501 3c and the Pulpit

One of the problems that arise from time to time with churches is the threat of losing 501 3c status when it comes to what they say from the pulpit. The threat goes that if a pastor becomes too political, that the church will lose it non-exempt status and have to start paying taxes. This really is a threat by the Left to silence those of us on the right, when it comes to issues morality and politics. This should never be allowed to happen because what is said in the pulpit is between the pastor and God, not the pastor and the state. The state has no right to interfere with the message being preached, even if that message enters into the realm of politics.

I do admit that the primary responsibility of the pastor is to preach the gospel, or the full counsel of God, as the Apostle Paul put it. But we have to admit that there are times when the pastor must speak on issues of morality and politics. The church has the right and responsibility to criticize the state. By placing itself under the state, to receive this non-exempt status, is to subject itself to the state instead of God.  It places the state as the final authority, not God.

By submitting itself to the state, the church now is the subordinate in culture and the state has control. This should never be the case. Pastors should be able to speak freely from the pulpit in matters of religion, conscious and politics. Christianity comes to bear on every aspect of our lives, including politics and matters of conscious.

For instance, just imagine what our country would be like if the pastors during the founding days of our country, remained silent on the political issues at hand. We would still be sending our taxes overseas to England and bowing to the Queen. Or imagine what the world would be like if pastors remained silent concerning the issues of slavery. We would still have slave owners and worse, slaves in our country (granted, there were pastors who were arguing for maintaining the institution of slavery, but there are always opposing views on every issue).

The point is that pastors have a responsibility to apply the gospel to culture as well as to our individual lives and that means that at times we must criticize the state and actions of the state. Remember, the state is not without error. Slavery was wrong. Had the church remained silent, the institution might still be with us today.

The Left does not want us thinking in such ways. We must resist every aspect of the state’s encroachment upon the pulpit and the pastor in the pulpit. The church is not to submit itself to the state on any level, otherwise, we become subjects and servants of the state, not servants of the living God.

Some might ask: “But what about Romans 13 and the command to submit to the government?”

As individuals, we are to submit to the government and obey the laws of the land as long as these laws are just. In other words, there are times for civil disobedience  when the laws of the land requires that which God forbids, or forbids what God requires. During such times, we must accept that God has ordained periods of persecution for believers as we stand for righteousness sake. But we must not grow silent when we should speak and we must not be cowed into what we should and should not say from the pulpit over this threat to lose some tax-exempt status.


6 thoughts on “501 3c and the Pulpit

  1. Tim Snider

    Timothy: I think we’ve agreeably disagreed on this before, and I think I do here again. I guess I’d have to have you ‘unpackage’ what politics from the pulpit means….

    If it means advocating votes FOR or AGAINST a certain person, or advocating votes FOR or AGAINST a certain ballot initiative (state questions in Oklahoma), then the government has every right (dare I say responsibility) to police that activity IF (Big if) that church and its parishioners are benefiting from a 501c3 status.

    On the other hand, if ‘politics from the pulpit’ means taking a Biblical position on the issues du jour (gambling, etc.), then the state cannot or should not say anything.

    Sadly, I think we see far too much of the former scenario and next to nothing on the latter – the permissible scenario.

    I can’t quote who said it, but I think many contemporary church leaders have said it….revoking the 501c3 privilege from churches might be the best thing to ever happen to the American evangelical church. Within that respect, I think that might be an underlying reason why the churches in some of the older examples you cite (slavery; American revolution against the English) were more active in speaking out on political and social issues: The reason being that the tax code then was nowhere near as confiscatory and there was no statutory benefit for tax exempt charitable giving.

    It’s been a long week….I hope that made sense.

    Tim Snider


    1. Hi Tim,
      Yes, I would agree to a point on the endorsements. I think we have an obligation to make it clear who is and is not for abortion, etc. I think the case should be made that to vote for someone who supports the rights to abortion is to support abortion. I think we should have the right to speak on social issues, etc.

      Not that I do that myself. I believe that if we preach the gospel effectively, we are taking care business. Yet at the same time, I don’t think should allow the government to be involved at all. Again, that makes the church subordinate to the state.


  2. Michele Ellington

    The government isn’t restricting what can be said from the pulpit. The governmet is restricting what actions may be taken by an organization benefiting from 501(c)3 status. There are many restrictions on what 501(c)3s are allowed to do, including political activities. The government isn’t telling pastors they can’t say whatever they want, they are telling 501(3)C organizations they have to abide by all the rules of that designation. Don’t like the rules for the 501(c)3 designation? Work within the system to get them changed. But then don’t complain when organizations whose politics offend you also take advantage of using a 501(c)3 organization to further their political ends. Crying about how right-wing churches are being oppressed is disingenuous and absurd. I think you are intelligent enough to know that and are deliberately muddying the waters. Conservatives are so sure they’d like to dissolve the separation between church and state so wisely installed by our founding fathers. But it never seems to occur to them that there might come a time when their religion is not the one running the country, when they are subject to government directed religious persecution,. Yet even within conservative religious groups there is little common ground, so the likelihood of electing someone whose beliefs mirror your own are extremely low, and without protection from the government those opposing rel;igious views can become the official state religion.


    1. Hi Michelle,
      No, I’m not muddying the waters. I’m trying to clear up the waters because there are those ON the right wing who would silence the rest of us on the right wing for saying things from the pulpits. They are attempting to keep us silent out of a fear that should not be there, and if someone tries to use that fear against, will not stand.

      Also, I’m attempting to show that even if we do take a stand as a church, that this is within our Constitutional rights and 501 (3) (c) or not, the government has no right to silence us, even with the threat.

      And finally, the separation of church and state is something I’m also seeking to clarify. If we lose our 501 status, the state still does not have the right to tax us.


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