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Controversial topic: 501(c)3

By: Lisa Van Dorn

First let me start this blog by saying, I am not a tax professional. I have done my fair share of researching the IRS instruction sheets and forms involving 501(c)3 access.

As the founder and steward of this ministry, I've spent over a year now seeking God about this tax status. It this point, I can not more forward with applying for this due to personal convictions that I can't cross. In this blog I'll share my heart about these convictions and the compromises I won't take with this ministry. I believe this platform is very much from the Father, the gifting, the anointing, the favor, gosh all of it wouldn't be possible separate from Him; therefore I will always submit to the Holy Spirit's leading before doing anything. I love Jesus and I would never do anything intentionally to ever hurt His reputation on this earth. That being said, you reading this, I want to be perfectly clear, this ministry will always 100% put every cent to the furthering of this gospel.

What is 501(c)3 Status?

This is simply a tax distinction that the federal government (IRS) grants to a variety of non-profit organizations. This tax classification allows the organization to operate as a "tax free" entity. The non-profit organization must fit within specific parameters in order to be granted and to keep this tax free status.

Now, I don't want to cast guilt or condemnation on any other Christian organization or church that operates as a 501(c)3 because they themselves also must be led by God in their decisions in how they steward that ministry. There are parts of this tax code I do agree with and in a perfect world with no corruption, I would maybe be okay with it.

What I do agree with:

I am not part of the camp that believes all taxes are of the devil. No, if taxes didn't exist then basic infrastructure wouldn't exist. The concept of "paying to Caesar what is Caesar's" I whole heartedly believe because it is scripture (Matt 22:21), but I also know that Caesar (which is a symbol for the government) has already taxed the income of the person at least once. Therefore, Caesar shouldn't be able to tax the people, then the church again basically double dipping. I don't believe that is appropriate, nor should the finances of the church ever be violated in this way. The 501(c)3 status protects the church from the government from "double dipping". Originally when this tax distinction was created in the 1950's, I'm sure all the churches celebrated this. Over the years more and more restrictions have been added to this making it a very "leaven in the lump" situation in my eyes.

So the way I and the Board of Directors will handle this double dipping, we'll simply take care of the tax from personal funds, separate from the finances of the ministry.

We'll do what we need to do, but we won't accept all the restrictions and looming political threats if something is preached that causes conviction in the hearts of powerful people in authority.

Also this next point has two edges to it. I agree and disagree with this, but I'll put here the con and the pro later on.

Political candidates. One restriction is that the non-profit organization can not "endorse" an political candidate running in an election.

Now you might say "What the heck Lisa! Why are you mad at this?"

I get it. This is why there are two sides to this. Let's hop on the imagination train for a second, (sadly still not too far from reality) but imagine the most powerful church you know of.

I immediately think of The Vatican, Pope Francis, the roughly 1.3 billion Catholics who look to him as a leader. If this man, being a human, can be corrupted by the love of money, then I wouldn't want him endorsing a political candidate, just due to the the sheer volume of believers who would vote according to his persuasion.

So I said this wasn't too far from reality, thinking of all the controversy, corruption, and "anti-bible" headlines that have surfaced over just the last 40 years surrounding the office of the Pope.

Don't hear what I'm not saying. I love the catholic church, it was founded by our beloved Peter, I have great friends who are Catholic, but just like every human being has the ability to fall. Myself included. I have a choice just as much as the next to serve God or serve myself.

So this 501(c)3 does restrict this. I know the Pope is not a U.S. citizen so this is a bit of an exaggeration but I submit it to you. Think of how fast society shifts in favor and out of good graces with leadership.

The things I don't agree with (leaven in the lump):

First of all let's pick back up with the second side to my last point. Political Candidates.

This restriction is still very much left up to interpretation. Churches have had investigations initiated into them due to having a political candidate teach a Sunday school message at their local church. The IRS has threatened to pull "tax exempt status" or alleged tax fraud due to just saying a catch phrase from a candidate. This is just a bit too much like walking on egg shells for me.

It is also the responsibility of the spiritual leaders to preach morals from the Word of God, and if there is confusion about a candidate, that person should be able to go to their trusted advisor (or pastor) for clarification before voting day.

Secondly, "must not influence legislation", this is probably my biggest issue with restrictions. We Christians are to be holy as God is holy. We are peculiar people, and the ways of this world should be so drastically different from ours as if it were darkness clashing against light. Or course the world is going to always try to create compromise, and confusion where the Word of God is concerned, so we shouldn't be surprised when that ideology creeps into legislation. We shouldn't just throw up our hands and say "oh well, separation of church and state, this world is going nuts!"

NO!! The church, like Jesus, should always challenge the darkness in this world. It's not popular to rock the boat, I get that. But when we see injustice, unrighteousness, and flat out chaos in this world, we are to stand for truth, righteousness, and declare peace in the places of chaos. When I see social media, government offices, corporate offices, and even the local stores, trying to keep people quiet who speak opposition, it sparks a righteous anger within me. Jesus spoke truth, the religious leaders of that day hated Him for it. The truth spoken in love is the only thing that can set people free from bondage. When I see that our government has added this restriction on this "tax-exempt" benefit, I just can't imagine what our Founding Fathers would do if they could see this now. Our great nation was built on Christians influencing legislation, they wrote the first documents of this nation with respect to the Bible! How twisted is it that all these years later, churches are signing up to literally be muzzled? I can't fathom this. Without bible believing Christians, legislation wouldn't exist in this nation. This nation itself wouldn't exist.

Lastly, "I give so I can get a tax right off."

The 501(c)3 organization is so scrutinized by the IRS because any donors who give can use that gift as a tax-deduction on their annual taxes. I will be honest, I've not seen much of this mindset in the church, but it is a deciding factor for some people. We are to give from the desires of our heart, as we purpose in our heart, or as our heart (spirit) gives us purpose. Giving of our money is an act of worship, service, love, trust, faithfulness, and obedience. It is holy. Just as prayer is holy, communion is holy. It should never be cheapened to only be about "me and my tax refund".

With any violation (interpretation of the IRS) of these restrictions, the organization could be subject to multiple tax audits, penalties, fees, and/ or would have to present documented records of each sermon for up to two years prior to the violation for auditing purposes.

Final Words

If you've stuck with me this far, I bless you. Thank you for hearing my heart on this. To sum up all this in a pretty little conclusion.

This ministry will never submit to being muzzled. The Spirit of the Lord is King and to no other will we bow a knee. We won't steal from Caesar what is Caesar's, but we also steward the holy gifts given to us by the supporters of this ministry with conviction. We trust God with the finances of this ministry and He has never failed us.

God Bless You!


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