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Does a Church Fall Under the Dominion of Being Considered a Business?

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Is a church considered a business? Such a question is not an easy one to answer. On the one hand, businesses can serve several different purposes while church (and by extension, going to any religious service) serves an entirely different purpose. One the other hand, if you offer your services to a church and get paid for it, is that any different than working for a business? Let’s look at the arguments both for and against the question of whether or not a church can truly be considered a business, starting with arguments against.

The first thing to determine is what the purpose of business is and compare that to the true purpose of a church. A quick Google search shows you that a business falls under two specific definitions. The first tells us that a business is what a person engages in to make them money through a trade or profession. The second tells us that a business equates to engaging in commerce. A church is a structure for Christian religious services. This shows a fundamentally different approach in terms of the purpose of both. To put it simply, you engage in business to make money while you go to church to engage in Christian religious services.

The second argument is regarding taxation. Most businesses exist to pursue commercial or monetary profit and are therefore subject to taxes as sales and income tax. Churches do not pursue profit as part of their main mission and often engage in charity. This gives them a tax exemption if they adhere to the criteria determined by the IRS and do not engage in politics.

Let’s now look at arguments in favor of considering churches a business. The first argument is basic and says that churches are indeed businesses because they make money. Though not explicitly in existence to engage in commerce, churches often still require annual budgets gained from charitable donations and products offered. These budgets are then spent on such things as maintenance and payrolls of people who work at the institution. How is that any different from what you see at your typical business?

The second argument ties into the first. Some people hope to avoid taxation by setting up their money-making organization under the guise of a church. When this is successful, it shows a rather thin line between church and business. Some of the mega-churches blur this line quite successfully.

The third argument involves licensing. Churches require a business license even though they are exempt from paying both a business license processing fee and a gross receipts tax. Does that not bring them under the umbrella definition of being a business?

In conclusion, you could make the argument that a church both is and is not a business. There are several arguments both for and against the notion. You could even make the argument that a church is a type of pseudo-business since it does make money even though its purpose lies far beyond that.

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