Not for love of money, but of Humanity. "Greater is he who works for the good of all, then he who works for the good of himself only" ~ Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"- (NIV). I live in Singapore where the Emperor must not be disturbed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Re: Megachurches' tax status bears scrutiny- Response to Tan Lip Kee

Disclaimer: the following responses are accurate only to the extent of being my personal opinion/ research.

Originally Posted by lipkee1 View Post
I refer to the ST article by Andy Ho titled “Megachurches’ tax status bears scrutiny” dated 1 April 2010.

I find it unfortunate though, that Andy failed to make a distinction between churches that do not solicit funds from the general public with charities that do. By using terms such as ‘public charities’, ‘public policy’ and ‘public money’ in his discussion about churches, he might have caused some confusion among his readers who may be led to think that churches are involved in soliciting funds from the general public like charities such as Ren Ci Hospital and NKF, when in fact churches only receive tithes and offerings from their members. In this respect, churches are similar to private foundations whose funds come from select groups of individuals and families and not the general public.
Please lah, does the Church hold an exclusive member list whereby only the collections from 'members' are accepted- given the hype, not to mention false teaching of CHC (see: Prosperity gospel: A Ponzi scheme of Biblical Proportion?)- there ought to be a large number of unnamed visitors who 'donate' and CANNOT be accounted for- so in this sense, the Church is public.
In anycase, a Church is granted 'charity status' based upon the premise that it is able to contribute to the 'advancement of religion'- can this role be conducted in a vacuum? may I quote:
'Applying for charity status'
Being a charity is a matter of status, not of organisational structure. Charity status brings certain benefits such as
  1. All registered charities in Singapore enjoy automatic tax exemption.
  2. It gives a standing and credibility to the organisation.
  3. Charitable status is beneficial for fund raising. Many grant-giving trusts and foundations can only give funding to recognised charities. "Charity" is a very emotive word and can be very persuasive in encouraging the general public to donate.
Originally Posted by lipkee1
As to whether the funds of a church and its related entities should be subject to taxation, I think a distinction should be made between income generated from business activities and the tithes and offerings received from church members. In view of the difference in their nature – one being commercial and the other being non-commercial, I believe the former should be subject to taxation but not the latter. In order to properly record and report the different forms of activities conducted by the church and its related entities, it is therefore crucial for churches to make sure their organisational structure and their accounting functions are suitably set up and adequately segregated. Having said the above, I reckon this is a matter best left to the relevant authorities to deliberate and decide upon. ...
My dear, ALL goods and services in Singapore are taxed 7%. The Church is granted exemption from many taxes premised upon it's ability to contribute to the 'advancement of religion'. To that effect, it must be ascertained that EVERYTHING that the Church does must be to this effect in a peaceful and progressive way, however, with Church members dong such nit-picking with the govt, I really don't find this to be the case.

With regards the motivation of the mega churches getting involved in commercial deals, I am of the view that they are not motivated by profits, but by the practical needs for larger venues to accommodate their growing congregations.
Please lah, I'm still awaiting a response to my article: Prosperity gospel: A Ponzi scheme of Biblical Proportion?
- Is it a Ponzi scheme that keeps getting bigger?

Originally Posted by lipkee1
In Singapore, land plots allotted for religious use are limited in availability and size – a typical plot is usually around 4,000 sq m in size, which is good for a 1,000 plus seat sanctuary. With such strict zoning of land usage in Singapore, mega churches are, in a sense, ‘forced’ to take the commercial path. How many of us would seriously regard committing funds into the building of a civic and cultural centre or the securing of some convention facilities as the best way to invest for profits? If the key objective were to be profits, I believe most of us would prefer to go for the many other options available. ...
Please lah, for the 'advancement of religion', you really don't need on a weekly/ daily basis such a large convention center. In this modern day, preaching/ services can also be conducted via internet/ neighborhood Church assessable on foot- or anywhere else for that matter. One should start looking inwardly and not complain especially when established Christian sites are condemning the philosophies of these 'Mega-churches', such as: 'What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel?'

Originally Posted by lipkee1
... ...
As for the issue on members’ voting rights, I believe that in large organisations, for practical and efficiency reasons, it is not uncommon to have a smaller group of voting members making decisions on behalf of the larger whole of all members. In Singapore, a church may set its own policies on membership criteria, privileges and voting rights and these are subject to approval by the Registrar of Societies. Setting the appropriate criteria for full voting membership is an important step to protect the vision and the finances of a church, or for the matter, any society or association.

Valid concerns and suggestions have been raised by various quarters in our community since City Harvest Church made their announcement on the Suntec deal. Let us trust the Commissioner of Charity and his team, whom I understand are looking into the matter, to carry out the necessary investigations and clarifications, and to enforce the appropriate measures to safeguard the best interests of everyone concerned.

Tan Lip Kee
Whatever you say about 'voting rights'. All I want to say is that with PKMS, a local political party plagued by a $10M property windfall and brought to its knees (see:Is this $10m site the reason behind the PKMS fracas?) forewarning about the consequences of human greed and the fierce criticisms within the Christian community condemning the preaching of the 'prosperity gospel', identifying such preachers as "dangerous false teachers" unanswered; accepting the $310 Suntec deal as proper is like anticipating another 9/11- in slow motion this time.

The objections to the 'Prosperity Gospel' have to first be reconciled with before any 'mega-church' is to be accepted as contributing to the 'advancement of religion'.

Posted to
A1 forums: 4Apr2010 (Re: Megachurches' tax status bears scrutiny- Response to Tan Lip Kee)

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