I ran across this article entitled “33 Pastors Flout Tax Law With Political Sermons”. It says:
“Defying a federal law that prohibits U.S. clergy from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, an evangelical Christian minister told his congregation Sunday that voting for Sen. Barack Obama would be evidence of 'severe moral schizophrenia.'”
The article continues:
“The Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. told worshipers that the Democratic presidential nominee's positions on abortion and gay partnerships exist 'in direct opposition to God's truth as He has revealed it in the Scriptures.'”
Churches are, in essence, businesses selling a product; dogmatic beliefs. An author who writes a “self-help” book based on beliefs pays taxes. Political activists who author books based on beliefs pay taxes. Should churches, as profitable institutions, pay taxes?
One reason commonly given for tax-exempt status for churches is that taxation carries the capacity for a tool of oppression. One would be hard-pressed to support the argument, however, that churches are unique in terms of such oppression as compared to other institutions or to individuals. Additionally, the style of oppression unique to churches is historically well-documented. So, why the distinction for churches?
Promoting particular candidates for public secular office is clearly an abuse of the product (beliefs) these institutions sell. It is precisely this sort of oppression that churches have used for centuries; levying peoples' religious beliefs against them in order to garner more political power for the church, which is one of the abuses America's Founding Fathers sought to restrain with the concept of “separation of church and state”.
The previously mentioned article says, “Rev. Eric Williams, warned that many members of the clergy are 'exchanging their historic religious authority for a fleeting promise of political power...'” However, Johnson said, “...he must connect the dots because he is not sure that all members of his congregation can do so on their own.” Is it just me, or is that sounding a little Jonestown-like?
Should churches be tax-exempt?