Dear Friends in Christ,
As I continue to read through the Bible I was reminded of taxes and why churches in our country do not have to pay certain taxes. In the book of Ezra, chapter seven, verse 24, we read, “We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.”
Our country has a long history of churches not having to pay taxes. “All 50 states provide for tax exemption of places of worship, most of them doing so by constitutional guarantees. For as long as Federal income taxes have had any potential impact on churches – over 75 years [the time since the federal progressive income tax was originated] – religious organizations have been expressly exempt from the [federal] tax … Few concepts are more deeply embedded in the fabric of our national life, beginning with pre-Revolutionary Colonial times. 1
The principle behind why the government is not allowed to tax churches was articulated by Founding Father John Marshall, a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who declared: 2
“The power to tax involved the power to destroy.”3
If government can tax a church, even if it is just a little tax, it has opened the door whereby it can exercise a power that ultimately can be used to eradicate that church. As Founding Father John Dickinson explained: 4
“If they have a right to levy a tax of one penny upon us, they have a right to levy a million upon us, for where does their right stop? …. If they have any right to tax us, then whether our own money shall continue in our own pockets or not depends no longer on us, but on them.” 5
It is interesting to note: “In 1874 the Supreme Court showed that the power of taxation had been used to completely eliminate specific industries, including that of competititve state banking noting: 6
“The power to tax is therefore the strongest-the most pervading-of all the power of government, reaching directly or indirectly to all classes of the people. It was said by Chief Justice Marshall, in the case of McCulloch v. State of Maryland, that the power to tax is the power to destroy. A striking instance of the truth of the proposition is seen in the fact that the existing tax of ten percent imposed by the United States on the circulation of all other banks than the national banks drove out of existence every stant bank of circulation within a year or two after its passage.” 7
Years ago I listened to a presentation speaker in favor of churches paying taxes in order for the pastor not to be prohibited from speaking against or for certain political leaders in the election process. It would be interesting to see how many churches would remain standing if they were taxed.
Well, this is more than likely more than you wanted to know about the history of why churches do not pay taxes.
I hope this letter finds you well and hanging in there.
May God bless and keep you all!
Rev. Scott A. Kozisek
1Walz v. Tax Comm’n of City of New Work, 397 U.S. 664; 678 (1970).
2David Barton, The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, Newbury Park, CA, p. 709.
3McCulloch v. State of Maryland, 17 U.S. 316; 431 (1819).
4Barton, p. 709.
5John Dickinson, The Political Writings of John Dickinson(Wilmington, DE. Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. 1, pp 212-213, “The Farer’s Letters to the inhabitants of the British Colonies: Letter VII,” 1767.
6Barton, p. 709.
7Loan Association v. Topeka, 87 U.S. 655; 663-664 (1874).