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Not at Dinner – A Preacher’s Position on Church, Taxes, & Planned Parenthood

One thing I enjoy about being a pastor is I get to talk about all the things you aren’t suppose to discuss at the dinner table, namely: religion, politics, and taxes. Today, I want to address taxes, government money, churches, and Planned Parenthood. Google, “church tax exempt” and you will find dozens of sites dedicated to lobbying for the removal of religious institutions’ tax exempt status. The opponents of the current tax exempt status for religious institutions argue this tax break violates separation of church and state. Also, it prevents churches from being taxed on millions and millions of dollars worth of assets.

Let me state for the record I have NO problem with my church losing its tax exempt status. The church has stood with governments out to destroy it through hate and violence. It has stood longer than many governments that tried to destroy it. It will stand without a tax exemption. I care far more about the movement for the government to defund Planned Parenthood than I do my church’s tax exemption.

I believe in my God to provide for my church’s needs. I believe in my parishioners’ loving hearts to give if more need arises. I have seen them give beyond what I thought possible. I believe my church doesn’t need a hand out from the government to survive and thrive. I believe my church would stand as strong…possibly stronger, in the future if we lost our tax exempt status today! A faithful God and a faithful people will provide for Sunnyside’s mission and ministry. I believe that without fear or hesitation. If we lose our tax exemption, we pay some taxes. Lives are at stake in the funding of Planned Parenthood.

Now, let me tell you why I have more pressing concerns than my church’s tax status. First, whether your church is an incorporated 501c3 or an unincorporated (often called a “free church”), 501c3 tax code prohibits all churches from endorsing political candidates, being involved in campaigns, and carefully prescribes how a church may be politically active. I have a major problem with the government stating what I can and cannot preach from the sacred desk I stand behind each Sunday. It clearly states, I cannot preach in church, “Do not vote for Hilary Clinton, Ted Cruz, or whomever.” If a church violates this law, that church becomes subject to an excise tax or could lose tax exemption…Sunnyside, start an excise tax fund because your preacher will preach as the Lord leads not by some tax code. That tax law is a violation of separation of church and state, and the First Amendment. I’m shocked that it is law.

It tries to limit a church’s ability to participate in politics. We should stand against this because our Savior, Jesus Christ, was very politically active throughout his ministry, and so should we.  So losing tax exemption would also remove the restrictions the governmental tax law is trying to place on churches. There is a plus to losing it, and we, the church, have more pressing concerns.

I, along with most Americans, have a significant problem with government taxes funding Planned Parenthood, which has been in the news lately. Planned Parenthood is a 501c3 tax exempt non-profit organization. The same tax exempt law that covers religious institutions, covers Planned Parenthood. In addition to this tax exempt status in 2013-2014 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received $528 million in funds from the government in grants, contracts, and reimbursements. This equals 41 percent of their total revenue.

Before I discuss my problem with Planned Parenthood, let me say that women’s health issues are important to me. Women’s health education is important. Women’s health care options need to be provided. Do not take my opposition to Planned Parenthood to be anti-women in any way. That would be false. Planned Parenthood addresses many of the health needs of women, but they also perform abortions…a lot of abortions.

The proponents of Planned Parenthood like to downplay the abortions saying abortions are only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does with only 10% of women receiving Planned Parenthood guidance obtaining an abortion, but when you realize they assist millions of women a year that 3% and 10% becomes a staggering number. In fact in 2012-13, Planned Parenthood performed 654,819 abortions. Abortion is a significant part of what Planned Parenthood does, and they receive tax exemption AND government funding.

Proponents of Planned Parenthood are quick to argue that no government funds are used for abortions, in fact there are laws prohibiting the use of government funds for abortions…that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Just because Planned Parenthood doesn’t use the actual dollars it receives from the government to perform abortions, doesn’t mean government funds are not supporting abortions. By giving them money and funding other areas, Planned Parenthood can allocate its other funds for abortion clinics that it could not without the government aid.

If I give $50 to a man to buy groceries and he buys groceries with that $50, but then takes his $50 and buys baseball cards. I cannot say I didn’t help him buy the baseball cards because he would had to use some of his $50 for food if I didn’t give him the cash. I helped buy the cards. To see it any other way is ignorant.

I wish women would choose not to have abortions. I wish men would stand by the women during their pregnancies and beyond. I wish churches would fund more adoption agencies, children and family ministries, and offer abortion alternatives for pregnant women who do not wish to keep the child. I pray that Christian churches will unite and offer an alternative to Planned Parenthood to support women’s health and women’s rights and offer alternatives to abortion.

I am very proud of the Georgia Baptist Convention, of which my church belongs, and its funding of the Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries that does offer abortion alternatives. I wish we Christians would do more to help women and show appreciation to women who choose to give 40 weeks of their lives to give the child in their womb a future. That 40 weeks is a tremendous sacrifice that I have witnessed my wife give three times, but still say I don’t fully grasp its depths. I am grateful to all women who sacrifice that 40 weeks of check ups, diets, vitamins, pain, for the life of another. That is an amazing choice.

I do not want my tax dollars supporting abortion. I do not want my paycheck to pay to end innocent life. It is to my great sadness and disbelief that my country forces me to do so. Also, a CNN poll shows that 58% of Americans oppose abortion in most cases. How can the government fund a practice that 58% of the people oppose? And only 39% support using public funds to provide abortions.

Let’s equal the playing field. Let’s repeal 501c3 tax law! Let’s stop government funding of not only Planned Parenthood, but all non-profits. I am for equality. Let churches and non-profits find their own funding. I am wholly confident in my God’s ability to provide for the needs of my church and all Christian churches. I am wholly confident in the faith and hearts of my parishioners to support our church. I would not shed one tear if 501c3 tax law is repealed. It places restrictions on preaching anyway, which this pastor will break if the Lord leads. And if it will save a life…

Having my tax dollars, my parishioners’ tax dollars, support an organization that takes life breaks my heart. To say abortion doesn’t end life, is scientifically unarguable. To have my tax dollars fund abortions when a survey revealed, 93% of abortions have nothing to do with rape, incest, or the health of the mother or baby, and over 46% were not using any contraception.  I will gladly become a tax paying church and pay taxes on our buildings and assets if the government stops funding Planned Parenthood and taxes them on their $1.4 billion in assets.

Preacher Jesse

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