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Resolution On Pending Amendments To Social Security Act

From time to time various amendments have been proposed to the Social Security Act some of which, if enacted in the law, would vitally affect the beliefs and time-honored practices of Baptists as well as people of other faiths. From time to time the Southern Baptist Convention has had occasion to vigorously protest certain amendments to this Act. Attention is called to a most important proposed change which, if enacted into law, will vitally affect Baptist churches and institutions throughout the land, and will be a marked advance on the part of the Government into religious affairs. At the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in San Antonio, Texas, in 1942, the Relief and Annuity Board had occasion to refer to then pending Social Security amendments in which the Convention was reminded of previous expression of views, made many times, against Government interference with the churches and agencies thereof. In the report to the Convention at San Antonio it said: “Southern Baptists are practically of one mind in their objection to any amendments to the Social Security Act which would result in the taxing of their churches and the agencies of the churches. Southern Baptists believe in the time-honored principle of the separation of church and state as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Bible teaching on this question is kept constantly in mind, namely: That Christian people are to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.'”

The then pending amendments to the Social Security Act, in so far as they relate to the taxing of churches died in committee.

The question has again arisen in a most dangerous and subtle form. There is now pending in Congress a bill styled: H.R. 3204, 78th Congress, First Session, which provides that any tax exempt organization “shall secure Federal old age and survivors insurance for its employees, and through such insurance provide for the payment of benefits to such employees, etc. . . .” The Bill further provides, in substance, for the creation of a special fund for “employees of religious, charitable, educational and certain other organizations,” and levies a tax on all such organizations beginning with 1% through 1947, 1 1/2% through 1950, and thereafter 2%, and for a like contribution by the employees. An elaborate set-up is provided for benefit payments, hearings, etc., with the right and power of the Board to issue subpoenas, investigate the records of the various churches and various institutions affected by the Act.

On the whole the Act has some very appealing features, and the wording thereof, as well as the argument which could be made in favor of its passage, is indeed very specious and thereby more dangerous. The proponents of the Act, in an effort no doubt to head off as much opposition as possible, have incorporated a clause that service performed by a “duly ordained . . . minister of any church in the regular exercise of his ministry, and service performed by regular members of religious orders in the exercise of duties assigned by such orders” are not embraced within the term “employment” as used in the Act. Those of us with any experience in our legislative history will see at once that this exemption of ministers while in the regular exercise of their ministry is of a temporary nature. With other church and institutional employees such as secretaries, janitors, educational directors, teachers in colleges, etc., covered by the Act, it would be illogical and credulous to believe that ministers will be exempted very long.

The fundamental objection to the enactment of the proposed Extension of the Social Security Act, as well as any other of similar import, is that it permits the Federal Government to reach its hand into the affairs of local churches, and the various denominational agencies and institutions of our States, and of the Southern Baptist Convention. Whenever any government is empowered to tax churches, or the agencies thereof, that government has thereby obtained the power to destroy. If this power is ever granted, we are in extreme danger of seeing the destruction of our time-honored beliefs and traditions. The granting of the power to the Government to tax churches in any way, or any form whatsoever, is the first step in the rapidly expanding tendency to centralization of Governmental power which will lead to but one thing so far as Baptists and Protestants are concerned, and that is the establishment of a State church.

We realize that our Nation faces dangers of a most unusual nature. We are fighting for our National existence and our way of life. The war has changed many things, some perhaps for better, and some for worse. The Government has rightly insisted upon the subordination of everything to one object, the winning of the war. Our people have loyally complied. They have surrendered their individual rights, sacrificed their own interests and suppressed their own convictions in order that the Government might have a free hand in carrying on the war. Generally speaking, where our people could not commend they have kept silent. All of this is indubitable proof of our patriotism. Such submission to Government authority in times of war should not signify that we have ceased to think for ourselves, nor should such submission indicate that we have forgotten our inalienable religious rights and privileges under our system of government, nor forbid us to protest their violation.

Now, whereas:

The foregoing statement emphasizes our need to reaffirm our opposition to any governmental interference with our religious work,

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that,

Faced as we are with the violation of what we believe to be our time-honored principles of the separation of church and state, we once more protest the passage of any Act, whether an amendment to the Social Security Act or other legislation, however speciously worded or in whatever form, which permits the Federal Government to lay its hand in any way, method or manner upon the affairs of our churches or our denominational agencies. In making this protest we again assert that the church of Jesus Christ cannot subject itself to any outside control, nor bend to any Governmental authority; and that the right of civil and religious liberty, carrying with it the entire separation of Government in the affairs of religion, is, in the sight of God, the inalienable and indefeasible right of every Christian of whatever creed, color or race. These rights are of priceless value, the adherence to which will not only preserve religious liberty but promote the civil well-being of all our people.