Debunking Myth: Churches and 501(c)3

Nullification in Action Series


Many in the world today are concerned with why certain churches must “tow the government line.” They think that in order for a church to remain free they need to comply with certain government rules to maintain a federal 501(c)3 status – that without this, any particular church would have serious consequences or possibly even no longer be permitted to exist.

This is incorrect.  Simply put, churches are automatically churches when that church declares what they are, in whatever way they choose, without ever talking to the government, and have zero obligation to interact with the government. In this scenario, a church only interacts optionally with the government if they have a need to tell them what to do, not the other way around.

The IRS code acknowledges “automatic” churches that have never interacted with the government, under IRS code 508(c)(1)(a), whereas IRS code 501(c)3 exists for churches that voluntarily agree to be regulated, volunteering away their 1st amendment rights.

While this bottom line is enough for a church to nullify any pretend-legislation, if you remain unconvinced, then let’s study the law so you can gain a deeper understanding for yourself. If you understand the truth, then as leaders in any particular church, you may be able to help your church get set up in a more free position to engage in your God’s work as a free-church instead of a State church.

We will put false ideas to rest in this article, once and for all, so we can be more in line with following the constitutional law of the land. We’ll gain increased confidence in claiming rights that are naturally and legally and lawfully ours.  Let’s also stop making excuses for institutions where this may apply, believing that they are somehow under mandatory legal pressure that they actually don’t have to be under.


The IRS has never required churches to seek a tax-exempt status. The IRS’s position has always been that churches are “automatically tax-exempt” and tax-deductible. Nevertheless, many thousands of churches have submitted Form 1023 to the IRS for the “privilege” of being something that even the IRS acknowledges they already have.

I am not the only IRS employee who’s wondered why churches go to the government and seek permission to be exempted from a tax they didn’t owe to begin with, and to seek a tax-deductible status that they’ve always had anyway. Many of us have marveled at how church leaders want to be regulated and controlled by an agency of government that most Americans have prayed would just get out of their lives. Churches are in an amazingly unique position, but they don’t seem to know or appreciate the implications of what it would mean to be free of government control.

The government will not penalize a church for opting out of its 501(c)(3) status, because there’s no law that requires a church to be a 501(c)(3). Nor is this any kind of “tax protest” issue.

-Steve Nestor, Senior IRS Agent (Retired),
From the forward of In Caesar’s Grip, by Peter Kershaw (Amazon or Free PDF)

Are you surprised to hear an IRS agent say these things?  Let’s dig in to it.


The first amendment to the US Constitution, is extremely clear with no room for confusion.  Remember that the constitution is not a law for the people, but is the law that the government itself must follow before any law they produce is legal and lawful (see Illegal laws, pretend legislation).  All state constitutions also have this same restriction re-enforced.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
US Constitution – First Amendment

The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Utah State Constitution – Article I, Section 4

After reading such incredibly plain language that states “NO LAW“, there’s no room for any confusion. Congress can make no law on this matter, and nobody but congress is allowed to engage in any kind of law making power whatsoever (Article 1, Section 1, all legislative power). Therefore, no other government agency can invent “rules” or anything under the “color of law” that might likewise regulate religious belief, practice or institutions that have the effect of law. No lawmaker anywhere that falls under the authority of the several constitutions can ever make a law of any kind “respecting” or influencing or controlling any religious establishment.

Additionally, the clear language of not being able to “prohibit free exercise” is equally as powerful for protecting both institutions and individuals.  The government is completely banned from making laws limiting the actual practice of religious beliefs, so we should never tolerate any attempt of a law, bureaucrat or state administrator to do this in any way.

When authority attempts to imply they have this power, they should always be responded to with an attitude of nullification.


As we begin to understand our rights, and the behavior of those who wish to violate our rights, we can observe the strategies used by such subtle tyrannical powers. Arguably, the most common tactic of tyranny in the world today is for the tyrannical power to tell you lies (or omit facts) which lead you to believe that you have to comply with their rules. Then as you believe there is no other choice, you comply.

This tactic evolves further where the people being manipulated may never even be aware that there is a question they should be asking, in order to identify a choice. “That’s the way things are” is a default behavior of our culture.

All of this serves to take you out of a battle with them, as you willingly consent your rights away.

Government websites and media will too often imply, or even directly, mislead one thing while the actual laws or direct commentary on record tell you a different story – sometimes a completely opposite story.

Let’s review a few very strong past examples of this strategy which have been well documented by Defending Utah in past reports.


We can learn a powerful principle from a story that came to a boiling point in 2016 during the battle between the unconstitutional Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the constitution-defending ranching families in the western US.

Before rancher, Lavoy Finicum, was murdered by multiple agencies of the Federal Government and Oregon State Police, he was teaching ranchers something they previously did not know. For generations these families were losing their legacies, as the federal government slowly acquired possession of their properties. Very few ranchers understood how this theft was taking place until a few family leaders (Bundy, Finicum, Hague) began efforts to teach the ranchers.  One of the primary individuals leading the way to spread this knowledge was hero Lavoy Finicum, who helped plan a series of educational events called “Storms over Range Lands”.

The knowledge he was sharing was such an exact remedy to the problem, that treasonous lawmakers called this movement a “virus” that must be stopped.

So what exactly was he teaching them that scared the pants off of the deep state enough to call in a public execution on national TV with no trial?  Leveraging the expertise of the late Dr. Angus Mcintosh, he taught them how they were all tricked into volunteering away their rights by signing what were really voluntary contracts with the BLM, and that the remedy was to withdraw consent, as any party to a voluntary contract can always exit that voluntary contract with proper notice of intent.

Defending Utah’s Enoch Moore (myself) and other volunteer citizen journalists that were there (also from Defending Utah), personally witnessed this little known, but historical, meeting in Cedar City, UT where nearly a dozen ranchers signed a declaration of independence from the BLM. Ranchers in at least Oregon and New Mexico had also signed such a pledge, and there were plans for this tour to travel to many other states to free the entire west from the grip of the BLM.

Signing of a letter of intent to withdraw consent to contract with the BLM

For additional details, read our full report of Lavoy’s Final Warning.

For a longer study of the backstory, these resources will get you started:

Last Rancher Standing – The Cliven Bundy Story
All DU articles on Lavoy Finicum
All DU articles on Bundy
Lavoy’s Wife Files Federal Case after His Death

EXAMPLE 2: School Vaccine Opt Outs

Documented clearly by my investigation in a 2017 article, there was (still is?) a coordinated effort by various Utah government actors to deliberately avoid telling (or lying to) parents about their full rights to opt out. Parents automatically accepted that they were required to sign a form that was an admission of guilt to harming their child by opting them out of immunizations.

Many parents ignorantly signed this voluntary admission of guilt form, signing certain parental rights away, just like the ranchers were also tricked into signing their rights away.

EXAMPLE 3: Business Licenses

Also documented clearly by my investigation in a 2021 article, the state has used this confusion strategy to heavily imply that you must get a business license in order to engage in any kind of commerce.


Logically, we should always start our investigations for truth about laws on what laws actually say, not what people say they say, along with directly related original sources.

Defending Utah has taught many times in the past, what matters at the end of the day is what is actually written down in the law. Many good Utahns have had experiences where their legislator or a news headline told them a bill meant one thing, while the language of the bill meant something different.  Ignorance is one of the biggest tools of tyranny.

Congress did in fact create power through legislative action, where religious establishments began to be regulated in practice, but the devil is in the details.  This is commonly known as IRS code 501c3.

You will hear in TV shows, evening newscasts, speeches, newspaper articles and blogs all over the internet, that churches must register as a 501c3.  There are countless online services that will say a church is required to register, because they are affiliated with a service to help your church become a state corporation instead of a free-church under God. They may even admit that some churches are automatically excepted, but they will heavily imply that your situation is not one of them, for their own benefit.

The following description is from the IRS publication “A History of the tax-exempt Sector”.

Source: IRS publication “A History of the tax-exempt Sector

501(c) was created in the Revenue act of 1954. In the years following, changes to 501c3 organizations and constitutional concerns to regulations on churches eventually forced congress to emphasize that the IRS had no jurisdiction over churches.  Thus today we have section 508 which was part of the legislation passed in the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

A 501c3 State church is an IRS controlled entity.

A 508c1a free-church is not an IRS controlled entity, nor is it the IRS creating a new kind of tax-exempt State church. It is a declaration of existing truth, that all churches created outside their system, having never registered with the IRS, are still recognized automatically as a “mandatory exception” to their rules.


In IRS publication #1828, titled “Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations”, on page 2 it says…

IRS publication 1828 churches not required to register

Further, we read the legislative source for why the IRS acknowledges this “automatic” status in the text of the US Code:

*26 U.S. Code § 508
(c) Exceptions
(1) Mandatory exceptions
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or
associations of churches

*26 U.S. Code § 6033
(3) Exceptions from filing
(A) Mandatory exceptions
(1) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or
associations of churches

*26 U.S. Code § 1402 – Definitions
(c) Trade or business… shall not include…
(4) the performance of service by a … minister of a church

All churches are automatically recognized by federal law without ever asking permission, in which case they maintain all their constitutional rights as a free-church under God and the constitution.  They have more rights than a 501c3 because they have not voluntarily signed an agreement with the IRS to comply with voluntary federal regulations.

To clarify what they mean by churches “that meet the requirements”, there are no regulations to meet any requirements to become a church. This is only referring to a soft set of guidelines that the IRS uses to recognize what a church looks like. Publication #1828 explains, “The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics to determine whether an organization is considered a church“.


Search for “508 church” in your favorite search engine and one of the top links may be this site which wants to sell you their services to help your church register as a 501c3. You will find that the language in this site is powerful double speak, confusing language, and flat out lies. My reaction to what they’re saying is that I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen more carefully crafted lies on a single web page than that site.

While the constitution is clear, and the IRS’s own internal rules are clear, this site completely redefines the rights of churches by taking the code out of context and adding their own ideas. Many may be successfully scared into feeling that they must purchase their services to help comply with alleged regulations.

You should expect to find confusion like this online in many locations.

Coordinated propaganda?

There is constant propaganda to be found on the internet that we should “tax churches” into oblivion. This anti-religion message has been a clear tactic of the enemies of freedom for a very long time.  It would only make sense that with this “tax the churches” message aimed at the people, that there would also be corresponding confusing messages for the churches themselves to volunteer to be taxed.

All of this is merely non legal rhetoric from the media and popular culture. That should not be our source of truth for what laws say or what our rights are.


501(C)3 = State church.

508(c)(1)(a) = Free-church.

After all that you’ve just read, I hope I’ve made the following very clear:

There is literally no good reason for a church to become a 501(c)3 State church.

All over the internet, there are lots of alleged reasons–and none of them are valid.
Some examples include:

    • Guarantee a tax write-off for members?
      That’s guaranteed anyway.
      In 2012, US Senator Max Baucus answered this question in a letter to one of his constituents, when he said “a donor can make a charitable donation to a non-registered church and still itemize that donation as a deduction“.
    • 501c3 has a more recognized status by others?
      The truth is that a properly organized free-church has all the same legitimacy as a State church, with none of the regulations.
    • 501c3 organizations are given a variety of discounts and benefits in society?
      Free-churches can ask for the same benefits.  This will never be an issue other than someone else’s temporary ignorance that you can now remedy.
    • 501c3 status increases the transparency of the organization?
      This argument is taking the government regulations over a State church and trying to paint it in a positive light.  As a State church you’re forced to publicize certain information.  As a free-church, your right to privacy still exists. But if you want to volunteer the same information to the public, have a party and go for it.
    • 501c3 is needed to claim a religious exemption?
      Religious exemptions are available to you as a member of any church, whether it’s a State church, free-church or if you’re not a member of any church at all. It is the most universally accepted type of exemption from anything.
    • “Official recognition” by the IRS is important?
      If you want a sticker and a cookie from the devil that serves no real functional purpose.

The pretend reasons for 501c3s are numerous. Regardless of whatever reasons someone comes up with, the principle always remains true that a free-church can claim any of the same advantages, without volunteering away any of their rights.


Now that we understand churches do not have to be under the thumb of the state, let’s stop discussing this falsehood in our daily lives anywhere as if it were true.

The legal team of your church now has all the information it needs to start learning how to claim your church’s rights back.

Personally, enforce the constitution in your daily lives by nullifying any attempt by the state to infringe on the rights of your church where you serve. Remember…  congress shall write no law

The book In Caesar’s Grip also has some commentary on transitioning your church from a 501(c)3 State Church back into a free-church.

This article, and all articles on this site, are considered void-of-legal-or-tax-advice.



Article Original Source References:

Defending Utah: Nullification

The Church of Christ vs. The Prostitute State Church

Interview with Mount Zerin Ministries

In Caesar’s Grip

US Constitution

Utah State Constitution

Lavoy Finicum warns of Wolves in Sheeps Clothing

Defending Utah: Utah Vaccine Exemption a Trap for Parents

Defending Utah: Are Business Licenses Legal?

IRS publication “A History of the tax-exempt Sector

IRS publication #1828, “Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations”

Tax Reform Act of 1969 – With original commentary, including from John D. Rockefeller

2012 letter from US Senator Max Baucus

Cornell University Law Library


8 Responses

  1. Wow!! Wow!! This open my eyes regarding the BLM issues; regarding the 501c(3) … it has been assumed that it is the 501c3 rules is why churches dont preach against LGBT or other controversial issues. I’ve known all along churches are non taxed, but never known and or read detailed information. My question now is : why does the LDS Curch still remain 501c3 ….

    1. Unfortunately there are total morons (not Mormons) running the legal department of the church. For far too long now, the church has been run by LDS corporate world and they think they know everything, lol. It is high time the church pulls out of the 501c3 web and becomes a free church under the 1st amendment. Maybe they will stop making such crazy decisions that only please Babylon.

  2. It’s interesting that the Portand Regional FBI officer-in-charge of the ‘law enforcement’ at Burns, OR on who’s watch occurred the unlawful Lavoy Finicum execution, was one, Greg Bretzing, who’s previous job was as Director of the Church Security Department of the “LDS” Church…who left his position in Church employment to go work for the FBI sometime before about 2007… and, on who’s watch the infamous Family History Library active shooter event occurred in 1999, in which two died, including one of his own conspicuously un-armed security officers and acquaintance of mine, and an elderly missionary who was shot in the face, but survived.

    And for a clear summary, showing what exact (illegal) requirements/restrictions churches must adhere to under the 501c3 contract, see Rita Allen’s excellent expose’ of it, at:
    This is a 2 hr presentation, but from the 15:00 marker, and especially from the 21:00 marker–she goes into her spiel about the details on just how this restrictive code drastically limits the spiritual-operation of ~93% of all American churches–including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (since at least 1954, if not from about 1943).

  3. For many (I’d say most), the state IS their church, and worship of government authority and power IS their religion, just as another major example of how your beliefs and your church will not necessarily fit with any specific format.

  4. Unfortunately, we have GAs that subscribe to the corporate world and think adhering to Babylon is more important than listening to heaven. Certainly, heaven does not condone an almost total loss of religious freedom, which the LDS church has done to a large extent. Just look at the Sunday school curriculum, void of any mention of President Ezra Taft Benson’s countless warnings about embracing corrupt government. One of the most vital messages in the BofM is exposing the enemies of Christ. Pres. Mackey, Kimball, and Benson preached this over and over again. It would be the “great and abominable church of the devil” we’d have to identify and root out in the last days. Our church has gone silent on this most important subject and it is because of their always trying to please Babylon instead of God. The scriptures tell us we cannot serve both God and mammon, so our church is demonstrating they have chosen in very deed, mammon. It’s high time we speak out against this behavior before it ruins our very church more than it already has.

  5. So, the author has told us what the law says, and how a church can maintain its rights and privileges, apart from 501 status. Now lets get down to the nitty gritty. For those churches that have thrown off their 501, how has it gone for them? The law, and enforcement of the law, unfortunately have become two different things.

    How did the federal government get away with that whole shenanigan enforced onto BJU, a Christian University, back in 1978(?)? This was when the University, which had a tax exempt status, had their tax exempt status taken away, because the federal government did not like what the school had in their student handbook, a rule that there would be no interracial dating. That was one rule amongst many of the hundreds of rules the University had for its students. Whether society agreed or not, it seems weird that the federal government was involved in whether girls wore dresses, boys wore short hair, or races dated amongst their own. The bigger issue to the school was that the federal government cannot dictate to a Christian private institution what their rules were at a Christian institution. They felt they were fighting for every religious institution. They feared the slippery slope, of government intrusion. Catholic institutions and Jewish Institutions joined them as well at the Supreme Court, acknowledging clearly that this, stealing of BJU’s tax exempt status, meant they may not be protected with their rules and belief systems as well. My understanding is that the Supreme Court wanted BJU to prove to them from the Bible, not US law, that they could have this rule. Completely out of line. So for those of us, who remember the persecution of the school, religious institutions would be naturally fearful. BJU went for 30 years without their exemption as a religious institution. Very heavy – handed of the government. The federal government made a lot of money off of them. Even after the school dropped that rule, they still went without their status, and paid taxes all those years. And what did they get for trying to fight for all religious institutions and churches, a Racist Badge, that has not left the racist handlers devious bag of tricks as well as character assassination, to a well-meaning Christian institution, to this day.

    1. “For those churches that have thrown off their 501, how has it gone for them?” – I have heard of churches that simply exist this way since writing this article. And I don’t know the details of “BJU” or what happened back in 1978, but the details matter. Often times in big universities there is some kind of sell out going on from someone inside the university. Also, if they were 501c3, that is part of the problem, they let the government be their authority be creating a contract with them. Also, if they were taking federal funds, then they’re in bed with the government and they have TITLE IX restrictions because of that public money. Most every university takes federal funds, because of FAFSA at the very least.

  6. This entire article was very enlightening … And enjoyable. … Thank you …💕 …I now declare my Home my Temple (it IS . . .and ALWAYS has been …’My Church’ …Especially now that we ARE battling A diagnosis of SEVERE Parkinson’s vax injury …+ limb amputations …and can No longer attend other local services) …Therefore I, my Hubby, and our Family …are tax exempt also💕 …lol!💕

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