In this New Year, churches face a number of threats. The Alliance Defending Freedom is warning churches of seven threats to their religious liberty. Pastors and their congregations need to know what these threats are and be prepared and protected.
One threat to pastors is the potential loss of a provision that treats housing for pastors as tax-exempt. This has been threatened for many years but faces a major challenge by the Freedom from Religion Foundation in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
A second threat affects the relationship of churches to the IRS. Currently, churches are exempt from the requirement to file a Form 990. Filing such forms can reveal private donor information. If that case is lost, churches would be forced to disclose private giving information to the public.
A number of churches already face significant challenges from the local government in their area. Churches in some areas have been denied the use of public facilities to which other organizations are granted access. ADF talks about one case that has “big implications for church plants and other small churches that cannot otherwise afford to build.” In other cases, local government has used discriminatory zoning codes that override the rights of churches, blocking them from using buildings they already own.
This year, your church may have already faced the prospect of having to pay a “parking tax.” This was included in the federal Tax Cuts and Job Act and applies to church and ministry employees.
Finally, there have been a number of cases in which government officials try to intimidate churches and pastors with letters and warnings about what pastors can say about political issues.
Pastors and churches need to be aware of these threats and take appropriate action. I also encourage you to support some of the religious liberty organizations fighting for you and your rights.