Whidbey Island Freethinkers Message Board › No free lunch for churches
In response to my earlier mailing, one of my "parishoners" emailed me:
Since churches don't pay taxes, why would the IRS be after the Whidbey Island Secularists?
The silly answer is that in a battle between God and the IRS, it may not be wise to bet on God. I am not sure if the IRS can collect if it puts a lien on the Gates of Heaven, but Jehovah might want to chain them to some solid clouds just to be sure.
Churches have to fill out tax forms and abide by civil rules. For example, aside from money issues, if a church decides to declare jihad and start killing and torturing people, law enforcement will get out the guns, handcuffs, and tear gas. It's popular to associate such violence with Islam, but other groups get in trouble for similar activities. Remember the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas, and the bloody and brutal end? (They claimed to be Protestant Christians.) Less violently (so perhaps more amusing), consider the recent "hate crime convictions) of some Amish who cut beards and hair of dissenters.
I am looking at the book on non-profits I just checked out of the library. Churches have to fill out tax forms. While the IRS tends to be easy-going in regard to organizations that claim to be churches, they definitely pull them up short if they engage in blatently commercial activities (especially if they enrich a few people in the hierarchy). They also cast a very jaundiced eye on churches that blatently engage in political advocacy.
A quick web search indicates that many churches and religious organizations are getting in trouble with the IRS. Here is one link (among many I came across):
I printed out quite a bit of material on non-religious non-profits, and I am looking at it with some trepidation and downright horror. While on a practical basis, I consider both libertarianism (right wing) and anarchy (left wing) impractical for dealing with the real world, I well-understand the appeal these ideologies have for many people. Perhaps we should take a page from Hindu "sadhus" (holy beggars who wander the streets in little clothes living ascetic lives) and wander the roads of Whidbey preaching atheism, perhaps followed by holy chickens. (My wife and I recently watched a cute movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which mostly takes place in India. There were a lot of chickens on the streets.
Seriously, we do need to have a sobeb discussion about organization, legalities, and the "real world." After all, we ARE empiricists. My church friends seem to carefully cross the t's and dot their i's in regard to obeying laws and staying on good terms with the IRS.