Because Christmas comes every year, sooner or later most will hear the phrase made famous by Francis P. Church, Editor of the NY Sun in 1897, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I’m sure the eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon who had written Church and told him that she would believe in Santa if she could read it in the pages of the Sun found out at some point that Santa was a myth, but most of the preachers and church folks in America still haven’t figured out that, its not a myth, there is an IRS State Church in America even though the IRS has spelled it out loud and clear in two publications – 1828 tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations and IRS Publication 557. Publication 1828 has become the veritable Bible that accountants, lawyers, courts and tax preparers use on a daily basis. Its language is very bold and clear.
“The Internal Revenue Code: Section 501(c)(3) describes charitable organizations, INCLUDING CHURCHES and religious organizations, WHICH QUALIFY for exemption from federal income tax and generally are eligible to receive tax deductible contributions.” (Emphasis mine)
Churches and religious organizations may be legally organized …under state law, including as un-incorporated associations, non-profit corporations, corporations sole and charitable trusts.”
The Great Comparison
U.S. Constitution - First Amendment
(Liberty – Non-licensure)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In reality, each of these guarantees are liberty for public worship, including speech (sermon content inside and outside the building), press (publishing the gospel inside and outside), assembly (worship inside or outside), and to petition for redress of grievances (inside or outside).
However there is no guarantee of religious liberty to the four IRS identified legal entities listed above. They have given up their God given rights for benefits and privileges, i.e. tax-exemptions, tax-deductible gifts and now Faith Based programs. The courts have said many times loud and clear, enter the realm of Caesar, abide by the laws of Caesar. Only court imposed limited freedoms based on the shifting winds of public opinion and federal public policy are available for these IRS State Churches, and believe me, their freedoms are becoming more limited day by day, even including the content of sermons. How many times do we have to say it, the Lord’s churches are not tax exempt but rather non taxable. There is a vast difference.
To find out how we got to such a state as this a little history is necessary. Amazingly even though our Pilgrim fathers escaped England and landed at Plymouth Rock seeking asylum from religious tyranny, it wasn’t long until they had actually founded a State/Church system in Massachusetts that was nearly as repressive against the Baptists, Quakers and other non-conformists as the Anglican State that they had fled from themselves. In the South their “Christian” brothers were also busy establishing State Churches.
On January 11, 1758, the General Assembly, meeting at Savannah (GA), passed a law, making the Church of England the church of the province. In all of the colonies except RI laws were enacted to support an established church by taxes, to compel church attendance, and to forbid the worshipping of dissenting sects. Some type of state church was to be found in all five southern colonies, as well as in three New England provinces: Mass., Conn., and New Hampshire. In S.C. it was the Church of England with support from public funds. In N.C. it was also the church of England from 1732. The Puritans had established a theocracy in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, which was later called Congregational churches, and they persecuted those of different beliefs. But Baptists opposed the concept of a state church.1
This paper is too short to list all of them, but following are a few instances of persecution by these statists among hundreds of examples from the same source.
In the bitter cold winter of 1638, … puritans banned Roger Williams from Massachusetts for his Baptist beliefs and leaving his wife and children he escaped to Rhode Island where he established Providence and it became the citadel for religious liberty in the new land.
The persecution of Baptists continued with unrelenting fury. In 1651 Obadiah Holmes, John Clarke, Witter and others were arrested because they would not subscribe to the doctrine of Congregationalism, i.e. infant baptism. Holmes was beaten until he could not stand. Those who came to his aid were persecuted. Many others were imprisoned and their property confiscated because they would not support the Congregational churches nor pay their pastors salaries.
In Virginia where the Anglican Church was in control things were not much better. That State/Church was as busy persecuting (dissenters) as the Congregationalists in the North.
February 26, 1770, was the beginning of the three-month imprisonment of John Pickett in the Fauquier County, VA Order Book for 1766, pages 242 and 243.
Few men in VA. Suffered more persecution than Webber. He was seized in Chesterfield, Co, Dec. 7, 1770 and imprisoned in the Co. jail until March 7, 1771. Seven other Baptist preachers were confined in the same jail which still stands.
The Baptists and many others opposed the ratification of the Constitution until a Bill of Rights was secured and it was not an accident that the very first one was a Religious Liberty clause which in reality did not disestablish God as we are being led to believe, but simply declared that there would be no State/Church in the federal jurisdiction. Later as the religious clauses were placed in the various state Bills of Right the state churches were disestablished in the various states, Massachusetts being the last in 1833.
However we have now come full circle and with the permission of Congress and the courts they have now reestablished a State/Church albeit an IRS/State Church in the federal district. This monster is now recognized by the states. For instance, in order for a church to get sales tax exemption at the state level the church has to get a determination letter from the IRS, giving evidence that they fall within one of the above categories of a “legal” existence. They can be the most weird cult like the Babalu’s who sacrifice chickens in downtown Hialeah, FL or even a coven of witches, it makes no difference.
The evidence that we have come full circle is the fact that the various states and the U.S. Justice Department is now protecting this IRS State/Church and persecuting those churches that choose not to be under their “legal” protection.
In the past few years a church has been raided, sold and bull dozed down because it refused to be a tax collector and payer for the IRS. A pastor is presently serving a ten year sentence and his wife one year for a made up “crime” involving the complexity of the tax laws regarding a Christian ministry. Two pastor brothers are serving 10 and 15 year terms in Texas prisons for using corporal punishment on a teen boy – in their church school - with permission of their parents – leaving no permanent injuries. A boy’s home in Ft. Worth, Texas was closed because the church did not seek licensure from the State. A ministry to feed the homeless was closed in Texas because the church had no license from the city. Christian schools have been closed because they did not seek accreditation from the state. Innumerable street preachers have been arrested for preaching without a license. The same is true of abortion protestors. A Church in a Western state is being threatened with fines because they do not have a permit to put up a sign displaying the 10 Commandments on their own land and even displaying the name of their church on the front of their building. Just recently home bible studies have been raided in San Diego and Phoenix. FBI agents have already questioned preachers in Illinois and California about sermons deemed harmful to the government, one dealt with abortion and the other with the Iraq war. This was even before the federal hate crime law has passed that is going through Congress at this time which could imprison preachers in the U.S. over the sodomy issue as they have in Canada and Sweden. These are just a few examples, we could give many more.
I am the National Director of the Biblical Law Center. The Law Center is not only trying to alert pastors and church leaders as to the problems but also is trying to give practical solutions. The Law Center helps churches to organize and reorganize in a way to take advantage of their First Amendment guarantees and the religious liberty clauses of the various states so that they will not lose their First Amendment guarantees as “legal” entities but rather begin operating under God as lawful congregations, the Lord’s biblical New Testament churches, enjoying all of their God given rights intended by our founding fathers. The lamp of liberty is barely flickering. If there is not a mighty awakening among the pastors and churches of our land to get out of this 501 (c) (3) Covenant of Death it will be too late forever. May God be pleased to have mercy upon us is our prayer.
We can be contacted at the Biblical Law Center: firstname.lastname@example.org
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1 This Day in Baptist History – BJU Press