Our Threatened Freedom

Is The Church A Charitable Trust? (04:20)

R.J. Rushdoony


R.J. Rushdoony: 00:00 Is the church a charitable trust? This is R.J. Rushdoony with a report on disappearing freedom. The First Amendment, with its assurances of freedom of religion, the press and more is steadily being eroded and new doctrines of sadist controls are replacing it. Our concern today is with one aspect of this change, as it affects religious liberty. Various federal agencies in many states are quietly reclassifying the church, the Christian school, missionary agencies, monastic orders and the like as charitable trusts.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:36 At first glance, this seems to make no appreciable difference. The tax exempt status continues and there is no dramatic change. A charitable trust however, is an organization which is accountable to the state for the use of its funds and properties, without regard to race, color or creed. That last is the critical point. If a church must represent all creeds and all religions, it ceases to be a church. A charitable trust is by law, under state control. United Way is a classic example of a charitable trust.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:14 To reclassify churches as charitable trusts is to make them state churches. It means also that whenever civil authorities choose to do so, they can require that a church gives equal time to all religions. A Buddhist temple, and there are a few in the United States, would have to give equal time to Christianity and Mohammedanism. The various Christian churches would have to give equal time to all other religions. Somewhere down the road, this will be required of our churches unless changes are made soon.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:52 In at least one case in California, the state argument against the church was that quote, “The court is the ultimate custodian of all church funds. The institution itself and all of those who run the institution are standing in a position of trust. The property being truly owned not by the institution or individuals, but rather the people of California. Under the laws of the state of California, although the property is held by the charitable organization, it is held for the benefit of the public at large.” In other words, your church does not belong to you, it belongs to the state and it can be taken from you at the will of the state.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:39 Let me adds that this situation is not unique to California, it is common to most of the country but the church is not a charitable trust, nor is it state property. The whole point of the First Amendment is to preserve religion from state controls. The church belongs to God and is responsible to Christ and to the people who support the church. The attempt of bureaucrats to call the church and its agencies charitable trusts has an obvious motive, to place the church under state controls and to give it the same blessings of mismanagement which they give to everything else.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:21 The issue is one of control. Should the state or the Internal Revenue Service, or some other agency, control the church? Who is Lord over the church? Christ or Caesar? Do we still regard the First Amendment as a part of the constitution? The First Amendment was adopted because the clergy of all the states demanded it. They were afraid of a federally controlled or established church, and with good reason.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:52 Last year, the demands of countless Americans, Congress adopted the Ashbrook and Dornan Amendments and tied the hands of the IRS for the fiscal year, barring it from intervening into the affairs of Christian schools and churches. Now the IRS seeks freedom from such restraints for the coming fiscal year. Unless we stand for freedom, we will soon have nothing to stand for.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder