Separation of Church and State Law

Home » Letters from Pastors » What Pastors Are Saying in Response to this “Separation of Church and State Law” Blog: October, 2009 posting

What Pastors Are Saying in Response to this “Separation of Church and State Law” Blog: October, 2009 posting

Jerald Finney
© October, 2009
All articles on this blog may also be accessed from the following link: http://churchandstatelaw.com/gpage8.html

This article gives (without names or identifying information) some pastors’ e-mails with comments and questions concerning articles on this blog and my responses. I have received other e-mails from pastors and may do future articles on their comments and my responses because these e-mails not only raise important questions which need to be addressed, but also give insights into the thoughts of pastors on issues such as church incorporation and 501(c)(3) as well as the biblical doctrines of government, church, and separation of church and state.

My conclusions from reading and responding to these e-mails, as I believe you will agree, is that:

“the understanding of the biblical principles, history, law, and facts among pastors varies widely. Some pastors are like secularists in that they have no spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and understanding and refuse to  (and maybe cannot) look at the issues with an open mind. Some rely on their opinions as opposed to the Word of God as the basis for what they believe. Many take Scriptural verses completely out of context to support their erroneous views. Others are eager to please the Lord, and seek to increase their knowledge about these preeminent matters. Some already have some degree of understanding, greater or lesser, about these issues. Some are already practicing biblical principles in the area of church and state.”

You probably have received and possibly read some of my articles on this blog. Go to the very end for links to all the articles on this “Separation of Church and State Law” blog.

BEGIN 1st E-MAIL:

E-mail from a pastor who read some of my articles:

“I am writing to ask questions… not as a know it all, or in anger…. but because I always seek to do those things pleasing to the Lord, and according to law as a citizen of both Heaven and the USA.  I became the pastor of a church planting effort almost 3 years ago.  When we wanted to open our own bank account we were told that we needed our own EIN.

“I did not rush into the decision, but after counsel from others who said even Christ paid a “religious” tax with his disciples that he was certainly exempt from… that we could submit to the request to receive such a number.

“Our church did incorporate, believing that this was necessary so that we could file w-2 forms for me as the pastor.  We did not seek 501(c) 3 status because the law explicitly said we did not need to.

“Question:  How would I as a pastor pay tax on my income if I did not incorporate and receive an EIN.

“Question:  How do you have a bank account to hold church money that is given, without an EIN.

“Question:  If these things can be done, how would I communicate that to my bank.

“As a citizen of the USA, I am also a Citizen of Heaven.  I  have a social security number and the government defines much of what I can and cannot do.  Yet I do not tear up such a number, I simply walk when I can in agreement with the law, and when I cannot I obey God.  How is this different from what I now do as a pastor.  I do not read IRS code to determine what I preach.

“I appreciate the work you are doing… but do not think I fully understand.  I did listen to one of your broadcast that was linked below.”

Pastor ____________________

My response:

Dear Bro. __________________,

It is always exciting to hear from a pastor who has an mind open to consider these preeminent issues.

Can you call me? To answer your questions would be much easier if we could talk. Or e-mail me and leave your phone number and I would be glad to give you a call.

Let me suggest my blog article American abuse of Romans 13.1-2 (I think you can access the article by clicking the title) and other related verses. There is an audio teaching included with that article. I have one book which deals specifically with Romans 13 and other verses including the verses dealing with the tribute money which are routinely misinterpreted by many pastors and Christians.

To understand the issues, one must do a dedicated study of Scripture. I have done such a study and have put my findings in God Betrayed. I have also written on three other books dealing with related issues. My studies have consumed thousands of hours. Most pastors, through no fault of their own, were never taught the biblical principles and doctrines concerning church, state, and separation of church and state.

I would be happy to discuss all your questions with you, but I just don’t have the time to write out the answers since to fully answer them would require writing a book.

I appreciate all Bible believing pastors. Hopefully more will, like you, begin to look into these very important issues.

 For His Glory,
Jerald Finney

END OF 1st E-MAIL.

BEGIN 2nd E-MAIL:

After reading the e-mail, I first offer this response followed by his comments and my responses:

Dear Pastor __________,

Thanks for taking  your valuable time to offer your opinions on this subject. I offer the following insights in love. I do not offer my opinions. I base all I say on the Word of God. I base my analysis of fact, law, and history on the Word of God. Truth is not based on opinion. In your opinion, incorporation and 501(c)(3) for churches is a minor issue. To God, according to His Word, this is a major, major issue. That this is a major issue to God is apparent from His Word. That is why He likens Himself to the Bridegroom, Husband, and Head of His church who is the wife and bride of Christ. That is why He tells us:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

God is giving this analogy so that a Christian who is walking in the spirit can understand how important these issues are.

In addition to telling us how He feels about His churches, He gives us His desired organization, purposes, and definition of His churches. I go over all this in great detain in my books and in the audio teachings on my “Separation of Church and State Law” blog.

Now to your comments and my answers – I have already addressed some of your comments. I will give my answer after each of your paragraphs:


From:
To: Jerald Finney <jerald.finney@sbcglobal.net>
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 7:51:08 AM
Subject: RE: Important information on 501c3 and incorporation of churches

Pastor’s comments:

Dear Brother Jerald,

Thanks for the e-mail my kind sir,  but no thanks on the message.  The day the Feds come after the churches for whatever excuse they will think of, it will matter not if one is 501c3. Matter of fact, they will probably go after the non 501c3 churches first.  While I am very familiar with the whole of the issue wither to be or not to be 501c3,  I find it to be a sub issue with little to no relevance to our Faith and practice as a local Church.  This is a minor issue ,one has to have been burned as BJU (a non local church taking a unbiblical stand, {that they have later recanted of}) was to think it a major one.  The Control of the Federal Government via 501c3 on local churches is nil in my 25 years of ministry experience.  Churches & ministries trying to fleece the people of God with book stores, fund raisers  and the like, ought to be paying taxes when they are turning a profit, like A-BEKA was.

My response: Civil government in America would go after New Testament churches (churches which are not legal entities such as corporations, unincorporated associations, corporations sole, etc. and which have not obtained 501(c)(3) status) if they could. They do not for two reasons: first, such churches are free under God – they are free in America, in China, Korea, and in every nation. I could show you this biblically, but that is a deep study. Let me just give you one verse: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.18)(He is speaking of His churches, not state churches). Tyrannical governments can force churches to meet underground, but they cannot touch those churches. They can only persecute Christians when they are caught practicing their faith and destroy or take property. Nonetheless, those Christians are free. Most Christians in America, like lost people, are in bondage to the American system – they have been so Americanized that they cannot walk in the Spirit and do things God’s way in spite of the fact that they can do so without persecution and with only mild inconveniences.

Second, New Testament churches in America are protected by the First Amendment and various state constitutional and legal provisions. Civil government will go after, as they are already doing, state churches (legal entities such as corporations, unincorporated associations, corporations sole, etc. and possibly also 501(c)(3)) first. They have controlled and defined those churches to one degree or another. State churches reflect America’s principles, not God’s principles. Furthermore, state churches have given up much of their First Amendment protection which non-state churches still enjoy. The “gates of hell” are already prevailing against those churches. I do not have time to fully explain this – see my books. Obviously, from the contents of your letter, you are not familiar with the issue of incorporation and 501(c)(3).

By the way, Bob Jones University was not a church, nor was it a free educational institution. It was an incorporated 501(c)(3) institution of higher learning which had subjected itself to civil government control in return for supposed government perks. I have thoroughly read the case and analyzed it in two of my books.

I agree with you about churches which conduct businesses. I believe that they should be taxed. I cannot remove a candlestick, but God may have already done so as to many churches which, to Him, are no longer churches. Ultimately, God is and will be their judge, just as He will judge those churches and Christians who have failed to “love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Incorporated 501(c)(3) churches and churches who have chosen to become legal entities in any way have not loved God, from His perspective – therefore, they do not love Him. State churches arrange their affairs according to man’s laws, not those of God. Even though they may be right about some things, they are wrong in their organization, procedures, and operation. I go over this thoroughly in The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls. In that book, I explain what the Bible teaches on the subject, not what I think; and I do not take verses out of context to support my opinion.

And let me say this, no one in America is forced to go to any church. In addition, the First Amendment as well as state constitutional provisions and laws protect those churches who do things God’s way and choose not to entangle themselves in the control-definition schemes devised by civil government. I do not go to a state church because to do so would be to dishonor my Lord and Savior. I go to a New Testament church. You are free to run a state church and people are free to go to that church. In America, one is free to serve either God or mammon without persecution.

Also, anyone who commits a crime, regardless of what church he is in, can be charged and subjected to the criminal justice system. I believe that many more members of state churches are guilty of sinning against God and man than members of true New Testament churches.

Pastor’s comments: I know of churches that have un-incorporated, so they can say, “we have no power but God over us.” only to find out that they could not get a bank account, people could no longer deduct their giving, and the church had to operate on a complete cash basis, anyone could be sued personally with no protection and as an added bonus, draw the community’s attention of being secretive and cultish.  No Thanks!  While I am sure the anti-christ in the tribulation will utilize the current finical computer systems of the banking industry to control the masses, I don’t plan on being here.  And Until such time that being 501c3 violate clear biblical  command to obey God rather than man, our church will utilize to the current system of protection set up by the American government.

My response: I know churches who are pleasing God and operating according to the principles of the New Testament. There are ways under the laws of America for New Testament churches to operate and utilize property while not owning that property. Also, it is possible to set up bank accounts for the use of the monies given by church members. I know of many churches which are now utilizing those methods and honoring God. Their people are happy, and they love the Lord and His precepts. Although they suffer some minor inconveniences, many of them take tax deductions. Internal Revenue Code Publications (see my books and audio teachings), in accordance with the law says they can do so and the issue has been taken up and ruled upon positively by at least one federal court. I personally do not take such a deduction, since I give for His pleasure, not so that I can get a tax deduction. One caveat is this – since the enactment of the Patriot Act there are sometimes hurdles for a New Testament church to jump in attempts to open a bank account.

You allow the community, not God to define you? You fear that they will label you as secretive and cultish? Let me tell you, the non-state churches I know of are completely open. Anyone can come and observe them. No IDs are taken at the door and they, like state churches, probably have state agents observing them. God’s churches love and fear God, not man and civil government. The Bible speaks much on the issue of fear to the believer who is walking in the Spirit. For example, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In America today, even sold out state churches are disdained. Even pseudo-Christians in state churches are disdained. Jesus was disdained. The apostles were all disdained and persecuted. True Christians over the last two thousand years have been labeled as cultish and secretive by their communities. Furthermore, they have been beheaded, drowned, burned alive, imprisoned, etc. by the church state alliances (by the established churches using the arm of the state or the state using the established churches) all because they would have no power over them but the Lord Jesus Christ. John Bunyan was one of those who refused to bow down to civil government. And over hundreds of years, they had to be somewhat secretive, because to operate openly meant certain torture and/or death. For a state church to use the example of John Bunyan to support their position is beyond ludicrous.

And you fall back on the rapture. I believe in the rapture. But don’t count on it to save you from persecution. First, if you are not saved, you will not be taken in the rapture. Second, there is no guarantee that Christians in America will not once again suffer persecution. Christians all over the world to this very day are beaten, imprisoned, tortured, killed, etc. for their faith by communities and governments who label them as secretive and cultish. What makes you think American Christians are any better? What gives you the right to discount persecution? We are told that those “who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5.10-12).

Christians who are persecuted for Christ’s are highly favored by God. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15.13). Christ laid down his life for his children, but “Christians” in state churches are unwilling to lay down anything, much less their lives, for Him. After all, that is not necessary since they believe that they will be raptured out of here before they have to suffer anything for our Lord.

Getting 501(c)(3) clearly violates biblical principles and grieves our Lord. You take a portion of 1 Peter 2.13 out of its immediate context and the context of Scripture as a whole to support your erroneous position. I deal with 1 Peter 2.13, Romans 13 and other verses taken out of context and abused by Christians as well as secularists in my books and teachings. One of my books, Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses, as well as one audio teaching on “Separation of Church and State Law” blog are devoted entirely to this issue. To fully understand the issue, one must either do his own extensive study or get God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application.

Pastor’s comments: Do I trust them?  No, no more than Paul did when Rome (the powers that be) cut off his head, but little he did, stopped the Roman government from its evil plan orchestrated by Satan.   So to, little that we do in the matter of 501c3 will have any effect on the end times and Satan’s master plan for world domination.

My response: Here you say you don’t trust them, but in the other paragraphs you praise them for protecting state churches and their members. Our God-given goal is not to “stop them.” Our God-given goal is to glorify Him by following his principles as laid down in His Word. We can only do that if we  are saved, and then only if we cherish Him and His precepts and submit ourselves to Him. We cannot do this  if we are ignorant.

Pastor’s comments: In Conclusion, while I find the premise of why not to be 501c3 somewhat valid biblically, I find the practice of operating without the protection of 501c3 risky and  as well non-biblical, for Christ told us to be as wise as serpents and gentle as lambs.  I must ask myself as a pastor, how wise is it to subject my people to possible lawsuits, government inquires to why we operate below radar,  community people accusing us of not being above board and cultish thus hurting the testimony of Christ.   No, I have made my decision, this is not jolly old England telling me to get a permit to preach the gospel as they did John Bunyan, this is the USA trying to give protection to the 1st amendment as well as keep charlatans who would operate as a non-profit churches and ministries who’s real purpose is political or for profit or worse yet for fleecing the people of God.

My response: Your first sentence in your conclusion is internally inconsistent and you quote a verse completely out of context to support a position that the verse does not speak to. Again, to understand what Scripture teaches about government, church, and separation of church and state requires systematic study. See 2 Timothy 2.15.

As to your reliance on incorporation for “limited liability,” I address this and other spurious rationale you give for becoming a legal entity in my books. I can’t do the subject justice here, but will give you a brief synopsis of biblical truth on the issue of limited liability. See my books for God’s perspective on the other false reasons given for incorporating and getting a 501(c)(3). A state church (legal entity such as corporation, etc. and 501c3) and members of that church have less protection than a non-state church. Members of each are still liable for their crimes and torts and crimes and torts to which they are a party. As to protection of personal assets against suit against the church for failure to pay debts of the church, biblical principles make clear that we are not to go into debt, but that if we do, as Christians, we are to pay those debts, not seek protection through a legal device devised by man. And that device does not offer the protections you allude to. Check my books and audio teachings for a full understanding.

A New Testament church is still fully protected by the First Amendment. A New Testament church cannot be sued, since she is not a legal entity and is protected from state attempts to make it a legal entity by the First Amendment as well as by state constitutional and statutory provisions. Her members can be sued or charged for their crimes and  torts. A New Testament church cannot enter into contract, because she is not a legal entity.

A state church has given up much of its First Amendment protection. Such a church now falls under the Fourteenth Amendment. Again, see my books and teachings.

Whether you know it or not, the state has limited you as to what you can preach if you are an incorporated 501(c)(3) church. Five rules go along with the 501(c)(3) status. Four are clearly stated in the law and one has come about by court decision. If you are like most state church pastors, you have never read the law or the rules that you agreed to when you got your 501(c)(3). In addition, God expects you to honor any rules you agree to, even if they are contrary to His rules. Obviously, He would rather you honor Him in the first place. Should the state say you have violated one or more of those rules, your only recourse is to go to court – the court will tell you whether you have violated the rule(s) and will tell you the consequences. You will not be able to appeal to God’s Word and rules, only the reasoning and rules laid down by the civil government. I go over all this in detail in my books and teachings.

A state church has denied the power of God. She has turned to the state because God and His principles are not sufficient. Christians in state churches (in general), as evidenced by your letter, do not know His principles, much less the facts about incorporation, 501(c)(3), etc. State churches believe that civil law gives them more protection than does God, but they are totally deceived – they have less protection. Most state churches don’t even examine the rules, procedures, etc. that they have bound themselves to keep. To fully understand this read my books and/or listen to my audio teachings.

This does not mean that a church which has chosen not to become a legal entity is operating according to God’s truth in all areas. Those New Testament churches I know of operate very honorably and according to the Word of God. Their pastors preach the whole counsel of God. Although preeminent, church organization and operation are not the only aspects of the Christian walk. New Testament churches who operate according to God’s principles in the area of church organization are much more likely than state churches to honor God’s other precepts as well. On the other hand, state churches are definitely operating outside God’s will in their organization, are at least partially under a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and are causing God much grief, even though they may be honoring one or some of His principles.

Churches and pastors who choose to honor God in the way they organize their churches are much more likely to honor him in other ways. The New Testament church pastors I know are far more honorable that most state church pastors I have ever met. Those preachers of New Testament churches do not get big salaries and perks. They preach the whole counsel of God, not just selected portions that do not offend. They are honorable men.

I would like to add that even a state church can have a good pastor. I know such pastors. A state church is like the nation Israel when  she  demanded a king. Being under God alone was not what they wanted. God granted their wish since He always give people what they want, when they have a choice (See 1 Samuel 8). Even though they had committed a great wickedness in demanding a king, God still promised that he would bless them if they would serve the Lord with all their heart and turn not aside (See 1 Samuel 12). However, the nation had dishonored their Husband (Yes, Israel was called the wife of God the father, just as the church is likened unto the wife of the Lord Jesus. See my books.). Once one takes the first step away from her husband, other steps inevitably  follow. Before it was over, Israel was into complete apostasy and the only remedy was judgment. Judah, after the division, had some good kings although most were evil. When she had a good king and followed God, she was blessed and vice versa. Israel never had a good king – all were evil. The same principles apply to a church who has taken that first step to dishonor her Husband. Sooner or later she will not have a good pastor. Sooner or later she will sink into heresy and then into apostasy. We are seeing this happen in many state churches in America.

You try to bolster your opinion with lies that you cannot substantiate interspersed with total ignorance of the issues. Here is one specific example of that from your conclusion: “[T]his is the USA trying to give protection to the 1st amendment as well as keep charlatans who would operate as a non-profit churches and ministries who’s real purpose is political or for profit or worse yet for fleecing the people of God.”  You attack the many excellent New Testament churches, pastors, and Christians in those churches with no basis to support your attack. No New Testament church I know of makes a profit. Every dime given by the members of New Testament churches I know of goes for biblically sound purposes, mostly for legitimate ministries. The last I heard, the church I attend gives 60 or 70% of all tithes and offering to missions.  The only churches I know of that are illegitimate and doing the things you mentioned in the quote above are state churches – churches who have chosen to operate according to worldly principles as legal entities such as corporations, corporations sole, unincorporated associations, etc. and with 501(c)(3) religious organization tax exempt status.

Your statement about what the USA is trying to do is so ridiculous, I am not going to reply to it.

Pastor’s closing:

Take it for what is worth, my brother,
Pastor _______

END 2nd E-MAIL.

BEGIN 3rd E-MAIL:

Another pastor e-mailed me the following question: “Are you saying we should not be registered?”

My reply:

Dear Brother _________________,
It is not what I say or think about an issue. The real question is, “What does the Word of God say about and teach on this issue. That is, what are the biblical principles concerning this issue?” So, first one must understand the biblical principles involved – in this case, the biblical principles concerning church, state, and separation of church and state. Then, one must apply fact to principle to see if principle is being violated.
 This is what I do in the studies provided. A pastor or other Christian can study the teachings. This gives one a reference point to consider these issues. Most pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other Christians today have never looked at these principles. “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ep. 5.25-26). The epistles of Paul develop the doctrine of the church who was jealous over the church with a godly jealousy. As Paul wrote, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your  minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (1 Co. 11.2-3). The principles of civil government are also laid out in the Bible as is the principle of separation of church and state. Millions of Christians have given their lives and Christians continue to give their lives for these principles, but not in America.
 It is your love relationship with the Lord that is affected. When an individual and a church violates that relationship, not only is our Lord is grieved but also there are bad consequences.
Thanks for your interest in this matter.
For His Glory,
Bro. Jerald Finney
 
END 3rd E-MAIL.
 
BEGIN 4th E-MAIL:
 
Bro. Finney,

I have no desire to be 501c3, and know the reason why.  The first link on our email contains an extra “.” which prevents folks from accessing the information (unless they notice the extra period).

Any relation to Charles Finney?  He is from this area (not that I hold to all that he did).

Bro. _____________________

END 4th E-MAIL.

BEGIN 5th E-MAIL:

Another pastor commented as follows to one of my articles: “Stop connseling pastors and go back to practicing law. You are not helping anyone.”

My response: “The legal association to which I volunteer much of my time (pro bono) has helped many churches to organize according to the biblical principles. Pastors and other Christians who have biblical knowledge, spiritual understanding and wisdom and open minds are coming to me ever more frequently for help in understanding and applying biblical principles relating to church organization.”
 
END 5th E-MAIL.
 
May you find the audio teaching and articles on this “Separation of Church and State Law” blog inspiring and helpful in your attempts to submit to our spiritual Husband and Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
END

2 Comments

  1. Orlando Pineda says:

    It’s very sad that so many pastors aren’t willing to look into this issue for themselves.

    Proverbs 18:13 “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

    As soon as I realized that incorporating made the church I get to pastor a creature of the state and yoked me up with the state, as a Bible believing Baptist I knew that was wrong and I was grieved in my spirit because the Bible lays out a separation of church and state and that we’re not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers! That was all I needed. Now, I know there are more reasons not to be incorporated or 501c3 thanks to Bro. Finney. The mass amount of ignorance shown by many pastor’s comments is sad indeed. One man left this comment on your blog,

    “Another pastor commented as follows to one of my articles: “Stop connseling pastors and go back to practicing law. You are not helping anyone.””

    Well sir, that’s not true. Please continue the work your doing Bro. Finney. I personally thank you for the information provided here and in your books (which were sent to me free of charge). Plus the countless hours you spent on the phone with me answering many of my questions to help us get out of incorporation. I truly am grateful.

    Your friend and brother in Christ,

    Pastor Orlando Pineda

    • Thanks for the encouragement and the insights, Bro. Pineda. By the grace of God, I will be more involved with this ministry and other church ministries than ever. There are a remnant of pastors and believers who are determined to please God and pleasing God is all that matters.

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