applied to the Federal Government.

However, since 1925, US Courts have applied the doctrine of incorporation to make the Bill of Rights applicable to the states as well. Incorporation is based on the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment, which states “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This is the same language used in the 5th Amendment in regards to the Federal Government only.

The metaphor of a ‘wall of separation’ is bad history and worse law. It has made a positive chaos out of court rulings. It is an extra-constitutional construct that should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. – William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

It is because there are 330,000,000 different concepts of what constitutes ‘separation of church and state’.

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