Thirty: Why Churches being Charities can Suck

For church members to receive a tax receipt for their generous donations a church needs to be officially registered as a charity with the tax people here in Canada.  I am not sure if the same applies in other countries.

Interestingly there are some implications to this ‘status’ with the proverbial ‘Canadian Tax Man’.  The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) can enforce strict regulations about what charitable organizations can or cannot do.   There is one in particular that has caught my attention over the past few weeks.

Churches can lose their charitable status by being involved too much in politics.  For the specifics (click here).

But the long, boring policy story short, a Canadian charity cannot encourage its members to vote for a particular person or party.  They are also restrained from direct and obvious partisanship, which can include flyer distribution in church mailboxes and I would guess those massive ‘vote for me’ signs on the church lawn that really nobody ever pays attention to anyway.

Even when it comes to bi-partisanship, a church cannot put 10-20% of its total resources to a particular political cause.  A church can be involved in bi-partisan action but it cannot be a large part of the church activity.  I have never seen a church lose it’s status this way, but it lingers above any social political action that charitable organizations do.  Meaning, the government can step in at any moment if this is the case and snap that charitable status away.

It brings upon the a direct connection between, among other things, our money and the manner in which a church feels free to pursue the social justice way of Jesus.  It begs the question, what if the tax man comes disapprovingly to your church door, does your church;

a) Continue on its course in the pursuit of social justice giving a ‘God Bless’ to the tax man as you kick him out.

b) Prize our tax receipts to the point of complete compliance with ‘Mr Tax Man’.

c) Relocate to another country.

How important is our charity status?  Is it worth it to the point that we could potentially restrain ourselves from following Jesus by asking and pursuing politically motivated interests?

Or is this a lame, first world church problem and something we shouldn’t care about?



  1. Adam Gonnerman (@awgonnerman) · March 27, 2012

    The law is essentially the same in the United States. While I detest churches getting involved in partisan politics, I also don’t like the devil’s deal they take to keep their mouths shut.

    • chris lenshyn · March 27, 2012

      Thanks Adam,

      I thought that US Law would be similar but didn’t want to make the assumption. And, I too do not like the devil’s deal…

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