Skip to comments.Free church with no 501c3 required
Posted on 12/30/2010 9:10:59 PM PST by jsherk
I have been reading the facts about a free church and not requiring a 501c3 in many places, including this forum: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1702880/posts
Just wondering if anybody knows any Lawyers or Accountants in the Dallas area that are very familiar in with this issue (free church, non-incorporation and no 501c3.
I really like the idea.
The State will not stop muzzling churches politically, until the State recognizes the pre-eminence of God over the State itself. The State also needs to recognize the co-sovereignty of the Church over the citizenry. Until then, IMO no church should ever seek 501(c)3 status.
501(c)3 is not a requirement. That is only to have the IRS track you as a ‘non-profit’. An “unorganized church” would have absolutely no reason to be filing anything with the IRS. The IRS wouldn’t know it existed for all intents and purposes because it is doing nothing that needs their attention.
eh? The state nor the church are soveriegn over the citizens, then they'd be subjects. Unless you meant something else.
I like the idea of a church not asking the IRS (government) permission to exist.
“An unorganized church would have absolutely no reason to be filing anything with the IRS. The IRS wouldnt know it existed for all intents and purposes because it is doing nothing that needs their attention.”
If you have a bank account, you have to have some form of organization—or you the individual are the church. If the church takes in money and deposits it, it has to have something to do with the IRS.
Any time you get money, the IRS believes it needs their attention.
Governments and Churches don't hold sovereignty here.
And if that's not clear.... I'd have to explain it in person. I choose my government. I choose my church. If you don't like that... pound sand.
Does this include a local fantasy football club? heh
That's pretty clear in the rules we established.
There are thousands of unincorporated and non-501(c)(3) churches around the country.
These are choices the churches themselves make.
If you are in Texas, your Texas state constitution probably already has a clause in it similar to the US Constitution's First Amendment, and under those provisions, neither the federal or state governments can even define what a church is—it cannot define what YOUR church is, unless you actually define it for them in a church constitution and by-laws, and file these with the secretary of state.
When churches apply for 501(c)(3) or other status with the IRS, then they are actually allowing the IRS to define what your church is, what your church purposes are, what your offices and officers are, etc.
But not one single law anywhere in the United States that we are aware of requires any church to do any of these things at any time.
You are free in the United States to organize a local church or a fellowship of local churches without the first shred of paper ever being filed at any state or federal agency. This is included under the free exercise of religion, free expression, free press, free speech, freedom to assemble, etc.
When churches CHOOSE to incorporate, they must then play by the state's rules. When they CHOOSE to sign that “contract” with the IRS for favors and exemptions, then they are agreeing by their own signature authority to abide by the IRS’ definition of things, their guidelines, their restrictions and limitations, etc. There are no laws requiring either incorporation or contractual agreement with the IRS ever to take place.
No church is required to inform any state government or the federal government that it even exists.
There are fellowships of “NON-REGISTERED” churches: one being the American Coalition of Unregistered Churches (ACUC); another of the fundamentalist Baptist persuasion, the Unregistered Baptist Fellowship (UBF). And there are probably others.
The Unregistered Baptist Fellowship (UBF) has a web site, and you can Google that. Their site has a wide range of published articles on this subject, and they publish a periodical, on-line and in print, called THE TRUMPET. I recommend that (even if you are not Baptist) to go to the UBF site and read the articles there for principles involved in keeping churches unregistered.
We firmly endorse the unregistered church movement in the United States.
In China, Russia, Viet Nam, and other communist and totalitarian countries, churches must be registered with the government. This is not YET the case in the USA.
If Christian Church members were smart, they’d all go underground to worship, give, and whatever else they do. If they can’t see the writing on the wall, then they deserve the fate of their ancestors.
If Christian Church members were smart, theyd all go underground to worship, give, and whatever else they do. If they cant see the writing on the wall, then they deserve the fate of their ancestors.
I hope this thread goes on for a good while so that Christians can begin to learn to break this concept, so stuck in their minds, that churches must somehow tell the government what they are doing, and surrender the the Lordship of Christ over the churches to unregenerate civil government.
I agree with you.
WHAT IS IT?
1. The UBF is a fellowship of Baptist pastors, evangelists, missionaries and laymen.
2. The purpose of the UBF is to provide an opportunity for men of like spirit (Acts 4:24) and like mind (Philippians 2:1,2), who are personally and ecclesiastically separated (Amos 3:3; II Corinthians 6:15-17), holding to the historic Baptist doctrines of the written Word of God (KJV 1611).
The further goal of this fellowship is to revive and maintain the purity of the historic Baptist faith of our first-century forebearers (I Timothy 6:3-5) that we might maintain and leave for our posterity in this dispensation of Grace (I Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 3:1,2; Colosians 1:25) a vibrant, healthy and prepared Bride ready for the Lord's return (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Finally, we trust that Almighty God will strengthen us in the trying hours of these last days to remain faithful and true to the doctrines which have been entrusted to us from faithful men who were willing to suffer and die for the Gospel's sake (Ephesians 6:10-20).
3. State (monthly) and regional meetings of the UBF will be encouraged and held as the Lord leads.
4. There will be no national or state officers. The pastor of the host church will be the moderator at the time that the meetings are in session.
5. The UBF is not a denomination; it is a fellowship, but is not incorporated, has no headquarters, owns no property, employs no workers, holds no bank accounts, owns no equipment, maintains no membership, adopts no Constitution and operates with no by-laws.
6. There will be an annual meeting, as the Lord leads, and it will always be under the authority of the host church, with the host pastor having the final authority on all speakers.
7. The UBF will have no mission board, director, committee, or clearing house; but will encourage local church missionaries, home and foreign, to start unregistered Baptist churches.
"And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body." (Ephesians 5:23)
"Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles." (III John 7)
Of Civil Government
We believe that civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed; except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ; who is the only Lord of the conscience, and the coming Prince of the kings of the earth. We believe that civil government occupies a sphere of sovereignty which is separate and distinct from that of the New Testament Church, and just as the church may not take up the sword of the magistrate, so civil government is prohibited from taking up the spiritual keys of the church or usurping any authority over it. The authority of civil government ends at the threshold of the church, since it can have no jurisdiction in the realm of church government or any assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Exodus 18:21-22; II Samuel 23:3; Psalm 72:11; Daniel 3:17-18; Matthew 10:28, 22:21, 23:10; Acts 4:19-20, 23:5; Romans 13:7; Philippians 2:10-11, Titus 3:1, I Peter 2:13-14, 17 -----------------------------------------------------
Read much more at:
I understand you needing to talk to a lawyer to satify yourself.
In my previous dealings with churches and other orgaizations it has always been my understanding that 501(c)3 was not required for organizations that function as a church. A common test was that if the religious organization meet regularly and performed weddings and burial services and they otherwise functioned as a church it is “a church.”
Here is the relevant IRS code stating that they are exempt.(follow to the last line of the copied text under “Mandatory exceptions”.
§ 508. Special rules with respect to section 501 (c)(3) organizations
(a) New organizations must notify Secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501 (c)(3) status
Except as provided in subsection (c), an organization organized after October 9, 1969, shall not be treated as an organization described in section 501 (c)(3)
(1) unless it has given notice to the Secretary in such manner as the Secretary may by regulations prescribe, that it is applying for recognition of such status, or
(2) for any period before the giving of such notice, if such notice is given after the time prescribed by the Secretary by regulations for giving notice under this subsection.
(b) Presumption that organizations are private foundations
Except as provided in subsection (c), any organization (including an organization in existence on October 9, 1969) which is described in section 501 (c)(3) and which does not notify the Secretary, at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may by regulations prescribe, that it is not a private foundation shall be presumed to be a private foundation.
(1) Mandatory exceptions
Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches,...
Hope this helps.
(1) Mandatory exceptions
Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches,...
Thus we are to understand that churches are automatically "exempt" from the rules above this section. And this means that a church, without ever filing one piece of paper must be regarded by the IRS as non-taxable.
Is that how you read that?
Reading the laws of the state of Indiana, and having spoken with one circuit judge about it, we find that in reality, NO marriage in Indiana is actually "licensed."
The license is a 60 day license only for the officiant, not for the couple getting married, nor for the marriage itself. The license, furthermore, ceases to exist after sixty days from issue.
What does this have to do with incorporation or 501(c)(3), or with church registration in general?
Well, very interestingly, when my daughter was married, and I performed the ceremony, I had researched this carefully, and had spoken to a circuit judge about this issue (casually in the clerks office). The state of Indiana nor the county issuing the license ever investigate the credentials or the qualifications of the one officiating the wedding (e.g. minister; public official)--the one signing the "license," nor do they ever investigate the legitimacy of the church to which the minister claims to belong.
When I asked the judge for clarification, he stated that the state nor the county actually have any authority to determine legitimacy of a church, nor to define what a church is. Further, the credentials of the minister is totally a matter for the church which the government has no authority to legitimize nor de-legitimize.
That might sound confusing to some, but THE POINT IS:
Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the FREE exercise thereof; . . . (emphasis by capitalization is, of course, mine), and thus far, thank the Lord, the state of Indiana doesn't challenge that, even in marriage license law.
This further indicates that no church must register with the state of Indiana to be a church.
“Does this include a local fantasy football club? heh”
My understanding ... and I’ve worked for a 501(c)3, but I’m a lawyer ... is that the government does NOT require churches to file as 501(c)3 organizations, because the government actually DOES recognize the “sovereignty of the church,” as Alex would put it.
Filing as a 501(c)3 may, however, be useful to some institutional donors, such as foundations, which are required by their by-laws to give only to churches or 501(c)3 organizations, and which may be considering donating to certain church-affiliated ministries when it may not be obvious that said ministry is a ministry of the church.
In other words: John Doe has a very profitable year, and he wants to give money to charity in the future, but he’ll get taxed on the money unless he donates it before the end of the tax year. So he sets up a tax-free foundation, and gives to it. But it only stays tax-free if it only gives to tax-free charities, so he writes rules that it may only give to churches and 501(c)3 organizations. Meanwhile Pastor Bill’s church sets up a homeless shelter. The executor of John Doe’s foundation needs to be certain that donations to that shelter won’t jeopardize the foundation’s tax status.
In an ideal world, Pastor Bill could simply TELL the executor, “yep, that’s part of my church.” The problem is that Amy works for a food pantry. Her boss works at Pastor Joe’s church and named the food pantry after the church and a lot of her money comes from Pastor Joe’s congregants. And she told John Doe that her food pantry was part of Pastor Joe’s church and it wasn’t. And John Doe had to pay tax penalties because Amy never filed a 501(c)3.
So, Pastor Bill could either show John Doe a whole lot of paperwork establishing that his homeless shelter is a church-run charity, and swamp and confuse some foundation employee. Or he could file a 501(c)3.
I could understand choosing not to file the 501(c)3, and avoid entanglement with government bureaucrats. But making a moral issue of it... nah. Sounds like some Baptist churches just found a good marketing ploy.
“Thus we are to understand that churches are automatically “exempt” from the rules above this section. And this means that a church, without ever filing one piece of paper must be regarded by the IRS as non-taxable. “
That is my understanding of it. I know in years past as the trustee of a church before 501(c)(3) became popular we did not file any paper work. Then bouncing back and forth between churches and non-profits I was able to visit with an accountant with a IRS background who also specialized in 501(c)(3). He had the same interpretation that “churches need not apply.”
Please do your own research. I just hope I can point people in the right direction.
You have been very helpful to our articulation of these things. Thanks, so much.
I wish you would explain that.
It is not a "moral" issue with us, it is an issue of our faith, understanding of Christ as Head of the church, not civil government, and our deep desire, yea, conviction to obey the Scriptures in the matters of church polity and practice.
501(c)(3) is a kind of contractual agreement. And inside that agreement is a re-definition of church offices and officers. Further, it is a negative witness to government, implying to them that the church of Jesus Christ is something akin to civic organization like the Lion's Club and the Boy Scouts (not denigrating those organizations in any way).
Furthermore, the IRS is part and parcel of unregenerate (un-saved; non-Christian) government, which creates rules, regulations, and restrictions for 501(c)(3) organizations in the content of their oratory, publications, signage, positions, and associations. We do not believe the Church should place itself under such arrangement, where the Headship of Christ over the Church is surrendered to the whims of an increasingly paganistic government that rules according to its own public policy on myriad issues.
We take as example the underground churches in communist and other totalitarian countries (where we have actually worked underground), which to preach what they believe from the Scripture would be prohibited and punished if they were registered with the government, hence, they remain unregistered, and risk the wrath of government for conscience sake.
No, it hasn't come quite to that point yet in the United States, but it is a real potentiality, especially if government can get all "religion" registered.
If a missionary has established Biblical churches in countries where to register would mean government control, he wouldn't be inclined to register churches in the United States where there are no laws requiring it. He would, from his experience, rather see registration as a real potential danger.
Not filing a 501(c)3 because you don’t have to and why should you: a matter of prudence.
Making a big fuss over it, to the point of forming a new denomination, implicitly denigrating those who don’t: marketing.
Which new denomination has been founded?
Are you familiar with historic Baptist distinctives? They include the autonomy of the local church. Historically, Baptists didn't form denominations.
What are you refering to when you say that someone is "forming a new denomination"?
to own property,
a church association would pretty much have
As far as the food pantry that has spun off from the church, just file for the 501 on the pantry and leave the church out of it. A church can support the pantry but not be connected legally with it. OTOH, you could start a church that preaches abortion and homo marriage and still get the deductions if you file the 501/c3 papers. That's how they have the chicken blood and dope churches and still get considered as a church.
"a church association would pretty much have to incorporate"
Not necessarily true. Very many un-incorporated and non 501(c)(3) churches do own their own property. It will depend on how it is acquired. Banks won't lend, but individuals will sell land on contract. Not necessarily need to incorporate to get utility services either.
There are churches that have been in existence for 200 or more years, own large properties, and have never incorporated or filed for 501(c)(3). This is particularly true in large numbers in the Appalachian Region. They can be used as precedent.
Were churches REAL churches before their were such things as state incorporation and the IRS???? If those were REAL churches, then why can't churches be REAL churches today without those devices????
Much might depend on your state laws. It's not a problem in Indiana.
But then, consider, earthly properties are not a Biblical part of, nor necessity to New Testament Christianity.
Its the Sec of Treasury who directs the activities of the IRS. When I was involved with these entities, the IRS would avoid these organizations and only had a skeleton staff to administer its regulations.
Thus if such philosophical objections exist, it might be better for a church not to register since the government does not actively enforce the statues in this area.unless provoked by a specific action or individual.
FREE CHURCH !! ??
i kind of like the idea, most that i’ve gone to pass the plate looking for cash
A denomination, literally, is any appellation that a church chooses to identify itself by. So, yes, “Baptist,” and “Southern Baptist” are denominations, even if they are not hierarchical or episcopal in structure. (”Baptist,” then could be a denominational family, since it includes Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Baptist Bible, National Baptist and other denominations.) Ironically, “Westhaven Non-Denominational Church” became denominational the moment they decided not to simply be called “Westhaven Church.”
That said, I’m not sure from that article whether UBF is a denomination. If the churches start calling themselves by that name, well that’s marketing. On the other hand, if a pastor joins the UBF merely for informational purposes, it’s plainly not.
Most Catholic Churches I’ve been to just stick some money on a long pole and wave it under your nose quickly. They don’t actually ASK for money (except the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal and once a year otherwise.) Then they wonder why they don’t get any.
At present I take it that you are one who would describe evangelism or preaching the Gospel as “marketing” Jesus.
>> At present I take it that you are one who would describe evangelism or preaching the Gospel as marketing Jesus. <<
I’d also emphasize that I don’t consider “marketing” an inherent evil. And, yes, I suppose some evangelization is a form of marketing: if a radio spot says, “Come hear the message of Christ, which can heal your spirit, and re-create your soul,” I’d say that that’s both evangelization and marketing. But I’d decline to call evangelization, “marketing” because it connotes an earthly purpose, not a spiritual one, even though churches — as an organization — fulfill certain earthly goals.
The reason I called this marketing is it seems like its trying to create a market niche, or to segment a market. It’s fine if a pastor decides he’d rather not register as a 501(c)3, but if a church were to announce to the world, “Westover Unregistered Baptist Church,” I could only presume that it was trying to appeal to potential new congregants on the basis that it was unregistered, which is marketing, since it has nothing to do, in my opinion, with theology, style of worship, or morality.
You’re free to disagree, of course.
What it has to do with is:
(1) Is Jesus Christ the Head of His Church, or does civil government share that place with Christ? If you cannot see that allowing the IRS or a state's secretary of state to define what a church is, define its offices and its officers, and the limitations of its ministry by changeable human law and bureaucratic codes, then you simply cannot see it.
(2) If you cannot sense the progressive tendency of government in the United States to little-by-little take over every aspect of American life, including the churches and their ministries, made more possible because of the churches' willingness to enter into contractual agreement with the IRS for tax exemption, then you simply cannot see it. And that returns to No. (1) above---will we simply surrender the churches to government control, piece-by-piece, as time goes by, or will we maintain our stand for Christ's Headship over His Church(es).
I personally also must look at all of this from the perspective of having done underground evangelism and church planting in two communist countries, and my son having done the same in a third. What we have seen there is coming to the United States with ever-increasing speed. Incorporation and 501(c)(3) will eventually turn around to bite and devour the churches.
Thanks for everybody’s replies... I was not expecting this many!
Anyways, to add to the discussion from this website:
CHURCHES ARE “AUTOMATICALLY TAX-EXEMPT”
According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):
Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.
This is referred to as the “mandatory exception” rule. Thus, we see from the IRS own publications, and the tax code, that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for tax-exempt status. In the IRS own words a church is automatically tax-exempt.
CHURCHES ARE “AUTOMATICALLY TAX-DEDUCTIBLE”
And what about tax-deductibility? Doesnt a church still need to become a 501c3 so that contributions to it can be taken as a tax deduction? The answer is no! According to IRS Publication 526:
Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions
You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.
In the IRS own words a church is automatically tax-deductible.
Now back to my original question... anybody know any Lawyers or Accountants in the Dallas area (or even Texas) that are familiar with these issues!
Of course the church cannot do anything that would get the government/IRS on their case.
a) A distinct legal existence (which includes one of the four mentioned in paragraph one above), b) A recognized creed and form of worship, c) A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government, d) A formal code of doctrine and discipline, e) A distinct religious history, f) A membership not associated with any other church or denomination, g) An organization of ordained ministers, h) Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study, i) A literature of its own, j) Established places of worship, k) Regular congregations, l) Regular religious services, m) “Sunday schools” for the religious instruction of the young, n) Schools for the preparation of its ministers.
Can you believe that in 1978 we traded 16 words of liberty “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.... for IRS State Church status?
I live in Texas, so I don't know all other laws, but I can't imagine anyone being required to report to the government for anything related to religious beliefs.
The problem with organized religion seems to come when they talk of going private and people start to withhold tithes because they won't be tax deductible. If that's the reason you go to church, there is something wrong with your doctrine.
If someone in my Bible study asked to be baptized, I have Biblical authority as a Royal Priest to do all the institutions listed in Scripture. I can give Communion also. Marriage would be the only sketchy institution I might get questioned on. The "legal" requirements are that I be a licensed clergy in my state, but that is what we started talking about here about being a government church or not. The state might look at my marriages as people "shacking up", but as long as you are married in the eyes of God, there are no laws against living together without a "license". If it ever becomes a problem, it would be easy enough to get a minister's license on the web.
Today's biggest problem for government churches lies in gay marriage. A member come in, tell the preacher his son wants to marry a man and wants him to preside and use his building. If the preacher refuses, all the weight of the government is on it's way to his front door. I'm not even sure what would happen if they forfeit their 501c3. I suppose it would have the same effect as a black trying to join the KKK. Would the government jump in to force the KKK to take in Jews and blacks?
The government prides itself in the depths of control they can display, but by law, they will always have restraints on their tyranny until the Second Amendment kicks in. The Founders were wise enough in human nature to know the government will always try to control what we think, but that we will always think whatever we wish to think, ergo, the First Amendment was codified. If we choose to believe in a carved stick as God, we are free to believe that because it has always proved very difficult to force someone to a "Come to Jesus Moment". Just as the Chinese meet in homes for Christ, their government is removing crosses from public view but they know they cannot stop what people believe using fear and intimidation.