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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 118123
Experience:  All corporate law, including non-profits and charitable fraternal organizations.
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Hello, I am Rev. Dr. H. Edward Rowe, B.A., Th.M., D.D. I am

Customer Question

Hello, I am Rev. Dr. H. XXXXXX XXXX, B.A., Th.M., D.D. I am a "retired" ordained Christian Minister in my 85th year of life and doing my best to serve God and man in my "old age." I have founded a Christian Mission which I have called "ALPHA REFUGEE ASSISTANCE INTERNATIONAL," that is seeking to assist refugees who have fled to Ghana from war ravaged countries on the Continent of Africa. I have not yet incorporated this ministry, although I intend to do so as soon as possible. MY QUESTION: IS IT LEGALLY OK TO OPERATE A CHRISTIAN MINISTRY WITHOUT INCORPORATING, AND TO RECEIVE FREE WILL FINANCIAL HELP FROM CHRISTIAN RELATIVES AND FRIENDS WHO IDENTIFY WITH MY CHRISTIAN MINISTRY? As you must know, many small churches meeting in homes and shopping centers are unincorporated. I know incorporation has advantages, but UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT, WHICH DENIES GOVERNMENT THE RIGHT TO LIMIT THE “FREE EXERCISE” OF RELIGION, IS INCORPORATION LEGALLY REQUIRED BEFORE AN ORDAINED CHRISTIAN MINISTER CAN LEGALLY OPERATE A SMALL PRIVATE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY? IN MY CASE THERE HAVE BEEN ABSOLUTELY NO GENERAL PUBLIC APPEALS FOR FUNDS VIA MAIL, RADIO, TV OR OTHERWISE. ALL CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE BEEN, AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE, STRICTLY PERSONAL AND VOLUNTARY.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
No, the problem is that any contributions you receive without being incorporated and registered as a non-profit entity would legally have to be declared on your income taxes and taxes would have to be paid. Additionally, if anyone has any suit against the ministry, you would be personally liable. The reason for incorporation thus is not really about denying the right to limit religion, it is about compliance for tax purposes and protecting yourself from personal liability.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hello Paul,

Would not taxing me for donations to a purely Christian ministry amount to
a limitation on the "free exercise of religion?" Sorry, but I cannot it
otherwise. I have not personally received one dollar from my ministry.
Taxing dollars that were donated to a Christian ministry can tax the
ministry out of existence, thus limiting the "FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION."
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
See, the thing is that the government is not impairing your religion by taxation, it is just that as an individual you cannot accept donations without accounting for them and paying taxes (of course if you can prove that you took the money and gave it to an actual registered non-profit entity after then you could deduct it from your personal income). They are not stopping you from practice, just telling you that you have to do so in a proper legal manner, which is forming a corporation or LLC and obtaining non-profit status which you can easily obtain for this purpose and then you can take in donations as you see fit.