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TV Ministries' Tax Exemptions

June 04, 1987

Regarding Cal Thomas' column (Editorial Pages, May 21), "It's Time for TV Ministries to Render Unto Caesar."

Thomas advocates an Internal Revenue Service investigation of all ministries that use television to raise large amounts of money and then continues: "To those who would cry that such an investigation is a violation of church-state separation, let them show the biblical precedent for a tax exemption."

Thomas is confusing the issue, as well as revealing his own rather obscured view of history. Church-state separation is a product of modern governments and certainly not based on a biblical precedent. The establishment of ancient Israel's kingship and the accompanying separation of the priesthood from governmental functions occurred very late in that nation's history. This was certainly not a precedent-setting event from the secular point of view. Nor can the relationship between the Roman government and the Christian church during the first century of the Common Era be compared to the relationship between modern democratic governments and the present day church.

There is no more a biblical precedent for church-state separation than there is for tax exemption--and most persons familiar with the Scriptures of the Bible would not argue there is.

Thomas also states that tax-exempt status is a favor granted to the church by government and carries with it certain responsibilities, one of them being "that the charitable work performed with the money (raised on television) will be something that the government has an interest in promoting." Either Thomas is incredibly naive or blatantly New Age. Examples of conflict between the charitable work of the church and the interests of the government are so numerous they defy recounting.

This letter is in no way an excuse for the excesses and immoralities of the PTL, or any other television ministry. What Thomas is advocating, however, has already proven ineffective and should not be entertained as an option for dealing with what has now become a public outrage.

Although not clearly understood as such, repentence is the solution to the problem Thomas is attacking. It is powerful and it is biblical. This is not to say that Jim and Tammy Bakker will be restored to leadership positions in the PTL ministry if they repent. It is to say that God's righteousness will emerge supreme from the confusion and stigma surrounding today's television ministries. There will be no need for governmental policing actions. The church may then resume its primary assignment--telling those who haven't heard about Jesus Christ.

JOHN E. HUBBARD

La Crescenta

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