Carthage Union Church
Pastor Ken and Linda Hinkley
Pastor Ken Hinkley is a 1993 graduate of New England Bible College in South Portland, ME with a B.S. in biblical studies. He and his wife, Linda have raised three children and have two grandchildren.
Pastor Ken has been in the ministry for fourteen years, serving for ten years at the Stow (ME) Baptist Church, the Dixfield Common Baptist Church (since 2003) and now doing double duty with us here at Carthage.
At the same time, to meet personal expenses, Linda works at a local grocery store on a part time basis and Ken has retired,
Pastor Ken has had a life-long interest in reading and writing. He has written Modus Operandi, a self-published workbook for ministry leaders as well as several unpublished manuscripts for short stories, skits and poetry. He is the author of The Journey of a Heart a collection of poetry that traces the many stages of love and loyalty in the heart of an American woman.
Governor LePage wants to abolish the personal income tax and replace it with a higher sales tax and include large non-profits in the corporate income tax structure.
For centuries non-profits have been exempt from all taxes. With the proper paperwork in order and filed with the proper agencies, they are free to operate without property tax, income tax or sales tax which gives them a great advantage over other forms of business. This category would include churches.
A natural question arises. One which has reared its head many times before, but not with the same level of intensity; the same potential of change or the same degree of inquiry. Should churches remain free from the requirement to pay taxes?
I understand clearly the instruction of Jesus when He said ďrender to Caesar what is Caesarís and to God what is Godís.Ē I also remember that in order not to offend the authorities, he provided the money to pay his own and Peterís personal temple tax. Other places in Scripture tell us that we should be compliant with the dictates of our government in order to live at peace as long as that government does not attempt to silence our voices in support of the Gospel.
But how do we bring that teaching into play concerning the governorís proposal? Should we simply wait and see what the legislature will do, thanking God that at least until now we do not have to pay any tax? Should we take a stand on one side or the other and champion our opinion? What is the right and biblical way to deal with this situation?
Iím not sure. However, I am persuaded that if churches, who are probably not going to be included in the tax mandate, want to be good neighbors and be seen as contributing to the common good of our neighborhoods they should voluntarily make payments to the town in which they are located as a token of goodwill. This will be more and more important as the pressure grows against the churches, trying to separate them from the mainstream of society.
Consider this example. Suppose there is a church in your town that is thriving and has an active ministry. It supports the poor, it provides a school or tutoring, it houses one or more clubs and owns real estate valued over a quarter of a million dollars. That church is contributing to the general welfare of the community by providing valuable services through its ministries. As an organization it takes in several hundred thousand dollars a year. It pays no taxes.
Compare that with the gym down the street. At that facility there are similar classes and clubs being held without any religious instruction attached. Rooms are used for classes, for meetings and the main gym is often used as a conference center. The gym is taxed as a business on its equipment, its real estate and its income.
Strictly from a fairness point of view, is it right that one should be free from tax and the other not? Does one contribute any more to the community than the other? Why should one be privileged over the other simply because it is declared a non-profit organization?
Now, let me be clear. I am not arguing in favor of taxing churches or non-profits. I am simply pointing out the seemingly unfairness of the situation. Which brings me back to my point of a voluntary contribution. If unbelievers understand this as being biased, discriminatory or grossly unfair, how long will it be before they cry foul and demand that there be no exemptions for non-profits including churches?
I would suggest that to be good neighbors and to silence those who might accuse us of using the tax laws to our advantage, we should do all we can to show that we use that law to enhance the good of our community. That means that a local church should foot the bill to build a playground, fund equipment needs for the fire or police departments or find some other way to give back. In every budget cycle every non-profit organization should include an item of generosity toward its community. Perhaps a percent of its total budget or a specific monetary goal based on discussions with town leaders would be a good place to start.Lord knows we will have trials enough as representatives of the true and living God. If we can remove one such object of pressure on ourselves, why not do that and live with a free conscience that we are indeed good citizens.