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Should Churches Be Tax-Exempt?

Science, philosophy, politics, and religion are frequent topics for writer and public speaker Catherine Giordano.

Are Tax Exemptions for Churches a Good Idea?

Tax exemptions for churches and other nonprofits are so taken for granted that we seldom stop to think if they are a good idea. According to a University of Tampa study, the tax breaks for churches alone cost the United States an estimated $71 billion a year in uncollected taxes.

A case could be made for abolishing the tax exemptions of all nonprofits because if one group gets a tax break, everyone else has to pay more. However, I will focus on churches because they have the strongest case.

  • It violates the principle of separation of church and state.
  • Churches get more benefits than others.
  • Churches often abuse the special privileges they are given in the tax code.
  • The tax code puts limits on the churches’ freedom of speech.

Why Are Churches and Religious Institutions Tax-Exempt?

One reason for the tax-exempt status of religion is that it has always been that way.

The first recorded tax exemption for churches occurred circa 312 in the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine granted the Christian Church a complete exemption from all forms of taxation following his conversion to Christianity.

In the United States, the origins of the tax-exemption for organizations that benefited the public good (including churches) predated the formation of the republic.

Today in the United States, we have two types of organizations that are relieved from paying some taxes—nonprofit organizations and tax-exempt organizations. These two types are similar but have some differences. Many organizations can claim both designations.

What Is a Nonprofit Organization?

Nonprofit organizations are more correctly called “not-for-profit” organizations because they do not exist to make a profit as ordinary businesses do. Their purpose is religious, charitable, educational, scientific, literary, humanitarian, etc.

Any surplus income remains within the organization to be used for the stated purposes of the group instead of being distributed to shareholders or any individual.

Nonprofit status is conferred by the individual states and exempts the organization from a broad array of state taxes—state and local income taxes, property taxes, and franchise taxes or sales taxes.

States lose a considerable amount of money due to nonprofit exemptions. Some wealthy institutions, are exempt because of their nonprofit status—for instance, Yale University. However, the majority of lost income comes from churches.

There will usually be only a few universities in a state, but hundreds, and even thousands, of churches. Many of these churches are sitting on some very pricy real-estate. Just take a walk down New York City’s Fifth Avenue to see for yourself.

What Is a Tax-Exempt Organization?

Any nonprofit organization may apply to the Federal government for tax-exempt status (Section 501(c) 3 of the IRS code).

This status confers extra benefits:

  • no corporate income taxes
  • People who donate money to the organization can take a tax deduction on their personal income tax returns for their donations.

Tax-exempt corporations must still pay FICA taxes and Federal Unemployment Tax on employee salaries.

A tax-exempt organization has the same requirements concerning its purpose as a nonprofit organization. However, it is prohibited from being directly involved in election campaigns or attempts to influence legislation. This prohibition was enacted in 1954.

The U.S. treasury loses $71 billion a year in church tax exemptions, and that is just for starters.

The U.S. treasury loses $71 billion a year in church tax exemptions, and that is just for starters.

What Special Tax-Exemption Benefits Are Given to Churches?

Churches receive special benefits.

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  • If an organization declares itself to be a church, it receives automatic 501(c) 3 status. Churches do not have to go through the lengthy process of applying for it.
  • They are also relieved of the burden of filing Form 990 which allows the IRS to confirm that the regulations are being followed. Consequently, there is no oversight as to how monies are obtained and spent.

How Has the “Faith-Based Initiative” Given Even More Tax Benefits to Churches?

The "faith-based initiative," was introduced by President George W. Bush. It has given even more special financial benefits to churches.

The U.S. government no longer requires religious organizations receiving federal or public funds for the purpose of delivering social-welfare services to separate this work from church work. Often these social services are performed along with proselytizing actions.

Additionally, money is fungible, meaning that if a religious agency receives federal grants for the social services it provides, these grants free up an equivalent amount of church money to be used for religious purposes.

Churches receive public dollars, but there is no public accountability as there is with non-faith-based organizations that may also receive federal money to provide these services. At the very least, the books of any group receiving public funds should be open for examination by the government.

How Do School Vouchers and Charter Schools Funnel Tax Money to Churches?

States love school vouchers and charter schools because they can pay less money per pupil than allocated for public schools. Often these payments are going to schools run by religious groups and they often include religious instruction. This is public tax money being used for religious purposes.

In Florida where I live, the former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, found a sneaky way to get around what the state constitution explicitly prohibits—no public money shall be used for religious schools.

A new law was enacted to allow corporations to contribute directly to private religious schools and deduct that money from their corporate taxes. Whether the money is given from tax dollars after they are collected or before they are collected, the state treasury is still out the same amount of dollars.

Why Does Special Treatment for Churches Violate the Principle of Separation of Church and State?

The state and the federal government should not be in the business of subverting the principle of separation of church and state. United States citizens lose their freedom of religion when tax exemptions support churches other than their own.

A “church” that almost all Americans would not want to support is the Church of Scientology. This group is notorious for its cult-like practices. The founder of the group, L. Ron Hubbard, admits that Scientology was incorporated as a church in order to avoid taxes. He said, “If you want to get rich, start a religion.”

Some atheist groups call attention to this problem by declaring themselves to be a church. This is usually done to make a point about church-state separation and not to bilk the government. In spring 2010, the state of Oklahoma was compelled to award tax-exempt status to a Satanist group called “The Church of the IV Majesties.”

Should Churches Get any Money From the Government?

Some churches get government grant money to provide social services. The problem with this is that religious content is not kept out of the social-service work done by churches

Additionally, faith-based groups often discriminate in hiring and in the delivery of services. There are some Catholic adoption agencies that will only allow Catholic couples to adopt. A Catholic hospital might refuse to perform a medically required procedure that would cause an abortion. A church that provides social services will sometimes refuse to hire gays/lesbians or will only hire members of their own faith.

Churches should use their own money to fund any social services they may wish to provide and any schools they wish to establish. They are then free to include as much religious content as they wish.

How Much Money Does the Property Tax Exemption for Churches Cost?

Property taxes pay for many local services, such as police, fire, and education. Churches benefit from these services the same as any other property owner.

  • According to former White House senior policy analyst Jeff Schweitzer, PhD, U.S. churches own $300-$500 billion in untaxed property.
  • According to a July 2011 analysis by New York's nonpartisan Independent Budget Office, New York City alone loses $627 million in annual property tax revenue due to 9,500 churches being tax-exempt.

Some areas of the country have a high concentration of churches which severely affects the finances of the state or county affected. Ordinary citizens must make up the shortfall.

How Do Some Churches Misuse the Tax Exemption?

Religious leaders who live in a home provided by their church are entitled to a parsonage exemption. They pay income taxes on their personal income, but the value of the housing is not added to their income as it would be for any other citizen. If the "parsonage exemption" were revoked, there would be an estimated half-billion in taxes collected each year.

The abuse is rampant among the ministers of the mega-churches. They live in multi-million dollar estates and avoid property tax by calling their home a parsonage. For instance, televangelist Joel Olsteen, senior pastor of the Houston based Lakewood Church, lives in a $10.5 million “parsonage” which boasts six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, five fireplaces, a guest house, and pool house.

The exemption on property taxes extends to any building on land used for religious purposes, such as a library or educational institution. It can even be used for a theme park.

In Orange County Florida (Orlando), there is a theme park called “The Holy Land Experience” owned by The Trinity Broadcasting Network. It is registered as a nonprofit church even though it resembles a theme park in every way and charges a similarly high price for admission. The County fought this exemption for years and finally lost. This costs the County about $300,000 in lost property taxes every year. The “church” was forced to make only one concession—they had to provide free admission one day a year. Only one lousy day! Plus they make it difficult for the public to know which day has free admission because it changes every year and it is not widely advertised.

Is the Holy Land Experience a theme park or a a church? It sure looks like a theme park.

Is the Holy Land Experience a theme park or a a church? It sure looks like a theme park.

Do Churches Adhere to the Restrictions on Political Speech?

Churches, because of their tax-exempt status, are legally barred from involvement in politics. This prohibition was not always in place. The law against churches intervening in political campaigns was passed by the US Congress in 1954.

However, this restriction is very often violated.

  • During the 2004 presidential election, Boston’s archbishop Sean O’Malley announced that John Kerry would be refused communion because of his pro-choice position. The Catholic Church is a private organization and has every right to refuse to offer communion to someone. However, if the Church publicly announces that they are refusing communion to a political candidate that is tantamount to political speech.
  • Churches are often involved in political matters. They may speak out for or against abortion, a war, marriage equality, or capital punishment. All of these may be moral matters, but they are also political matters. Churches often spend large amounts of money on public campaigns to advocate for their views and this affects public policy.
  • Many churches give out voting guides. The guides are careful not to mention specific candidates or political parties. However, the information is clearly slanted in favor of a particular candidate, and it is usually quite clear which candidate the guide is meant to support.
  • In some churches, the prohibition is often just blatantly ignored. The preacher will openly state who the faithful should vote for. Some will even declare it is a sin to vote for a particular candidate.
  • Additionally, churches often invite political candidates and other politicians to speak to the congregation. During these speeches, the candidates promote their political views. And even if they keep their remarks to “godly matters,” their very presence in the pulpit implies an endorsement.

Do Churches Ever Lose Their Tax Exempt Status When They Engage in Political Speech?

Churches seldom lose their tax-exempt status for breaking the law. They are seldom even investigated.

The Internal Revenue Service has been successful in revoking the tax-exempt status of only one church: the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, NY, which had placed an advertisement in USA Today and the Washington Times speaking out against Bill Clinton four days before the 1992 presidential election.

Does the Tax Exemption of Churches Actually Benefit Charities and/or Charitable Works?

Churches defend their special tax status on the basis of the charitable works that they do. It’s true--they do charitable work, just not very much of it. Secular groups provide aid far more efficiently.

According to a University of Tampa study of 271 congregations, an average of 71% of church revenue goes to “operating expenses,” while helping to the poor is somewhere within the remaining 29%. Compare this to the American Red Cross, which uses 92% of revenues for aid to the public and only about 8% on operating expenses.

Is it Right to Abolish Unfair Tax Exemptions?

All not-for-profit groups, secular and religious, should not have to pay income tax because technically they have no profit—all their income stays in the organization.

However, all nonprofits, including churches, should pay sales and property taxes since these taxes are used to pay for the government services they use. At the very least, churches should be treated the same as other not-for-profit groups.

Churches are private organizations that exist to serve their own members. They should not get any special tax breaks. They should not be using government money, whether received directly or indirectly, to promote their religion or religious beliefs.

Churches will suffer some financial loss, but on the plus side, they will regain their freedom of speech. Taxing the churches will allow them to freely weigh in on political matters and end the hypocrisy that they are not already doing so.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Catherine Giordano


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on February 21, 2017:

winnie: We agree, but for different reasons. I see a lot of churches violating the law related to tax exemption by being involved with politics. There is nothing in the tax code about providing sanctuary to undocumented people. Also, I have not heard of any churches aiding and abetting federal felons. Could you tell me what you are referring to? on February 21, 2017:

I think it is about time the various religious organizations pay their fair share. Now with churches harboring illegal aliens and aiding and abetting federal felons that should make it possible for them to lose it immediately and permanently..

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on November 05, 2016:

I agree with you that churches are a business. They are nominally non-profit, but some provide luxurious lifestyles for their owners ( the so-called pastors.)

Wake-Up on November 04, 2016:

IF churches truly cared about 'community'... 'peoples'... they'd gladly forfeit being tax exempt. But... churches are a BUSINESS (think: pyramid scheme) and the upper layer CEO's (priests, pastors, ministers, manager-clergy etc) want their luxurious compensations/salaries, benefits, perks (eg paid vacations disguised as 'spiritual retreats'; rent/mortgages paid; entertainment stipends, vehicles etc).

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on October 05, 2016:

Brenda: There may well have been a political motive behind the Johnson Amendment. There was also a political agenda when churches were granted tax free status initially and then given further tax benefits throughout the years, particularly during the GWB years. I propose that we do away with all of these politically motivated benefits to churches. Separation of church and state demands that churches pay taxes the same as any other business.

What is wrong is to take government money and then use it for partisan politics. All tax exempt organizations are forbidden to be involved in politics. No tax deduction can be taken for political donations. When churches ask to have both government money and the ability to be involved in partisan politics, they are asking for special benefits. Again.

When churches pay taxes they can be involved in politics. However, I wouldn't advise them to do so. Some church members will leave the church is the pastor is preaching politics instead of the Gospel.

Brenda on October 04, 2016:

I'm not sure why you don't explain why the law was past in 1954 - basically L. B. Johnson's payback to churches because they almost cost him the election and he wasn't going to let that happen again, so he muzzled them!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 24, 2016:

AudreyHowitt: To answer your last question--Yes, we should remove tax exemptions for all non-profits, including museums. Remember we are not talking about income taxes. (By definition. non-profits have no taxable income; we are talking about mainly property taxes.)

Additionally, I think giving tax exemptions to churches is unconstitutional because it intermingles church and sate. So churches could be taxed, while museums remain untaxed. However, I will leave that to the legal scholars to argue.

Third point, churches get benefits that other non-profit organizations do not get.

Thanks for your comment and question.

Audrey Howitt from California on August 23, 2016:

Take a look at Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664 (1970) which states that the exemption applied to a broad category of associations having many common features and all dedicated to social betterment. Thus, churches as well as museums, hospitals, libraries, charitable organizations, professional associations, and the like, all non-profit, and all having a beneficial and stabilizing influence in community life, were to be encouraged by being treated specially in the tax laws. The primary effect of the exemptions was not to aid religion; the primary effect was secular and any assistance to religion was merely incidental.

If we take the exemption away from churches, shouldn't we take it away from museums as well?

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 09, 2016:

@Mike McKelvy I know someone who did this, But, he didn't try to get followers, just got an internet ministers license and declared himself a church. After a few years, he got worried about the risk he was taking with the IRS and he "closed" his church. It shows how easy it is for churches to scam the system.

Mike McKelvy on August 09, 2016:

I'm in the wrong sector to accomplish my aims. I'M gonna form a church and see how many come to hear me talk and contribute to our cause!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 06, 2016:

Randall: I'd like to be tax exempt also, but then how would the services we all depend on be paid for? No one paying taxes would be nice, but since we have to have taxes, at least let the taxes apply to everyone in a fair way.

Randall on August 06, 2016:

We should all be tax exempt.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on July 28, 2016:

Kathleen Cochran: Perhaps there is another church with a choir where you could sing. This church is obviously not a good fit for you.

Kathleen Cochran on July 19, 2016:

My former pastor not only did all those things you mentioned, so does the minister of music (sometimes playing straight man to the pastor's jokes). Deacons have been known to admonish members during their prayers before the offering for not voting someone else into office. Jokes are often made during meetings and the assumption is that everyone present will find them funny at the expense of certain candidates. And if that's not enough, the church rents property directly across the street to the county office for one political party and all their yard signs for their candidates are in full view of anyone coming to the church. They should have lost their status years ago. I'm only a member to sing in the choir!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 21, 2016:

pstrauble48: Churches do not pay income taxes because they are non-profit organizations. Businesses are taxed on profit, not on income. If the church owns a building, they should pay taxes to pay for the services they receive from the government (fire, police, roads, etc..) The solution for your church is to attract new members or for members to give more. If your church can not do that, then it should close and the members can join other, more successful, churches. If your church meets in rented or donated space, then they would not have to pay ay tax even if churches were to be taxed.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 20, 2016:

hi You have made some very valid points, most of which I agree with.

If our little church had to pay taxes we could close our doors tomorrow. We are almost out of money at this point and expect unless something wonderful happens financially to close in five years.

So if they change this ruling to make churches non-exempt, they could consider the size of the church. I know that may not seem fair to some but our church only has 15 members and is the only Episcopal Church within 16 miles.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 16, 2016:

Lee Jaffe: I believe that there should be no favoritism when it comes to religion. If churches paid their fair share, all of us would pay less in taxes. Also, churches are private groups designed to serve their members; non-members should not be forced to support them.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 16, 2016:

Mark Knowles: It was i the news at that time. If you doubt me, I'm sure you ca find it for yourself.

Lee Jaffe on June 15, 2016:

Seems that the preachers and faithful cry "separation of church and state" only when it is to their advantage. Why shouldn't they pay taxes like the rest of us? As a tax paying American I am incensed by the fact that they don't. How dare our politicians be so cowardly that they do not demand that the holy rollers pay their fair share. Why are they so special? They use our roads and bridges and parks and beaches and public transportation and drink our water, etc., etc., etc. As far as I'm concerned there's a special place in hell for all of them.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 04, 2016:

Not a coincidence. The majority of groups that needed checking out where tea party groups because they were the ones that looked dodgy. Also most of the applications came from right wing groups, so it stands to reason most of the ones being checked would be right-wing groups.

Wild Bill on June 04, 2016:

Must have just been a coincidence, right? ;-o

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 03, 2016:

If a group can afford to own a building, it can afford to pay the property taxes on it. The IRS was no deliberately targeting Tea Party Groups; they were targeting groups that looked like they might be phony tax dodges. These groups happened to be disproportionately right wing groups.

Mark Knowles on June 03, 2016:

Catherine said: "Taxation is not interference."

You must not pay taxes! lmao One result of taxation is the ability for the government to audit. This could give the government the power to go after particular churches (as seen when the IRS went after local Tea Party groups applying for non-profit tax exempt status).

Also, the taxation would not affect the large churches that you say abuse the power of tax exempt status. It is the smaller ones that couldn't afford to pay property and business taxes; they would all shut down. But that might be what proponents of taxing churches might want.

When I was a banker, I opened accounts for all kinds of nonprofits and the process was pretty easy. In the end, churches are a non-profit and a non-profit is a non-profit, whether it is church or science or hospitals or local organization. The only reason I can think that you are targeting churches is the fact that you are an atheist and against religion. This is why we should make laws based on facts and not certain people's' emotions.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 03, 2016:

Mark Knowles: Are you saying churches are above the law? (The Catholic church evidently thought so when it protected pedophile priests instead of turning them over to the police for their crimes.) My argument is that the same laws that apply to everyone else should apply to churches also. Taxation is not interference. Churches use public services--police, fire, roads, etc. Do churches what to be separate from these services?

Mark Knowles on June 02, 2016:

Technically, separation of church and state would be an argument Against taxing churches because if you tax them, they will not be separate anymore! lol

Larry Rankin on May 29, 2016:

They really shouldn't. Churches are in business for themselves. They aren't a socialist structure like school and law enforcement and all that sort of thing.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on May 14, 2016:

Thanks Lawrence. The Catholics are actually pretty progressive in many ways. They do accept science. But they should not accept government funding or tax exemptions (funding by another name.)

Lawrence Hebb on May 13, 2016:


Thoroughly enjoyed this hub, and I agree with you that the two shouldn't mix!

Jesus himself said "you can't serve two masters (Mammon and God)!

Over here we don't have the separation and churches either pay tax or jump through some pretty significant hoops to get the 'Not for profit' status and taking the religious part out of the giving social services is strictly adhered to! (even the Sallies have come out strongly that they do not mix their social work with the fact they're a Church, they actually had to remind the people they're a church!)

As for education, my daughter goes to a Catholic school that is partly funded by the state, but because 50% of the funding comes from the Catholic Church (we're Protestants!) she gets Catholic religious instruction (it's part of the deal and you know you're getting it before you sign up)

They cover the state curriculum and are even taught evolution over creation but given the idea that God was still behind it!

I think if a school is doing things that way then they can enjoy state funding even if it blurrs the lines a bit, after all isn't giving our kids and those who need help the best we can what it's all about?

As I said I enjoyed the hub


Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on April 28, 2016:

I'm sure there are knowledgeable and experienced lawyers who could “legally define” tax exemptions as non-acceptance of government funds and blow that argument right out of the water. But no worries. It's not baptismal water. {It's just humor. :)} I really enjoyed this discussion.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 28, 2016:

billbillwalker666: Thank you for letting me know about President's Grant's warning about the tax exemption for churches. His prediction certainly came true, and then some.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 28, 2016:

MsDora: I agree. When any organization takes government funds (and a tax exemption is tantamount to taking government funds), there should be accountability.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 28, 2016:

cmoneyspinner1tf: I like your idea and I agree. The churches should refuse to take the tax exemptions. on April 28, 2016:

President Grant, in his message to Congress, warned them to discontinue the tax exemption for churches, or, by the turn of the 20th century, would be a billion dollar a year 'enterprise. Congress didn't listen.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 27, 2016:

Obviously, many church planters are following Ron Hubbard's lead. I guess it would cost too much to scrutinize each individual church, but that would be a good thing!

Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on April 27, 2016:

Thank you for responding back. I will speak further regarding this topic.

Not only should you object to government funds being used to support the church (lumped under “faith-based initiatives” with all the other religious institutions) but THE CHURCH SHOULD REFUSE IT. What? Is the government DEMANDING that we accept the funds?

Once taxes are collected from the entire population of citizens, there is very little control we have on how the monies are disbursed to pay for various government programs for “We the People”. We have some control. But the distribution of funds from the Treasury is supposedly to be properly handled by civil servants and those in political offices, etc.

The church did not go to the government and say “Make us tax-exempt!” It wasn't our idea!

These “faith-based initiatives” are a “Johnny come lately idea” initiated by some politician or politicians. Why? Oh I won't question their motives. I'll just say it ain't necessary! Not for the church anyway.

The work of the church is supported by free will offerings of the saints. There is no biblical example nor is it a part of the Christian doctrine to request funds from the government or become a part of government-funded programs to do the benevolent or the spiritual work of the church.

I not only take a very hard line on this matter. I take the only that's been drawn. Jesus drew the line Himself. I defer to the elders and leaders of the church to make decisions on financial matters. But they know they have to obey Jesus too! They don't have the authority or approval to do otherwise.

Yes. We agree. :)

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 27, 2016:

Christian churches have every right to continue with their mission. I only object to using government money to do it (the money they should be paying in taxes) and using my money to do (the extra taxes I have to pay to cover what the churches aren't paying). It sounds like you agree with me--churches don't need government money or support to follow their mission.

Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on April 27, 2016:

Fair? Unfair? Tax? No tax? Interesting discussion but for the faithful, it's just “much ado about nothing”. Speaking with respect to Christians. Can't speak for the mission of other religious organizations and non-profits, but the mission of the body of Christ is clearly spelled out in Matthew 28: 19 – 20 (and other scriptures). If you don't tax the church, we'll carry out the mission. If you tax the church, we'll carry out the mission. Jesus left the example. He didn't argue about paying taxes. He paid the tax and carried on with His work. (Matthew 22: 21) So the question has already been answered. Whatever the government in any country decides to do ... i.e. taxing, imprisonment, etc, ... the “laborers” will continue God's work until “The Harvest”. Christians don't need government support or approval to know and to do what is right.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 27, 2016:

States do have different regulations for nonprofits, but I don't know in what area they might differ.

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 26, 2016:

Honestly, it was awhile ago so I can't discuss it from a very informed standpoint. I just know it had the way funds were being distributed and accounted for. Do you happen to know if different states have different regulations? Just a thought, but I don't know.

Anyway, not trying to annoy you if I am. LOL I could have misunderstood him.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 26, 2016:

shanmarie: I can't even guess what your pastor was talking about. The only thing churches can't do is get involved in politics.

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 26, 2016:

I had a pastor tell me one time that there are restrictions because of the requirements of law. I can't recall the details because it was so long ago, but I remember that They are not free to just help as they see fit without accounting for the money to more than just church members. They have to follow the same guidelines as other nonprofits like food banks or the agencies that assist with utilities. Anyway, maybe it would be better if they were not tax exempt.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 26, 2016:

shanmarie: Churches can help anyone in anyway they want--there are no laws that affect that. They can do it now and they could still do it if the tax exemptions were repealed.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 26, 2016:

FlourishAnyway: Thanks for your comment. Tax exemption policies proved to be a pretty complicated issue.

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 26, 2016:

I don't know about tax exemptions in general, but I don't think churches should have to be so restricted by law on who they can help. Giving food or paying a utility bill should be at the discernment of the church more than the law.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 26, 2016:

I fully and enthusiastically agree with you. You provided a comprehensive analysis of this issue.

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