By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You might not be surprised to see a sign outside a church that says drinking and drugs are not permitted. But you, like the tax assessor in Florida, might be more surprised to see an ATM at the entrance of the Panama City Florida Tabernacle that had a website advertising a seven night a week party that, according to reports, featured the sexiest women on the beach and sold sexually explicit t-shirts.
Which raises the question: why the hell do they get a tax exemption?
Churches and religious organizations qualify for exemption from federal income tax and are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. But in order to qualify, an organization’s earnings can’t be for the benefit of any private individual, it can’t use a substantial part of its income to influence legislation or win political campaigns, its activities can’t be illegal and it has to be organized exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes – And sex ed with a loser doesn’t count either as educational or charitable, at least not for federal tax purposes.
Which is why the tax assessor and the IRS are investigating whether to remove the tax-exempt status from what may basically be a religiously themed nightclub.