Friday, November 8, 2019

A "Poor Us!" from a Focus on the Family Affiliate

Friday, Brittany Jones of Family Policy Alliance (the political action arm of Focus on the Family) writes: He Believes Churches Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status—And He’s Not the Only One. Yes, Beto O’Rourke did say that and it was colossally stupid. As I wrote at the time, it was well intentioned but a bad idea to attempt to render a judgment on an entity's ideology and to apply that judgment to their tax status.

Come to think of it, O'Rourke's statement was pretty stupid.
  1. It has no chance of ever coming to pass. Advocating for the impossible is always a bad idea and;
  2. It provided an opportunity for a religious nut like Ms. Jones to claim to have been victimized without considering the reality that it will never happen.
As an aside, while I oppose O'Rourke's proposal I do think that every nonprofit — including churches — should be required to file an annual report with the IRS. A 990 open to public inspection. The current law exempting churches from filing annual returns dates back to a 1969 amendment to U.S. Code § 6033. But I digress.

According to Brittany Jones:
Last week, New York state passed what’s called a Johnson Amendment that muzzles churches and other nonprofits when it comes to candidates for public office—even when those candidates represent the district in which the church is located. The Federal Government passed a Johnson Amendment in 1964, but it has never been used against a church.
The overwhelming majority of churches and nonprofit organizations comply with the Johnson amendment. If for no other reason, they fear the effect of turning houses of worship into political organization. Furthermore, allowing nonprofits to engage in politics would allow political contributions to be tax deductible. New York State has passed a separate law to be able to enforce the issue if the federal government fails to do so. However, this is just a distraction. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the tax-exempt status of churches in general.
Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana (an alum of Family Policy Foundation’s® Statesmen Academy℠) and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska introduced a resolution to remind D.C. that religious freedom is a God-given right that matters just as much today as it did when our country was founded.
Yeah, well, we are a secular society governed by secular public policy. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means precisely what it states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…
Religious freedom in the United States is defined as Free exercise and it is not a God-given right. It was provided for by our framers in the First Amendment. It applies equally to Satanists and Scientologists who do not worship a deity. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. It would be 122 years before there was a federal income tax and 178 years were required before applicable law regarding the tax status of nonprofit organizations was modified so that churches did not have to file a tax return.
Ideas like Beto’s and New York’s are intended to punish Bible-believing Christians. But what they don’t realize is that when the right to religious freedom shrinks for one group, it shrinks for everyone—including people of no faith who simply want to express and live out their secular beliefs.
Oh the suffering. The motive for everything and anything that these crackpots do not like must be to punish them. I do not know what Beto was thinking but chances are that the State of New York wants to prevent political contributions from becoming tax-deductible. Moreover, the state law applies to all 501(c)3 organizations.

Just to put this in perspective: Federally (as of October 10) there are 1,361,342 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. Of those, 246,294 or about 18% are churches.

Let's revisit Ms. Jones' title: “He Believes Churches Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status—And He’s Not the Only One.” First of all, Mr. O'Rourke did not say that all churches should lose tax-exempt status as the title implies. Secondly, Ms. Jones did not fulfill her promise. She writes of no one other than O'Rourke who has proposed anything like what O'Rourke said.

They never forfeit an opportunity to claim that they have been victimized no matter how idiotic their effort is. Speaking of tax policy, Focus on the Family has dishonestly obtained tax status as a church. I never did a FOIA request for the correspondence. Perhaps I will. Does it seem like a church to you?

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