Dear Editor: I would like to comment on Nat Harwell's excellent column of July 15. He mentioned that First United Methodist Church had joined The Newton Chamber of Commerce. This business club is in no way associated with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the state of Georgia, Newton County or the city of Covington, though the name implies it is part of some form of government. A chamber of commerce operates under IRS 501(c)(6) regulations which states, "a chamber of commerce usually is composed of merchants and traders of a city."
I agree with Mr. Harwell that businesses are always taxable while churches are not. Churches do not pay property taxes either, and other taxpayers have to make up for this loss of revenue. This charitable subsidy began with the 1913 and 1917 IRS Codes. Many wanted to tax church, but churches countered by saying that over 90 percent of their revenue was used for the upkeep of the poor. Churches were given charitable status to continue their upkeep of the poor, lessening the burden of government. Now government contributes 90 percent to the upkeep of the poor and churches only 10 percent.
Churches should not engage in any behavior that tends to influence legislation. When a charitable church joins a private business club, they are embracing the views of the club. Why not lend support to a labor union to be evenhanded? If a church, representing the "body of Christ," serves all people, how can it justify joining a special interest private club?
Newton County has a high crime rate, a high public school drop out rate, high participation in the free school lunch program, youth gangs, low school achievement scores, a high home foreclosure rate and a high bankruptcy rate, all, in part, resulting from poverty.
Christian churches and government should strive to raise the quality of life for all in their domain and not belong to a group that caters to special interests.