Advancing Religious Liberty

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Posted 3/15/12 at 5:30 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Be Wary of Empty Church Rooms: Church Property Tax Exemptions Under Attack

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster

This tough economy is hitting everyone. From unemployment to Wall Street bailouts to rocketing gas prices, it seems that everyone is hurting for cash. Apparently, local governments are no exception. Across this nation, local taxing authorities are trying to increase their coffers by denying property tax exemptions for churches. If you are not careful, your church could be next.

One such battle is taking place in Concord, New Hampshire, involving Liberty Assembly of God. Their story should serve as a warning to all.

The church has existed in its current building for more than 15 years. It’s your typical church. It has services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. A music minister leads the people in singing. It runs a food pantry and even has the occasional person who sleeps through the pastor’s sermons.

Unfortunately, this church came upon hard times. Attendance dropped, and consequently, the church was not using every room as it had before. For example, instead of using four rooms for Sunday school classes, they now only needed to use two. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:25 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Church’s Outreach Ministry to the Poor Leads to Large Tax Bill

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

As I recently posted, there are very good reasons why churches should be tax exempt. One Nashville church, though, found that its attempts to reach out to the poor and needy in the community resulted in a very large property tax bill. Their case is an example of the increasing attacks on church tax exemption.

Christ Church Nashville is a large, vibrant congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. The church completed an addition to its church building in 2004. The addition was designed for the purpose of outreach to the community. It contained an indoor playground, a chapel, a café connected to a bookstore, and an indoor gymnasium with a fitness center. Christ Church’s desire in constructing these facilities was to become a gathering place for the community. The church reasoned that there were people surrounding its campus that would not normally come into a traditional church, so it sought to open itself to those people as a place of gathering and religious outreach. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:20 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Should Churches Be Tax Exempt?

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

Why is your church tax exempt? Why should it continue to be tax exempt? If I were to sit down and ask you these questions, would you have a clear and coherent answer? I suspect this is something we seldom think about. After all, tax exemption for churches has always been given and we assume, because of its historical longevity, it always will be given.

The fact that most Americans cannot explain why their church is tax exempt indicates a forgotten history and is emblematic of a society that has systematically devalued the church as a beneficial societal institution.

Whenever I litigate a case about church tax exemption or Pulpit Freedom Sunday, the inevitable media comments go something like this: “Churches should pay taxes just like everyone else! They have tons of money, so why can’t they pay their fair share? Why should churches get a free ride? Make them pay!” Comments like these are more prevalent today than any other time I can remember. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:13 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

In New York City: Another Victory in “The Case That Will Not Die”

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

One of the most essential keys to victory in the justice system is persistence – and no Alliance Defense Fund case demonstrates that more powerfully than the now 17-year history of Bronx Household of Faith v. The Board of Education of the City of New York.

The case centers on the equal access rights of churches to meet in public school buildings when classes are not in session. Although New York officials have made those facilities available to many private groups through the years, they say that letting churches hold services somehow violates the mythical “separation of church and state” clause so beloved of those who are hostile to any expression of faith in the public square.

This, despite the fact that civic leaders throughout the greater New York City area have attested repeatedly to the extraordinarily beneficial contributions so many of these congregations have made to the schools, the districts, the neighborhoods, and in the lives of countless individuals. Across the five boroughs, these churches have reached gang members with the love of Christ … fed, clothed, and housed the poor … provided programs for disabled children …donated computers and air conditioners and scoreboards and fresh coats of paint to their host campuses. FULL POST

Posted 3/15/12 at 5:06 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Do You Want To Go into Debt for This? Dennis Prager Summarizes Four Years of a Typical “Progressive” College Education in 60 Seconds

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

Dennis Prager urges college students and their parents to evaluate the value of going into debt for a college education in which students are bombarded for four years with withering criticism of every major value they hold. Prager does this by summarizing the major tenets taught at most public colleges and universities in the nation today. Here are some of the those politically correct maxims:

God is at best a non-issue, and at worst, a foolish and dangerous belief.

Christianity is largely a history of inquisitions, crusades, oppression, and anti-intellectualism. Islam, on the other hand, is “a religion of peace.” Therefore, criticism of Christianity is enlightened, while criticism of Islam is Islamophobia. FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:47 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

When Scientists Are Censored

Author: ADF Legal Counsel David J. Hacker

Inside Higher Ed reports that evolutionists have censored a forthcoming book on intelligent design.

Score one for science this week. Evolutionary biologists were horrified by the news that a scholarly press was going to publish a work in favor of intelligent design. But a spokesman for the publishing house confirmed to Inside Higher Ed Wednesday that the book’s publication is on hold as it is subjected to further peer review.

Earlier this week, the Panda’s Thumb, a blog about evolutionary theory, posted an item about a forthcoming book from Springer called Biological Information: New Perspectives. The blog-poster and other commenters said the book was a compilation of articles by creationists and intelligent-design proponents and Springer had no business publishing such “creationist pseudoscience.” FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:43 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Federal Appeals Court: Churches Can Continue Meeting in NYC Schools until Late Summer

Author: ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence

In a major but interim defeat for the New York City Department of Education, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit  has denied the city’s request to stay the preliminary injunction. The Second Circuit gave detailed instructions to the parties and to the lower court on how to proceed with the litigation, requiring the District Court to issue a final decision by mid-June, so that the appeals court could rule on the constitutionality of the policy before school starts in the fall. This means that the churches and other religious groups will be able to meet through the end of the summer at least and possibly longer.

This week, the NYC Department of Education has been rejecting applications by churches to use the schools unless they have a disclaimer on their churches’ websites saying that the churches’ speech is not endorsed by the Department of Education. This is petty because it unrealistically assumes that people reading the churches’ websites will mistakenly interpret a statement that the church “meets Sunday morning at P.S. XYZ in Brooklyn” to mean government endorsement of the churches’ speech. Many churches are putting the disclaimer on their websites and reapplying to meet in the schools. FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:39 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

The 0.1%: Ohio College the Latest to Unconstitutionally Confine Free Speech on Campus

Author: ADF Legal Counsel David J. Hacker

Just last month, ADF announced the repeal of a speech zone at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon. Chemeketa had told a Christian student that he could not hold pro-life signs in the open, park-like areas of campus. Instead, college policy limited student speech to a small folding table in the student center. Chemeketa also required students to request use of the folding table a week in advance of their expected activity. ADF wrote to Chemeketa, informed it of controlling constitutional principles, and asked it to open its campus to free speech. Thankfully, Chemeketa did the right thing and worked with us to revise its speech policies. Now students may engage in free speech outside in the campus quads, where most students walk to and from class. (Students can still reserve the folding table if they want to.) The marketplace of ideas is in business once again. FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:34 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Obama Administration Mandate Poses Massive Threat to Religious Liberty: Alliance Defense Fund Sues to Defend Baptist, Presbyterian Colleges

Author: ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears

The Obama administration’s most recent mandate is also its most radical. It directs insurers for most employers – including religious ministries and organizations – to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception at “no cost” to employees, regardless of the employers’ religious or moral objections.

It’s a policy that’s stirring up a hurricane of controversy in political and religious circles – and rightly so. The mandate is immoral and unconstitutional, dictating not only which “drugs and procedures” an employer pays for, but how much Christian employers, in particular, are allowed to carry out their business according to their faith and conscience.

This cuts to the very essence of our religious freedom, and it’s no overstatement to say this is one of the greatest threats in our nation’s history to your right, as a Christian, to live and practice your faith. FULL POST

Posted 3/2/12 at 12:26 PM | Alliance Defending Freedom

Are Churches Subject to Section 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code?

Author: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley

Every time I talk about Pulpit Freedom Sunday, I inevitably get a comment from an audience member that goes something like this, “You know, if churches just unincorporated, they wouldn’t be subject to the IRS,” or “Because churches aren’t required to apply for tax exemption, they aren’t subject to 501(c)(3) of the tax code.” People have told me that churches have willingly gagged themselves in exchange for tax exemption and that they should just unincorporate or give up their exemption letter from the IRS and they could then be free to do what they want. Behind these questions and statements lies an admirable heart for the independence of the church. But these also demonstrate a fundamental and potentially dangerous misunderstanding of the law. FULL POST

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