It is going to get bad when public officials demand that religious groups obey oppressive federal laws or go out of business. It may be the issue of providing health care for church workers; payment of federal taxes; zoning; licensing; accreditation; same-sex marriage; ordaining women; hiring homosexuals; ad infinitum.
It is time for religious leaders to tell the politicians and federal judges, “Come and get us, because we will not comply with your orders.” Such leaders will be more likely to get away with that resistance if they repudiate their tax-exempt status which is the modern-day golden calf before which most pastors bow. Frankly, a church should not be a tax deductible organization and incorporated “creature of the state” even if there were no threats of censure, control, or closure.
A Jewish leader said of proposed intrusive legislation, “You cannot tell a church how it can govern itself. The church is entitled to govern itself any which way it wants.” Well, that is both true and false! When a church forms into a corporation and receives tax exempt status, it places itself under the authority of the state. However, the states and the feds are going after churches whether or not they are 501 (c) (3). Politicians must understand this principle: “We must obey God rather than men.” And obeying God sometimes means disobeying man.
Church leaders must not obey any political authority if that authority seeks control of their church unless, of course, they have placed that church under the control of that political authority by incorporation and/or licensure. That is a mistake that about 90% of American churches have made! By incorporating they have invited state control. In a court battle, an incorporated church can plead “excessive entanglement” but not “no jurisdiction.” If a church is organized simply “as a church,” not a corporation, then they can declare to the courts, “We have not come to the state for any benefit that would place us under your control. Furthermore, our members do not get a tax deduction from their taxes for their financial gifts; therefore the state (or fed) has no jurisdiction over us.” More and more churches are taking that correct, courageous position.
Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), the “father of modern international law,” wrote in The Law of War and Peace, Book 1: “Among all good men one principle at any rate is established beyond controversy, that if the authorities issue any order that is contrary to the law of nature or to the commandments of God, the order should not be carried out. For when the Apostles said the obedience should be rendered to God rather than to men they appealed to an infallible rule of action.” Grotius provides excellent support for both incorporated and unincorporated churches to resist state and federal control.
Government is about control, and officials cannot abide religious leaders telling them “No, I won’t obey that law.” According to Christian philosopher Francis Schaffer, if you affirm that government must be obeyed under all circumstances then you have made government your god and you are a slave. It amounts to state worship.
The first temple erected to a Roman Emperor was built in Pergamum in 29 BC. Caesar worship had begun, and it accelerated in various parts of the Roman Empire following the resurrection of Christ. There are “Neros” in every government who demand that personal beliefs cannot conflict with the state’s positions. The government will try to get Christians to comply, even bribe them; but, in the end, it will be an order similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s: bow or burn. I may burn but I will not bow!
In 2007, the media reported on a move in Canada to force Christian churches to conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as defined by the Supreme Court in Canada. The government “will seek to force the churches to accept gay rights, abortion and (in the case of the Catholic and Orthodox churches) female priests.” Their threat: obey national policy or lose all tax advantages. It is incredible that there are not a hundred pastors in Canadian jails! Canadian pastors, where are you?
I wrote a few years ago that the Bob Jones University case would come back to haunt us and it’s here. The Bob Jones ruling said, if non-profits want to enjoy the benefits of tax deduction then they must comply with public policy, i.e., abortion, homosexuality, hate crime laws, etc. Christian leaders will be told that we can believe what we want but if those beliefs are practiced, even advocated, there will be retribution: all tax advantages will be lost! If pastors capitulate to that law, they will be expected to surrender on other matters until the state has total control.
I expect Canada to continue down the road of oppressive government and I expect the U.S. to follow right behind them. Sorry, but I won’t capitulate to such an intrusive statute. In 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed in England, and 2,000 Puritan preachers refused to sign, consequently losing their pulpits with many going to jail. Do you know many preachers who would be willing to lose their pulpits and go to jail for doing right? Many preach that truth, but just how many are willing to practice it. I’m afraid there are few.
Genuine Christians may be driven underground and be forced to meet illegally in homes, barns, and garages within a few years.
Copyright 2013, Don Boys, Ph.D.
Next Column–The Gathering Storm: Church Control and Capitulation!
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.