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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Church & State: Will Religious Institutions Render Unto Caesar?

    After the U.S. Supreme Court gave its ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, opponents of the ruling began fretting about the possibility that religious institutions might have to pay federal taxes should they maintain a private ban on same-sex marriage.

     A New York Post editorial states, "The ruling may throw into question issues like tax exemptions for some religious groups that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage."

     The day after the Court's ruling, the Tulsa World newspaper published a story that discusses the tax exemption enjoyed by religious institutions. Here is the beginning of that story:

"Many Christian colleges and universities, including Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, have codes of conduct for their students and employees that forbid sexual relations outside of traditional marriage. 
As had been expected, on Friday the U.S. Supreme Court voted to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. 
How that decision will affect the enforcement of those codes of conduct is a growing concern to officials in Christian colleges, according to Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan, which has a Tulsa campus.
“A lot of Christian college leaders are concerned and frightened,” Piper said this week. 
Their biggest fear, he said, is that they will be forced to choose between staying true to their biblical values and losing their tax-exempt status, a loss that to most schools would be devastating."
     That Christian institutions fret over taxation is odd considering what the Bible says about it. The New Testament book of Matthew contains the following passage pertaining to the paying of taxes:

"Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him [Jesus] in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” "

     Every piece of American paper money has on it the words "Federal Reserve Note", indicating that the money was issued by the federal government, just as the likeness and inscription of Caesar on the First-Century denarius indicated that the denarius was issued by the ancient Roman Empire.

     If Jesus told people to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, then why would Christian institutions balk at paying taxes to the federal government if required to?

(Whether or not religious institutions should pay federal taxes is a topic for a separate discussion.)

Bible Quote Source:  Matthew 22:15-21
Scripture quotation is from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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