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Author Topic: Connecticut church finance bill  (Read 3438 times)

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Offline Nessy

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2009, 10:59:56 PM »
No, they aren't. They're 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations under federal law which prohibits certain expenditures and activities and requires certain reporting standards for earnings and filings. Infortunately under federal law, churches are exempt from being forced to make their returns, reports, notices, and filings iopen to public inspection, but state law can force them to do so.

I like the CT law and wish it had passed. Actually I wish it had passed for ALL religious denominations nationwide. Churches should be held accountable to their members and their books should be made open to public inspection since they are a non-profit corporation and should not, in my opinion, be afforded any opaqueness in their operations not granted to other corporations holding the same status.

Held accountable for what exactly? I haven't heard of any law that said members are not allowed to ask questions. If they choose not to ask questions, and not demand accountability, then that's up to the members. If the church won't give the answers or open up their books, members can go somewhere else.  We have a handful of small businesses in the area every year that have employees embezzling money, stealing identities, what have you. The government can't micro-manage every business that has the potential to screw their members.  We had two fitness centers shut down doors over night, one that had a note that said sorry. The owner took a 2-year membership fee the day before from one of the members. The fact that this is a church and a non-profit gives it more weight than just any small business, but it's an unfortunate thing to happen that I don't think requires a heavy hand to micro-manage in the hopes of protecting everyone from themselve.

Having said that, I think there are certainly areas where some religious organizations have taken advantage of their non-profit status and might need to be reminded that that status is not a right and has regulations attached to it.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #26 on: March 16, 2009, 11:49:09 PM »
No, they aren't. They're 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations under federal law which prohibits certain expenditures and activities and requires certain reporting standards for earnings and filings. Infortunately under federal law, churches are exempt from being forced to make their returns, reports, notices, and filings iopen to public inspection, but state law can force them to do so.

Now, revoking that exemption would go a long way in preventing that kind of mismanagement.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2009, 08:31:51 AM »
Now, revoking that exemption would go a long way in preventing that kind of mismanagement.

 How? Mismanagement, corruption and embezzlement  exist in nonprofits that -do- follow the rules. How would this stop such actions?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #28 on: March 17, 2009, 08:59:52 AM »
It wouldn't necessarily stop the corruption, but by making the returns, reports, notices, and filings open for public inspection instead of allowing them to keep it under wraps takes away a level of concealment.  It's like the current change in reporting that some of the offshore banks are doing - those people that have been using offshore banks to hide money from the IRS are no longer able to.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #29 on: March 17, 2009, 10:05:35 AM »
 I can see that to a point. The proposed law is extremely in a gray area, with the 'business' in question being a religion.

 Besides, didn't they find the embezzelment? It didn't stay hidden for long. It was caught.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #30 on: March 17, 2009, 10:12:00 AM »
They did catch it eventually, but I'd say that we can't know how long it was going on.  Would it have reached a million dollars if the books had been open for public inspection?

Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #31 on: March 17, 2009, 10:44:36 AM »
 Kind of like how they caught Bernard Madoff after his scheme fell through? His was going for years and wasn't caught until it fell apart. Then it was noticed after $50 billion was scammed.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #32 on: March 17, 2009, 10:58:02 AM »
That has been described as a rather exceptional case, to be fair.  The thing about Ponzi schemes is that they look really good on paper, until people want to start using the money that they've been told they have.  All of Madoff's paperwork apparently looked convincing, but when the recession hit, he had to use incoming money to directly pay off the excess claims that the initial investments hadn't lived up to, rather than investing the incoming money.

Nothing is going to outright stop corruption, but closed books make it easier to hide it.  Non-church 501(c)(3) institutions have to have open books, so I don't see any arguable reason that churches shouldn't have to.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #33 on: March 17, 2009, 11:14:44 AM »
 Theoretically, Madoff's books were open for viewing too and he hide it extemely well. 

 Part of my problem with the law is it interferes with a religion. Do you think governmental officials would resist the lure of being able to closely examine church financial records and not find ways to apply pressure on the organizations?
 If the government can distact to a religion how it manages it business, in intimatye detail, then where is the seperation of state and church?

Offline Nessy

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #34 on: March 17, 2009, 04:02:15 PM »
Theoretically, Madoff's books were open for viewing too and he hide it extemely well. 


His books were open for viewing, and he didn't hide it very well actually. There are several reports that the SEC was notified that there was something going on, they just didn't look into it properly. But you make a very good point, open books doesn't prevent anyone from just cooking the books.

I don't thinkt he government should be snooping around religious organizations financials, with a few rare exception, and if members of a the organization are so concerned with where their money is going, they can start asking questions and expect answers or stop tithing (paying). Otherwise, I assume its a regular criminal case, and we have a system setup for thieves.

Offline Apple of Eris

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #35 on: March 17, 2009, 04:52:51 PM »
Part of my problem with the law is it interferes with a religion. Do you think governmental officials would resist the lure of being able to closely examine church financial records and not find ways to apply pressure on the organizations?
 If the government can distact to a religion how it manages it business, in intimatye detail, then where is the seperation of state and church?

Governments already do to an extent. They prohibit church organizations from donating to political causes or openly endorsing candidates, not that this stops those groups from doing so.

Government officials can already examine church records, churches are a business in the United States, they are regulated as per a business with some exemptions. One of those being no need to make their financial records a matter of public record. Personally, I think that ALL non-profit groups should have to make their records public, whether religious in nature or not. If the church is dedicated to matters spiritual, why are they so worried about showing their matters financial?

Also, if the lay people could examine the books, they might get answers as to why it seems every church in teh area, every diocese is crying for money money money. If you're donating you should be allowed to see how it's spent. Maybe you didn't want to put tat five dollars in and find out its going for new tires on PopeForce One instead of to your community.

What I'm saying is there should not be an exemption in the reporting standards for religious groups. They should be held to the SAME standard as all other non-profits.

As to the Connecticut Bill, I still support it. Of course I'd also support a bill that uses the right of eminent domain to seize all churches and their property and build low income housing in their place. But that's why I'll never be president.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #36 on: March 17, 2009, 04:59:05 PM »
What I'm saying is there should not be an exemption in the reporting standards for religious groups. They should be held to the SAME standard as all other non-profits.

Yup - that's where I'm coming from as well.

Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #37 on: March 17, 2009, 05:13:07 PM »
 
Quote
Of course I'd also support a bill that uses the right of eminent domain to seize all churches and their property and build low income housing in their place. But that's why I'll never be president.

 Which would be a direct violation of the freedom of Religion clause in the Constitution.  Eminent domain should rarely be used IMO, and only  for strictly public use like building a highway or large scale pubic use item. Not for public housing.

Offline Nessy

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #38 on: March 17, 2009, 05:20:17 PM »
As to the Connecticut Bill, I still support it. Of course I'd also support a bill that uses the right of eminent domain to seize all churches and their property and build low income housing in their place. But that's why I'll never be president.

I am not sure you would have the same position is the government decided that your house and lot would benefit the community better if they mowed it down and put up a low income houses or a highway. Churches still pay for maintaince and buidling on their property, and it's not just churches by the way. Other religious organizations have the same protection. I think its one thing to question how much information churches should have to report to the public but to support eminent domain as appropriate for public housing, or eminent domain to put up strip malls in poor areas, or eminent domain to put up a street when a few blocks down the street could serve the same purpose and not destroy someone else's work... eminent domain is not a power to the government needs to be using without strict caution in this country under any circumstances.

Offline Apple of Eris

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #39 on: March 17, 2009, 05:26:32 PM »
I am not sure you would have the same position is the government decided that your house and lot would benefit the community better if they mowed it down and put up a low income houses or a highway. Churches still pay for maintaince and buidling on their property, and it's not just churches by the way. Other religious organizations have the same protection. I think its one thing to question how much information churches should have to report to the public but to support eminent domain as appropriate for public housing, or eminent domain to put up strip malls in poor areas, or eminent domain to put up a street when a few blocks down the street could serve the same purpose and not destroy someone else's work... eminent domain is not a power to the government needs to be using without strict caution in this country under any circumstances.

Would I be upset, sure. But that argument has nothing what-so-ever to do with my wanting to see those properties siezed. Is that an extremist view? Absolutely. Do I acknowledge it? Yes, I do.

None of which really has anything to do with my major point. Why should religious institutions, formed as section 501(c)(3) companies in the IRS tax code, recieve some kind of government opaqueness as to their financials, whereas other groups having the SAME STATUS do not? I do not believe a religious institution should be given an exemption. That's the real point of my post which everyone but Oniya chose to ignore.

Either way, I've done enough arguing and ranting for the day. Toodles.

Offline Nessy

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #40 on: March 17, 2009, 06:06:44 PM »
Actually it wasn't ignored, i mentioned my opinion on the matter earlier but your comment on the eminent domain as a power that should be used to strip an organization of their buildings to build low income housing and the idea that the government should use a power that can be, and has been used abusively  in the past so readily seemed more important than telling than what you say your major point is.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #41 on: March 18, 2009, 10:29:37 AM »
Governments already do to an extent. They prohibit church organizations from donating to political causes or openly endorsing candidates, not that this stops those groups from doing so.

Government officials can already examine church records, churches are a business in the United States, they are regulated as per a business with some exemptions. One of those being no need to make their financial records a matter of public record. Personally, I think that ALL non-profit groups should have to make their records public, whether religious in nature or not. If the church is dedicated to matters spiritual, why are they so worried about showing their matters financial?

Also, if the lay people could examine the books, they might get answers as to why it seems every church in teh area, every diocese is crying for money money money. If you're donating you should be allowed to see how it's spent. Maybe you didn't want to put tat five dollars in and find out its going for new tires on PopeForce One instead of to your community.

What I'm saying is there should not be an exemption in the reporting standards for religious groups. They should be held to the SAME standard as all other non-profits.

As to the Connecticut Bill, I still support it. Of course I'd also support a bill that uses the right of eminent domain to seize all churches and their property and build low income housing in their place. But that's why I'll never be president.

Exactly my point I keep commenting to various pastors and the like in my area taking this tax exemption on their main ministries violates their First Amendment rights of free speech. I proposed seperating their active ministry as in the Church proper from legitimate charities making each of those tax-exempt seperately say a homeless shelter or free clinic or some other charity. So the main Church being taxed can be politically active.

And to note there is no Seperation of Church and State in the First Amendment, just read it its in plain simple English not some archaic language. The government cannot establish a Church as a state faith as per the Church of England or the Russian Orthodox Church at the time or interfere without a serious reason the free expression of religion. Taxing Church property or having business oversight is not interfering anyone can express their religion in this nation and any center of faith can do so, they just might have to have smaller buildings to do so. I for one have no problem with a soup kitchen run by a church being a seperate entity and tax exempt, just do so apart from a Church proper. And it would also demand that property owned used for a profit say by the Catholic Church or Scientologists cannot be exempt without it being demonstrated to be used for a non-profit purpose. The standards would match any secular charity in that over just being demarked for "religious use" but for a community service at large. Which I feel is a far better standard to use.


Offline Zakharra

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #42 on: March 18, 2009, 11:36:09 AM »
 
Quote
And to note there is no Seperation of Church and State in the First Amendment, just read it its in plain simple English not some archaic language. The government cannot establish a Church as a state faith as per the Church of England or the Russian Orthodox Church at the time or interfere without a serious reason the free expression of religion. Taxing Church property or having business oversight is not interfering anyone can express their religion in this nation and any center of faith can do so, they just might have to have smaller buildings to do so.

 It was clear to the founders, but their decendants (us) do not see it so 'clearly'. As evidence by how others see the definition in modern times. Taxing Church property is a chancy thing when prohibitive property taxes can be levied on land. Many old churches have prime land in cities that 'could' be put to better use by a business. I can see how many town councils could be swayed to condem old churches and force them to close to be sold to a developer that can pay far more in taxes when the land is developed.



Offline Nessy

Re: Connecticut church finance bill
« Reply #43 on: March 18, 2009, 02:52:04 PM »

 It was clear to the founders, but their decendants (us) do not see it so 'clearly'. As evidence by how others see the definition in modern times. Taxing Church property is a chancy thing when prohibitive property taxes can be levied on land. Many old churches have prime land in cities that 'could' be put to better use by a business. I can see how many town councils could be swayed to condem old churches and force them to close to be sold to a developer that can pay far more in taxes when the land is developed.

If this church was old enough, they could probably attempt to declare it historical which would prevent anyone from demolishing it say for a brand new more profittable or beneficial (depending on how you define beneficial) building. I'll agree that there could be a very strong argument against the way the USA taxes (or doesn't tax) religious organization,s and there could be a strong argument for having them open their books as other non-profits do; however, I don't think there is any ground to stand on when it comes to forcing them to have their finances (shifting control as they call it) done by someone else as we don't really have laws in place that say your books have to be done by this person and not that one (in most cases) for private organizations, and these are private.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 02:54:12 PM by Nessy »