Religion Feed

Ark Encounter's replica of the vessel used in the Biblical tale of Noah and the flood is the largest timber frame structure in the world, according to the Kentucky theme park's website. It is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. Ark Encounter, the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian theme park in Grant County, Kentucky, will have to stay afloat without the aid of $18 million in state tax breaks. The Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet sent the operators of the park, which features a massive replica of Noah's Ark, a letter last week notifying them that the park... Read more →


Happy World Emoji Day! It's held on July 17 each year as a way to promote the use of emojis — like we need to do that! — and, according to Emojipedia (really!), spread the enjoyment that the colorful icons bring. The enjoyment goal got me thinking of how emojis might make one of our worst tax tasks more pleasant. I'm talking, of course, about our annual filing of returns. Most of us already use tax software. Surely it wouldn't be that difficult to incorporate the option of adding emojis to the lines we fill electronically complete. Dressing up your... Read more →


A Pennsylvania man said he didn't file 10 years' worth of federal tax returns because the forms required use of a Social Security number, which he considered analogous to the Biblical "mark of the beast." James Kerr Schlosser's 666 tax protest, however, didn't convince the Internal Revenue Service or the legal system. The 59-year-old Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, resident was convicted on March 7 of failing to report $2.3 million he earned as a medical equipment salesman. Foreign accounts, coins used in scheme: To evade the tax due on the millions, federal court papers show that Schlosser used foreign business trusts and... Read more →


Although separation of church and state is a key constitutional tenet in the operation of the United States government, God regularly plays an unofficial role at tax filing time. There are those folks who take his name in vain as they struggle with a particularly complex part of the tax code. Guilty! Then there are those folks who seek his divine guidance in figuring out their annual tax liability. Or, once they've done that, pray for a miracle to pay what they owe. Guilty again! But religion shouldn't have any part in defending criminal tax evasion. That's not just my... Read more →


Opponents of Scientology were jazzed yesterday as word spread across the Internet that the controversial church's tax-exempt status had been revoked. They were quickly disappointed. Church of Scientology "Big Blue" building in Los Angeles (Photo by PictorialEvidence via Wikimedia Commons) The report that hit my social media feeds ostensibly was from ABC News. It said, in part: In a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court today, the eight justices ruled in favor of revoking the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status in the United States. Under the ruling, Scientology will still be able to operate as a business but no longer... Read more →


Finally! Dec. 25 has arrived. Not only is it Christmas, it's a no tax day here at the ol' blog. I'm taking the day off to spend it with the hubby, my mom and some friends. I hope you're getting to spend this day the way you want and with those who are important in your life. Wherever you are, here are a few items to bring a little Texas cheer to your day. It's still in the 70s here in Central Texas, but a cold front reportedly is heading our way. Until it arrives, I'm content to sit in... Read more →


As the global refugee crisis continues to grow, Pope Francis has a warning for churches. Open your doors to these displaced people or pay taxes. Photo by R LeMoyne courtesy United Nations The Pontiff's message about caring for those in need shouldn't come as a surprise. He has spent his life ministering to the poor and he's carried that message with him as the head of the Catholic Church. But his no-nonsense assessment of how some churches take tax advantage of their special status has taken some aback. Heavenly guidelines for worldly acts: "On Judgment Day we already know how... Read more →


The Vatican takes scripture seriously, especially Mark 12:17. "Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at him." It's not quite amazement, but it is definitely interesting to see the Holy See signing on to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Panoramic photo of St. Peter's Square, the basilica and obelisk, from Piazza Pio XII in Vatican City courtesy I, Dfmalan via Wikimedia CC. FATCA, FBAR facts: Known in tax-speak at FATCA, this federal law generally requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any... Read more →


I'm not much of a churchgoer, but if the new First Church of Cannabis opens a sanctuary in Austin, I might just drop by services now and again. The Indianapolis-based marijuana-smoking church has received approval of its incorporation papers from the state of Indiana and, from the more important tax perspective, from the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) religious organization. For the new religious order, that designation means no taxes. For donors, that also means tax deductions if they itemize. Religious freedom law opens church doors: And the new ministry is looking for donors to help it raise... Read more →


What once seemed like a tax Hail Mary pass doomed to fall short is now a game ending completion. The National Football League is giving up its tax-exempt status, which he called a "distraction." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the change, which will take effect with the league's 2015 fiscal year, in a memo to the 32 NFL team owners. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman and ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee, also reportedly got copies. Goodell cited among the reasons for the change in tax status recent Congressional criticism of... Read more →


Full disclosure: I didn't watch HBO's documentary on the Church of Scientology last night. We don't get the premium channel and anyway I had zombies walkers to follow. But I plan to catch "Going Clear" when it's available on video on demand or some streaming option. Alex Gibney's two-hour film apparently focuses more on certain specific allegations about the church, particularly in connection with two of its most famous members, actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise, than did the book upon which it is based. From a tax standpoint, how the Scientologists came to be officially sanctioned by Uncle Sam... Read more →


Pope Francis has been in the news recently. There was, of course, his annual Christmas mass and Christmas Day address to the tens of thousands gathered in St Peter's Square. As is so often the case with this pontiff, he focused on Dec. 25 on the struggles of those with in dire straits -- abused children, refugees, hostages and others suffering from violence worldwide. Just a few days earlier, in his Christmas greeting to the Curia, he accused the group of cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the church administration of suffering from spiritual Alzheimer's, forgetting what drew them... Read more →


Maybe it's just me, but I haven't heard much this year about the so-called war on Christmas. In case you've missed the battle because you're too busy every December, here's a quick refresher. This is the assertion that there's a consolidated, aggressive effort by governments, media, advertising, retailers and various other secular movements to strip Dec. 25 of its religious meaning. Basically, say pro-Merry Christmas/anti-Happy Holidays combatants, people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. Or maybe I haven't heard so much this year about the annual (traditional?) fight because, according to a recent survey, the war on Christmas... Read more →


By now, most Americans have wrapped up their annual tax-filing duties. And it's probably safe to say that a lot of folks are feeling a lot poorer after fulfilling their tax responsibilities. Some individuals, however, have tried to use a religious vow of poverty to avoid taxes altogether. In these egregious tax evasion cases, they haven't been successful. Poverty vow was a poor tax argument: Take the case of Timothy Dale Jackson. The 50-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Pass Christian, Mississippi, claimed to have taken a vow of poverty with a Utah-based church. Jackson said that his monetary sacrifice exempted him... Read more →


Legal minds great and not-so-great have and will continue to parse today's Supreme Court decision that closely-held corporations can't be required to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives over their owners' religious objections. The justices' ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This law, enacted in 1993, essentially prohibits government actions that substantially burden the exercise of religion. RFRA does provide an exception for actions that constitute the "least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest." Hobby Lobby's owners, as well as the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.... Read more →


Many folks spent Easter, either the full weekend starting on Good Friday and ending on this important Christian holiday, going to church services and/or visiting family. But sometimes, a break is welcome. A good one on this Easter Sunday is to take in an appropriately themed movie. Faith-based movies are in vogue right now, with several recent releases, including Noah, Heaven is Real and Son of God doing well at the box office. Hey, believing is important, but so is paying real-life bills. Check your local Cineplex to see if these flicks are still on the wide screen in your... Read more →


With Mary so close to delivering her child, why did she and Joseph risk traveling to Bethlehem? Taxes. A census was ordered to determine the taxes due from the residents of the Roman Empire. Each person had to return to his home town to meet the decree's requirements. So Joseph and Mary headed out from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, specifically to the city of David known as Bethlehem, an estimated three-day trip, because Joseph was of the house and family of David. And the rest is Biblical history. Our Texas Nativity, with a Lone Star and a colorful Mexican... Read more →


What child tax breaks are these?

The birth of Jesus is one of the most well-known stories. For Christians, it is, as the saying goes, the reason for the season. But even many non-believers are moved by the tale of the birth of a child in stable, with a manger serving as his crib. One of the most beautiful renditions of those humble circumstances is in What Child is This? It was a tough call, but that song barely beat out Away in a Manger for the final spot on the 2013 Christmas Tax Tip Tunes play list. Both songs celebrate the birth of a child.... Read more →


One of the most-hallowed tax breaks for ministers has been struck down by a federal judge. Judge Barbara Crabb of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled on Nov. 21 that the parsonage allowance is unconstitutional. She also issued an injunction discontinuing the tax code section. Don't panic, ministers et al. Your tax bills aren't going up just yet. Crabb stayed her ruling until the conclusion of any appeals, which is standard legal operating procedure. Housing allowance tax history: The housing allowance is an amount designated by a church -- any church, despite the Protestant-sounding... Read more →


Sure the Pope gets a lot of attention thanks to the annual Christmas services at the Holy See. But just as important to some is the world's smallest sovereign state's duty-free shopping opportunity. The Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, courtesy Wikimedia Commons The Associated Press reports that The Vatican's duty-free department store offers bargains on flat-screen televisions, a variety of Samsonite luggage, custom shoes, luxury watches and a variety of other high-end items. Got a golfer on your list? Then there's a leather-bound travel trunk from Florence's "The Bridge" leather works that comes with a matching leather golf club bag. I'm... Read more →