THE UNREGISTERED CHURCH
Churches Should Unincorporate to Please God,
By Pastor Kirk Coffia
Reprinted from The Plumbline
Would a pastor who wishes to be faithful to the Word of God ever sign a document in which he promises to abide by government public policy, whatever that policy may involve?
The vast majority of fundamental Bible believing pastors would answer with a resounding "No!" and of course they would be right in felling that way about it.
But, the fact of the matter is that every time a pastor fills out the Department of Commerce form CS-2000 entitled "Annual Report, Non-Profit Corporations," he is knowingly or unknowingly agreeing to comply with public policy as stated.
Private, non-profit church corporations in fact agree not to "permit or encourage the teaching of anything that is contrary to public policy."
Can any pastor who is fully aware of that information and the full implication of what it means sign such a document with a right conscience? No honest pastor can, that is for certain.
But the problem is worse when it is understood that a corporation is a creature of the state¾ created by the state and subject to its authority.
It may not resist the court when it demands that its books and records be submitted for an examination at the suit of the state (Hale vs Hinkle, U.S. Supreme Court, 1905).
Pastor T.N. Taylor, of the Assembly of God in Mount Pleasant, Iowa found this fact out the hard way when he resisted state control of his church-operated school and was hauled into court.
The judge in the case ordered him to turn over all books and records of the church and although his attorney objected strenuously, he was forced to turn them over.
In the eyes of the court, the church records were not Gods property, but a matter of public property and subject to public scrutiny.
The church could not refuse to turn over its books to the court because it had already agreed by the articles of incorporation to abide by public policy.
Most Bible believing pastors believe and preach that the local church is the "body of Christ" and that it is an organism, not an organization, and say they will, for so it is.
Why then have we fundamental pastors allowed the state to turn our churches into state recognized organizations (referred to as Ecclesiastical corporations in most states)?
Why have we asked for tax-exemption when in fact we already have mandatory exemption by the fact that we are churches and fully protected by the first amendment? Why have we stepped under the umbrella of state protection via limited liability when we already have the protection of God Almighty himself (that is, if we are in prayer and right with God). Was it not made clear in 1983 when Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status that what the government grants, it can also take away?
However much we disliked the decision against Bob Jones University, the fact is that if the IRS had moved against an unregistered local church which was unincorporated and regarded as 508(1)(a) mandatorily exempt, then there is nothing the government could have done legally against it. It is tax immunity which is protected by the First Amendment, not tax exemption.
Contrast what happened to Bob Jones University with that of pastor Bill Adams of the Baptist Church of Mitchell, South Dakota a few years ago.
A complaining church member brought down the IRS against that unregistered local church and its books and records were demanded for an audit.
Pastor Adams refused the IRS jurisdiction on the grounds that the church is an organism, not an organized entity of the government.
After more than a year in crisis and with the threat of closure and confiscation of property by the IRS, Pastor Adams won the battle and the IRS admitted that it had no jurisdiction and publicly apologized!
That does not happen often, mostly because pastors seek legal advice from Christian law firms which counsel the churches to comply with the government. Pastor Adams originally contacted the Christian Law Association and was told he should go ahead and pay the tax since it was an insignificant amount.
Pastor Adams knew he could not do that without violating both scripture and the separation of church and state. [defined as the government is barred by the 1st Amendment from involving itself in church affairs.]
The Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew 22:21, "Render therefore that which is Caesars unto Caesar, and unto God that which is Gods."
How is it that we fundamentalists have failed to understand that clear command. It is never right to give to Caesar that which is Gods for any reason.
That which goes into the offering plate in our churches belongs only to God and if the government demands it, then it is attempting theft of Gods property. This why the First Amendment was written by our forefathers in the first place.
The local New Testament church, as an organism, should neither be helped nor hindered by government. We realize this is only true under ideal circumstance.
It has not happened very often in the history of Christianity. Where have always governments which have attempted to either control or outright destroy the church.
Usually, however, the powers that attempt to control the church because there is monetary value in control.
Taxation, regulation, and licensure leads to greater sources of revenue for the state and the church has always been seen as a good source for such revenue.
Finally, the course of action that any honest pastor should take should be obvious by now. The local church should unincorporate and it should do so, not for fear of any future government action but because it is wrong for the church to be registered by the state.
Material in print is available for any pastor who understands the issues and wishes to return his local church to the New Testament definition of Ecclesia. end