Religion Feed

Pulpit Freedom Sunday not likely to get an 'amen' from IRS ... or congregants

For members of some churches this Sunday, their church is no sanctuary from politics. A group of ministers, around 35 at last count, will tell their congregations to vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain. This so-called Pulpit Freedom Sunday message is a direct challenge to the tax law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from participating in overtly political activities. It also might not be as welcome as the clergy might think, according to a recent poll on combining religion and politics. More on this survey in a bit. Free speech or tax free? The tax law at issue was... Read more →

IRS issues word on churches & politics

With the Democratic Party Convention kicking off tomorrow and the Republican Party event on its heels, the IRS thought it a good time to remind religious groups what is and isn't acceptable as far as tax-exempts group and political activities. OK, maybe it wasn't an act of the tax gods, but merely a coincidence. Still, what with the recent Saddleback Show, it's a good idea to make it clear -- again -- that the IRS still has some degrees of separation of church and state when it comes to collecting revenue. Blur those lines, and the agency will want some... Read more →

More 'home' church tax breaks

Apparently, that guy in Illinois who turned his home into a church, thereby avoiding an $80,000 tax bill, is not alone. Today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel takes a look at a $3.2 million, 12,000-square-foot Coral Springs, Fla., estate whose owner is able to escape a $64,000 tax bill because the residence periodically houses missionaries working in Haiti. Oh yeah, that property-tax-free owner also lives there on occasion. He's the founder of the Church of Bible Understanding in Philadelphia. According to the newspaper, the value of Broward County properties considered tax-exempt for religious purposes totaled $1.8 billion in 2007. Most were traditional... Read more →

Home-to-church conversion cuts tax bill

By converting his $3 million home to a church, an Illinois man has saved himself around $80,000 in property taxes. But officials of the Village of Lake Bluff say not so fast. While they try to sort out whether the new Armenian Church of Lake Bluff is indeed legitimate, they have notified home/church owner George Michael that he owes the municipality $115,000 in fines for zoning violations in connection with the property conversion. According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael told state officials that he started the new church more than a year ago after he got an online pastor's degree.... Read more →

Sept. 28: Politically Religious Day

Or maybe it's Religiously Political Day. Whatever you want to call it, you might want to go ahead and mark that last Sunday in September on your calendar. It could be an interesting one, from spiritual, political and tax standpoints. On that day, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group, plans to have 50 pastors endorse candidates from their pulpits. The goal, according to the New York Times' political blog The Caucus, is to provoke a legal challenge to the tax law that prohibits religious organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. The ADF, in its... Read more →

The Bible and taxes, then and now

The reason for today's celebration is told in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 2, verses 1-7 below; King James Version): And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage... Read more →

When shopping isn't so secular

Do you know who owns the shopping center where you spent part of Black Friday? It might be a church. A story in today's New York Times notes that Megachurches Add Local Economy to Their Mission: "An analysis by The New York Times of the online public records of just over 1,300 of these giant churches shows that their business interests are as varied as basketball schools, aviation subsidiaries, investment partnerships and a limousine service. At least 10 own and operate shopping centers, and some financially formidable congregations are adding residential developments to their holdings. … But the entrepreneurial activities... Read more →

Praying, or not,
for financial help

Oh lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches. I must make amends. If you've already got a German luxury car, then you're probably not going to be joining Janis Joplin in seeking divine help for material possessions or anything else. That's one of the findings of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. The survey found a strong correlation between a country's religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer countries. Except in the United States. Other notable deviations from... Read more →

EU questions Catholic tax breaks

The Pope is still working on his encyclical regarding the evils of tax evasion (blogged here). Meanwhile, the European Commission has asked the Italian government to explain a tax break it provides the Catholic Church. Since 2005, the Church has received a property tax exemption for buildings that house various operations. In Rome alone, the count is 18 hospitals, 55 clinics and 250 schools. European Union officials say the tax relief may break EU rules on state subsidies by giving an unfair advantage over rivals. The Church's estimated tax savings? £680 million British pounds. That's $1.37 billion in U.S. dollars,... Read more →

Pope Benedict to denounce tax evasion

Since it's Sunday, it seems fitting to bring you a few thoughts on taxes from Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Times of London, the Pope is preparing to condemn tax evasion as "socially unjust." The paper reports that the pontiff's second encyclical will denounce the use of tax havens and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals. Such tax-avoidance techniques, from the Pope's perspective, reduce tax revenues that benefit society as a whole. TaxProf Paul Caron says you can find additional info on the upcoming papal tax paper at Catholic World News and Catholic Online. Caron also points us to... Read more →

Could it be ... Satan?!

On the heels of yet another IRS release detailing political activity no-nos of tax-exempt groups comes a test of those standards (21 in all, detailed in Rev. Rul. 2007-41). Seems that Florida televangelist Bill Keller on May 11 posted on his Web site a message telling his readers, in part: "If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for satan! This message today is not about Mitt Romney. Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. ... I have watched in horror over... Read more →

Holy taxation!

I'm far from a Biblical scholar, but a story in Tuesday's New York Times sent me scripture searching. Even the most religiously lapsed among us knows this one (recounted in the gospels of St. Luke, chapter 20, verses 21-26, and St. Mark, chapter 12, verses 13-17), about how, as the Pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus, they delved specifically into that touchy area where church and state intersect. It's one of my favorites, since the topic of taxes is specifically addressed and is the where JC issues one of his most famous pronouncements: "Render to Caesar the things that... Read more →

I do + I do + I do

"Big Love" is getting a lot of attention. Naturally, TV critics are always looking for the next HBO breakout show to fill the void that will exist when the "Sopranos" are all whacked out. But the prurience potential of a show about a fictional polygamous family in present-day Utah is also getting a lot of mainstream coverage and prompting related "news" stories. The latest example: On this Sunday's Weekend Today Show, Lester Holt interviewed a real-life husband and wife and wife. I'm sitting there in bed waiting to see what Holt, an affable TV personality, might offer on this subject... Read more →