Jul 8, 2010

The 1st Amendment Protects Radical Opinions, But...

Jack KinsellaBy Jack Kinsella
The Omega Letter

On December 16th, 1773, “radicals” from Boston, Massachusetts, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw into Boston Harbor 342 chests of tea.

In response to the rebellion, the British enacted additional punitive measures, labeled the “Intolerable Acts,” in hopes of suppressing the insurrection. Far from accomplishing that outcome, the Crown's countermeasures led Colonists to convene the First Continental Congress on September 5th, 1774 in Philadelphia.

The Boston Tea Party eventually led to America’s Declaration of Independence which cited the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” saying that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Certain of the Founders were uncomfortable with the Constitution and demanded extra guarantees that would prevent the federal government from growing too powerful. These extra guarantees are embodied by the first ten Amendments to the Constitution known as the “Bill of Rights.”

They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of articles, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the States.

Briefly, the Bill of Rights guarantees religious freedom by prohibiting Congress from passing laws respecting religion or ‘prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ The 1st Amendment prohibits the government from licensing or taxing churches and ministers.

The government found a way around that by introducing charitable tax-exempt status to ministries. Ministries that accept that 501(c)(3) status inadvertently surrender much of their 1st Amendment freedoms.

In 1954, churches were added to section501(c)(3)of the tax code, making those who register, tax-exempt. Technically, churches, who were already tax exempt, registered so they could be tax exempt.

According to the IRS, "churches are automatically tax-exempt and tax-deductible" without having to apply for tax-exempt status. A 501(c)(3) classification from the State cannot grant permission to function as a church because the Constitution has already done that.

A 501(c)(3)simply is a legal document that registers the church and brings it under the authority of the State. because when anyone incorporates, they become a creature of the State. The State is sovereign over all corporations and dictates how corporations will conduct business.

By filing corporate papers, the church becomes subordinate with the State. They sign an agreement with the State regarding what they will and will not do or say. The church is allowed to exist so long as it abides by the rulings of the State.

For example, corporate law dictates a mandatory governing hierarchy that every 501(c)(3) organization establishes, President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.

A yearly corporate tax is paid to the State, which grants the incorporated church the right to function as a church within the State. All in violation of the Constitution.

Here’s how it all works in practice. Suppose a ministry has enjoyed tax-exempt status for years under IRS rules that forbid 501(c)(3) organizations from making political statements.

Then along comes a politician whose policies are so at odds with their religious conscience that the minister feels compelled to warn those whom God has placed under their authority and for whom God has made them responsible.

Violating IRS rules can result in the revocation of a ministry's tax-exempt charitable status. The revocation of tax-exempt status makes both the minister and the ministry liable for unpaid taxes. Speaking out could spell the end of that ministry and all the other good it might otherwise be capable of doing.

So it isn't that hard to justify self-censorship in order to accomplish the greater good.

The IRS even tells the church how it will perform charitable acts within the community. For example, a 501(c)(3) is allowed to give food, shelter, clothing and emergency services. But 501(c)(3) churches are not allowed to give money directly to someone in need.

A 501(c)(3) church is not allowed to make any cash transactions. Every penny must be recorded. The money trail must be exhaustively documented and reported.

And once a church or ministry has registered with the IRS it is like joining the Mafia. Opting out is not an option. Once in the system, there is no escaping it.

The irony here is found in the fact that the entire 501(c)(3) registration is entirely unnecessary.

In order to be considered for tax-exempt status by the IRS an organization must fill out and submit IRS Form 1023 and 1024. However, note what the IRS says regarding churches and church ministries, in Publication 557:

“Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These include: Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men’s or women’s organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group. These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).”
The IRS tax-exemption status is the most powerful tool the federal government has in its arsenal against domestic opponents of its policies. Once it became accepted practice for the federal government to ‘license’ ministry through the IRS in violation of the 1st Amendment, the 1st Amendment began to lose any semblance of its original meaning.

So why would any Christian organization even consider it? In a word, money. Under 501(c)(3) rules, a person can write a check to them instead of the IRS. They have to pay it to somebody - and it feels better to tithe to ministry when one is tithing money that they don't get to keep anyway.

I regularly get emails from folks tearing a strip off me because the Omega Letter is subscriber-based, rather than relying on donations.

They invariably begin the same way. . . “How dare you charge for the Word of God?”

For the record, I am not a prophet. The Omega Letter sometimes contains the Word of God (when I’m quoting the Scriptures) but the Omega Letter is NOT the Word of God.

The Word of God is perfect, sharper than any two-edged sword.

The Omega Letter is primarily the Word of Jack, is hardly perfect and while it can be sharp, I’ve been known to cut myself on it.

The second accusation is that I’m “making money off the Gospel.” Many of these same people think nothing of paying for a secular newspaper or a secular book. But the amount of work to produce it is the same as producing a daily Omega Letter.

(It seems that while they think it is ok for a secular writer like Stephen King to earn millions writing horror novels, it is somehow 'immoral' for a Christian to earn a living writing about Christian themes and principles.)

That being said, the reason the Omega Letter is subscriber-based is partly because it takes money to produce it, but mainly because the monthly-subscription fee acts as a gatekeeper to our forums.

The internet is rife with open discussion forums. Most of them are ideological battlefields - one goes there primarily to fight. They have nothing invested and nothing to lose and it shows.

I have many friends in ministry that head 501(c)(3) organizations. I don’t fault them for it - for the most part, it is a trap that, as noted earlier, once in, becomes nearly impossible to escape.

They didn’t apply for tax exempt status out of greed or some nefarious ulterior motive. Ministries are expensive to run and most seminaries spend as much time teaching business administration as they do teaching doctrine - including how to maximize their tax-exempt status as a way of expanding their ministry outreach.

I am an ordained minister. Under 501(c)(3) rules, the Omega Letter could be registered as an IRS tax-exempt ministry and we would likely never have to worry about money again.

Every year in March and April we get emails from people who offer to make large donations if we would send them IRS-approved tax-exempt donation receipts. But the trade-off is much too high.

I'd rather deal with the emails accusing me of selling the Gospel than actually doing it - in exchange for IRS-exempt donations.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a gathering of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy over the weekend that the government needs “to balance American’s civil rights” against national security interests.

Napolitano said it is wrong to believe that if security is embraced, liberty is sacrificed. That was a direct swipe at Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote to the governor of Pennsylvania in 1755:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
But according to Napolitano, “We can significantly advance security without having a deleterious impact on individual rights in most instances. At the same time, there are situations where trade-offs are inevitable.”

For example, noted the head of the US Department of Homeland Security;
“The First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet.”
The legal tools necessary to accomplish that goal are already in place. The Patriot Act gives the government the authority to monitor the internet. It permits the government to monitor phone calls.

But it doesn’t give the government the authority to monitor dissent. Only to monitor terrorism. It can silence churches and ministries that apply for tax-exempt status, but it cannot (yet) take direct action against dissenters not part of the IRS system.

The argument that trading off liberty for security requires scrapping individual rights (in some instances) would make more sense if the government were to apply that principle to illegal immigration.

But the perceived 'rights' of illegal aliens already take precedence over national security. Thousands of OTM’s (Other Than Mexicans) cross into the country every year.

When Arizona passed a law giving the state the authority to enforce federal immigration law, the same administration now demanding more control over the internet threatened to sue Arizona - for wanting more control over its borders.

In addition, it was revealed over the weekend that dozens of members of the Afghan military sent to the US to learn English went AWOL. Bearing military security clearance badges, they are now somewhere inside the US.

The administration’s mastery of the Hegelian Dialectic, formulated in the 19th century by German philosopher Georg Hegel is breath-taking. Obama's Columbia and Harvard professors are no doubt bursting with pride.

The Hegelian Dialectic is a three part system outlining the principle of governing by crisis. It is laid out as the thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
  • Thesis: To justify the implementation of internet censorship to stifle domestic dissent.
  • Antithesis: Use government and media to highlight a crisis whose solution requires government censorship of internet traffic.
  • Synthesis: Continue to highlight and exacerbate the ‘crisis’ until the population demands the “solution” identified by the thesis.
So, the antithesis is that the internet is ‘exploding’ with ‘hate’ literature that needs to be stifled in order to damage the enemy’s ability to recruit new terrorists. The synthesis reads something like this.

Of course the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, BUT. . . “we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet.”

It isn’t terrorism that poses a threat to the Obama administration - it is unregulated dissent. An act of terrorism would create one of those crises that the administration couldn’t ‘afford to waste.’

They control the churches. They still control the majority of the media. But the internet is wide-open.

So it isn’t open borders that present a threat to national security. It isn’t the thousands of illegal aliens from Middle Eastern countries that are already in the United States.

It isn’t the national deficit or the incredible, unsustainable and irredeemable national debt. Or the fact that the majority of it is held by countries like China or Russia.

By their estimation, if the government is secure, America is secure. So the best way to make America secure is for the government to regulate the internet - like they regulate the Church. After all, the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, too.

Provided you have a government permit.

Related Links
Freedom of Religion at Stake - Christian Post (Chuck Colson)
EXCLUSIVE: Number of Afghans Gone AWOL in U.S. Reaches 46 - FOX News
Obama vs. Arizona: The President is fighting a reckless war that will backfire politically - New York Daily News
America's Christian Heritage - SpiritandTruth.org (Andy Woods)
The Last Generation - Jack Kinsella (Book)