Could Joy Junction’s Tax Exempt Status Be Revoked? (Writer’s Opinion)
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (email@example.com)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS. JULY 3) Revocation of Joy Junction’s tax exempt status (and that of thousands of other non profits) would be possible if writer Mark Oppenheimer’s wishes become reality.
In an article for Time Magazine titled “Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemption for Religious Institutions,” Oppenheimer begins his argument by saying, “The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.”
While I believe huge protests would go along with an attempt to revoke tax exempt status, arguments like this should be monitored closely. We need to be aware of the development of an undercurrent of opinion that would be extremely dangerous if it were to gain traction.
It’s certain that if we ended tax exemptions for religious entities (of which Joy Junction is one) it would decrease, and possibly decimate, the amount of donations given to us and other ministries.
There are three prime giving times for organizations such as Joy Junction and others. They are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the last week of the year, when people are beginning to think about their tax status for the year that’s about past and what they owe Uncle Sam.
A recent review of our giving for the last five years showed that about nine percent of our annual income is given in the last week of the year.
While some people criticize those who give to get a tax deduction, we’re just glad that people give.
That generosity allows us to feed more than 200,000 meals each year and shelter hundreds of needy people each night. And we do that without a penny of government help.
Oppenheimer argues, “Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry.”
What a stunted way of looking at things. While I appreciate the government, we should not be depending on the federal government to take care of the homeless and hungry-should we?
Oppenheimer’s argument reminded me of an encounter I had a few years ago with a staffer from one of the offices of our New Mexico congressional delegation.
I was in Washington D.C, with a colleague and a number of other member ministries of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, of which Joy Junction has been a longtime member. We were there to learn about pending government legislation that could impact our respective missions.
While talking to that staffer, one of the issues we brought up was a request not to increase the nonprofit mailing rate. We pay about ten cents for every letter we send out.
Like every other mission (and nonprofit) we mail quite a few letters, and any increase in the cost of mailing hits us hard.
The congressional staffer’s response floored me. He said something to the effect of that while an increase would mean we would be paying more money for mailing, it would be okay, as there would then be more money available to dole out to nonprofits to help the homeless.
When I explained to the young man we did not take government funding (nor did we plan to), and that such a move wouldn’t help us at all, he had no response. It seemed incomprehensible to him that someone did not want federal dollars and had no plans to ask for help.
In fact, we began all our meetings that year with members of our congressional delegation with the words that we were not there to ask for money. We were just there to give them an update on the state of hunger and homelessness back home, and what we were doing to help make a dent in the problem.
Such an approach is often new and refreshing to congressional staffers, who I have been told wade through days filled with countless meetings with people requesting funds.
But returning to Oppenheimer. It was his next comment that really blew me away. He wrote that if tax exemptions for nonprofits were to be ended, “We’d have fewer church soup kitchens – but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.”
I put a link to his article on Facebook, and asked friends to comment.
Karen wrote, “‘ …countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens?’ Who says? Stop all charities to the poor, and we would quickly learn just how effective and efficient those groups are in caring for the needy. Government can’t do anything correctly or efficiently.”
Timothy added, “The goal of communist/socialist regimes is to create total dependency upon the state–versus dependence on God and His ways of caring for the flocks. Ask Chinese or Russian poor how well state-run systems work.”
Al made a good point, commenting, “The power to tax is the power to control. As soon as churches lose tax exempt, it will be time for the Church to go underground,” and Brian added that Oppenheimer’s statement is true, “If you like being a communist state.”
Tony had a word of advice for us, writing, “Don’t preach politics and keep doing your good work. If what Christians believe is true, God will provide. You do good work, unlike many evangelical churches that get rich fleecing people; you’re on the right side of it.”
Thanks, Tom. We have no plans to start preaching politics, and want to keep on with the work God had called us to. However, while God provides and owns the cattle on a thousand hills, sometimes the earthly owners of those cattle are people who may only give them if a tax exemption is in sight.
So what can we do? Here are a few ideas. Say a prayer for Oppenheimer, keep up with legislative action regarding nonprofits, and talk kindly with any politically minded pastor you may know about the danger and illegality of publicly backing political candidates.
What side of the tax-exempt debate are you on? Let me know, and of course, thank you for your support of Joy Junction. We could not continue without you.
Photo captions: 1) Homeless man with his sign. 2) Jeremy Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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