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Topic Review

[*] posted on 30-3-2008 at 12:25
Originally posted by marymary100
Does that mean that when pastors of particular churches do make political comment that that church's tax exemption is revoked?
Generally, no, and that has been a problem, because those who do are breaking the law without the law then being enforced.

The government realizes that there is some overlap between religion and politics. E.g. a church may teach that abortion is wrong, and one of the political parties may have an anti-abortion position, while the other has an abortion-tolerant position. Or, a church may teach that you should do everything you can to help the poor, and one of the parties may promote helping the poor through government financial assistance, while the other party promotes self-reliance and less government involvement.

From what I've heard in discussions, telling a congregation specifically how to vote (either by party, by naming the candidates to vote for, or by naming the candidates to vote against) violates the law in such a way that the church ought eligible for tax-exempt status. But I don't know of the law ever being enforced. The argument could be made, "Rev. X got carried away and blurted out the name of the man he thinks best represents what Christians ought to be doing at this time in America. But, should all his people's church contributions be taxed because of it? They didn't do anything wrong." And, what if the pastor retracts what he says? I don't think that bell can be unrung.

And, what if a politician speaks at a church? Suppose he talks about his faith and how it influences his life? Won't the people in that church get the idea that the church is endorsing him (even if they say, "This is not an endorsement.")

With respect to law enforcement, no politician wants to be the one under whom a congregation's tax-exempt status was taken away--he might expect everyone in the congregation to vote against him.

So, as far as I know, we have laws without enforcement. (I wouldn't be surprised if someone could do a search and find some odd exception, such as that one sectarian congregation that pickets funerals. But, generally, there is no enforcement.)

[*] posted on 30-3-2008 at 09:50
Does that mean that when pastors of particular churches do make political comment that that church's tax exemption is revoked?

[*] posted on 30-3-2008 at 01:39
Essentially correct, but there are some qualifications, for those who are fussy about details.

They don't have to pay income tax on gifts to them, as they would if the gifts were corporate profits. They do have to pay the employer's taxes on wages for their employees. If they have property that is not being used for a religious purpose, they must pay the property tax on it. (Example: I know of congregations that have rented out houses which had served as parsonages (clergy housing) when no clergy was residing therein, and they had to pay taxes on them.)

It's fairly common for them to wind up paying sales tax on small purchases, because it is extra trouble to go through the process of establishing the paperwork so that the exemption will be on record for every purchase. It's worth it to do the paperwork for sales tax on large purchases, like building materials or vehicles.

I think they've gotten hit with the same taxes on phone services that everyone else pays, but I'm not certain.

I'm pretty sure they pay the same transportation fuel taxes as everyone else. They do have to pay vehicle license fees.

They would have to pay the regular taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, but I don't know of any churches that buy cigarettes. (I do know one busy Roman Catholic Church that applied for a liquor license, because they had so many wedding receptions that it worked out to be cheaper than getting individual event permits.)

[*] posted on 30-3-2008 at 00:27
Any religious organisation in America, if I'm understanding this correctly, avoids paying tax if they agree to stay out of politics.

Is that correct?