Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mike Huckabee: Churches Should Consider Abandoning Exempt Status

The Huffington Post reports that in a speech to a group of Southern Baptist ministers in Houston on Monday, Mike Huckabee said that churches should consider giving up exempt status.  "I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so much about the tax code and start thinking more about the truth of the living God, and if it means that we give up tax-exempt status and tax deductions for charitable contributions, I choose freedom more than I choose a deduction that the government gives me permission to say what God wants me to say."  Huckabee confirmed his views in a tweet Tuesday evening.

I don't think I've ever uttered the words "I agree with Mike Huckabee," but there's a first time for everything.  So here goes: I agree with Mike Huckabee.  The primary issue, of course, is the ability of churches to engage in political campaign activity, the same issue at the core of the 501(c)(4) mess.  But in the 501(c)(3) category, we have a nice, bright line: political campaign activity is completely banned.  Nevertheless, that hasn't kept churches and their ministers (on both the right and the left of the political spectrum, by the way) from blatantly violating the law (for examples, see my prior posts here and here).

My view on the relationship of churches to 501(c)(3) has always been the same: if they want 501(c)(3) status, they need to play by the rules.  If they don't want to play by the rules, give up 501(c)(3) status, and engage in politics to their hearts content.  They don't get to break the rules and then whine that the government is picking on them, any more than 501(c)(4)'s should get to blatantly break the rules and whine that the government is picking on them.  So - quit whining, and suck it up.  Make  your choice and live with it.  Be like Mike (Huckabee).


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Of course, if churches give up exemption in this way, members will no longer be able to deduct contributions. Does Huckabee accept that too?

Posted by: Lawrence Lokken | Jun 29, 2013 11:08:33 AM

Actually, yes, he does. The quote at the beginning of the post clearly references "tax deductions for charitable contributions."


Posted by: John Colombo | Jun 29, 2013 2:03:10 PM

It would be interesting to see the impact on giving. Would churches be able to convince congregants that tithing shouldn't be affected by the deductibility of contributions? A church could create a church foundation for capital gifts and have it still qualify as a (c)(3) and could in theory choose (c)(7) status for the church itself to preserve at least some level of exempt status while avoiding the political intervention prohibition.

Posted by: Darren Moore | Jun 30, 2013 9:17:53 AM

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