A week after telling his congregation that True Christians™ could not vote for Democrats, Christian hate-preacher Greg Locke announced on Sunday that he had “dissolved” his church’s tax-exemption with the IRS.
I want everybody online to pay real close attention. I almost brought the document. I was gonna burn it right here on national television, but it ain’t worth catchin’ our tent on fire.
… So guess what I did this week? I got an attorney, and I dissolved our stinkin’ 501(c)(3) in this church ’cause the government ain’t gonna tell me what I can and what I can’t say, so IRS, we don’t need your stupid tax-exempt status! You can put it in a bag and burn it in your front yard for all we care! I renounce 501(c)(3) Communism in this church! So we’ll say what we want to, Skippy Lou. And the IRS and the FBI and everybody we’ve been turned in to can eat my dirty socks on live TV.
… I revoke our 501(c)(3) status, and IRS, we don’t give two flips what you think about it. We’re squeaky clean, give 90% of our money away, and we ain’t afraid of you, because this is America, and we got a constitutional right to say what needs to be said, even when it chaps your hide and makes you feel bad about yourself. So put me in the news again. Get mad again. Send your protesters again. Threaten to kill me again. I ain’t stoppin’. I ain’t quittin’. I ain’t gonna back up, pack up, slack up, or shut up until I been taken up by the glory of God. As a matter of fact, I’m just gettin’ started! I’m just gettin’ started.
He’s freaking out because the video clip I shared of him last week telling his congregation they can’t vote for Democrats was a direct violation of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits non-profit groups (including churches) from telling their members who to vote for. Non-profit groups can have a tax exemption or play politics, but they can’t do both.
To be sure, the IRS doesn’t care which of those two options Locke chooses. As long as he picks a lane.
But his supposed mixing of the two worlds was why there were numerous calls, including a formal one from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for the IRS to revoke the church’s tax exempt status. As I wrote last week, it’s doubtful the IRS will do anything about it. As the Washington Post noted in 2016, “more than 2,000 mainly evangelical Christian clergy have deliberately violated the law since 2008 as a form of protest against it; only one has been audited by the IRS, and none punished.”
Still, there was a lot of press coverage showcasing Locke’s hypocrisy and urging the IRS to take this seriously.
The question is: Did he actually dissolve his non-profit status, which would allow him to play politics to his heart’s content while putting a major obstacle in the path of larger donors to his church (who may hold back on giving because they can’t get credit for it during tax season)?
We don’t know. Locke didn’t offer any proof he had actually done this.
But here’s where it gets even more bizarre: There’s no proof his church ever registered as a non-profit to begin with. David Cary Hart of Slowly Boiled Frog has posted quite a bit over the years about churches and taxes, and his assessment of the situation was rather blunt: Greg Locke is lying. He said this in an email (slightly edited for clarification):
[Locke] is just making shit up. He needs the church to be recognized as a 501(c)(3) if contributions are to be federally tax-deductible. Global Vision is registered in TN as a religious corporation. Thus, contributions from residents of TN are tax-deductible from state taxes only. Since GV is not a federally recognized non-profit, there is absolutely nothing that the IRS can do. You can’t revoke what does not exist.
It’s true that the church doesn’t show up in the IRS’ charity database. It’s also true the church website doesn’t say donations are tax deductible. While the church appears in Tennessee’s business database as a “Public Benefit Corporation,” that’s not the same thing as being a registered non-profit.
Which is a very long way of saying that Locke’s alleged request to IRS to revoke has tax exemption should be considered bullshit unless he proves otherwise. There’s no record his church was ever tax exempt to begin with.
Either way, Locke is effectively telling the world that his church is no longer playing by the same rules as other churches. He’s more interested in playing politics than talking about Jesus, and he’s willing to give up (or never receive) the greatest financial benefit a church can have in order to spread lies about Democrats with no consequences.
Even if it’s all bluster, it means those calls for the IRS to do something had an effect. They either pressured him to get rid of his church’s tax exempt status or it made him pretend to do that to get everyone off his back.
It’s all very strange given the fact that the IRS never does anything about churches that play politics even when the evidence is clear-cut. Who knows what this guy’s long game is.