Houston Demands Sermons of Pastors For Approval? What Is a 501c3 Church?

Houston Demands Sermons of Pastors For Approval? What Is a 501c3 Church?

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court. They may be put in jail.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

first-amendment

1st Amendment

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa.  The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.
However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.
After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

Read more at: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/14/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-over-sermons/

This development sounds so anti-America and so anti-religious freedom, how can this be happening?

Something very interesting is missing in the above statements by the lawyers for the pastors.  There is no mention of the 1st Amendment prohibition of government involvement in the freedom of religious expression. They said “Political and social commentary is not a crime, it is protected by the First Amendment“. Where is the argument for free exercise of religion in the 1st amendment? 

For the record, Jefferson was explaining that government had no legal right to interfere with the sanctity of the Church. He did not say the church is prohibited from speaking out on what it considers as sinful or evil in government, immoral or sinful laws or those who run for office. The separation was intended to be one way, and to keep the government from establishing a state church.  It would seem obvious to most who are involved in church at any level that this would be the defense.  So why not here? 

One answer that comes to mind is these churches likely are incorporated as 501c3 religious organizations.  Can the government prevent churches from speaking about social and political topics that conflict with the teachings of the Bible?  Part of this is related to tax exempt status.  However the tax exempt status is not dependent on 501c3, as almost all believe it to be.

Most churches in America have organized as “501c3 tax-exempt religious organizations.” This is a fairly recent trend that has only been going on for about fifty years. Churches were only added to section 501c3 of the tax code in 1954. We can thank Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson for that. Johnson was no ally of the church. As part of his political agenda, Johnson had it in mind to silence the church and eliminate the significant influence the church had always had on shaping “public policy.”
johnson

Although Johnson proffered this as a “favor” to churches, the favor also came with strings attached (more like shackles). One need not look far to see the devastating effects 501c3 acceptance has had to the church, and the consequent restrictions placed upon any 501c3 church. 501c3 churches are prohibited from addressing, in any tangible way, the vital issues of the day.
For a 501c3 church to openly speak out, or organize in opposition to, anything that the government declares “legal,” even if it is immoral (e.g. abortion, homosexuality, etc.), that church will jeopardize its tax exempt status. The 501c3 has had a “chilling effect” upon the free speech rights of the church. LBJ was a shrewd and cunning politician who seemed to well-appreciate how easily many of the clergy would sell out.

Did the church ever need to seek permission from the government to be exempt from taxes? Were churches prior to 1954 taxable? No, churches have never been taxable. To be taxable a church would first need to be under the jurisdiction, and therefore under the taxing authority, of the government. The First Amendment clearly places the church outside the jurisdiction of the civil government: “Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Religion cannot be free if you have to pay the government, through taxation, to exercise it. Since churches aren’t taxable in the first place, why do so many of them go to the IRS and seek permission to be tax-exempt? It occurs out of:

  • Ignorance (“We didn’t know any better”)
  • Bandwagon logic (“Everyone else is doing it”)
  • Professional advice (many attorneys and CPAs recommend it)

Does the law require, or even encourage, a church to organize as a 501c3? To answer that question let’s turn to what the IRS itself has to say.

Churches Need Not Apply

In order to be considered for tax-exempt status by the IRS an organization must fill out and submit IRS Form 1023 and 1024. However, note what the IRS says regarding churches and church ministries, in Publication 557:

Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These include:
Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men’s or women’s organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group. These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).

Churches Are “Automatically Tax-Exempt”

According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):

Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(c) Exceptions.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.

Read more at:  http://hushmoney.org/501c3-facts.htm

Horatio Bunce

  1. Looks like she’s backpedaling already under the (intense) blow-back, but still looking to get something from them since she would only admit the subpoenas were “too broad” and would be “clarified”
    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/10/15/BREAKING-Houston-Mayor-Backs-Off-From-Subpoenas-to-Pastors

    Reply

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