I received the following communication on Ladies Aid Sales. I place it, not in order to introduce another discussion on the question in our paper, but because I was foolish enough to put my nose into it. In the issue of Feb. 15 I wrote in connection with a remark made by Mr. G. Ten Elshof in Concordia: “This remark has nothing to do, of course, with the debate about the sales conducted by our Ladies Aid Societies. It is not my purpose to become a party in this debate. Nor is this necessary. The arguments raised against such sales in the debate will not prevent our ladies to continue, with a free conscience, to devote their time and efforts to the support of various causes such as the Standard Bearer, Christian Schools, our own schools, and the like. Only, instead of being compared to money changers in the temple, our ladies deserve a word of commendation and encouragement.”
It was not my purpose at all to start a discussion on the question that was thrashed out in Concordia, What I wanted is an explanation of the remark by Mr. Ten Elshof. (And I still want this. Mr. Ten Elshof never replied to my request). But I should never have written one word about those sales, if I wanted to avoid a discussion about them.
However, let me emphasize that the article by Mr. Van Putten is the only article that will be published. What follows here is not the beginning but the end of a discussion on the subject of sales, as far as the Standard Bearer is concerned.
Dear Editor of the Standard Bearer:
In the Standard Bearer of Feb. 15, the editor makes several statements that cannot go unchallenged but need clarification. In regard to the remarks concerning Ladies Aids, I would like to state the following: 1. That we all have a place for the Ladies Aids and that they can serve a blessed purpose in God’s Kingdom. 2. That the zeal of the Ladies is worthy of our highest praise. 3. However, that does not mean that the manner in which some of their activities is carried on necessarily deserves commendation and can carry away God’s blessing. If this is true we certainly cannot commend them in this and uphold these activities.
In the article referred to the Editor makes a short statement in which he brushes aside everything that has thus far been written on the subject of Ladies Aid Sales. Personally, I felt that this statement was a bit premature since the Editor had not read the last article that appeared on this subject. The Editor may change his mind and correct his statement, which is his privilege and which I expect he will also do.
However this may be, I feel that these statements, although very brief, need clarification and possibly retraction. With a view to that I would like to raise the following considerations:
1. The Editor states: “The arguments raised against such sales in the debate will not prevent our ladies to continue, with a free conscience. . . .” Here with one sweep of his pen he brushes aside all that has been raised in objection to these activities. The Rev. Hoeksema states that he does not wish to become a party to the debate but how can he evade that when he makes such a sweeping statement? Does he maintain that all that which has been written entirely misses the point and are not grounded objections? Is all that is being done and the manner in which it is being done to be lauded and encouraged?
2. Isn’t it, rather, pathetic that we must have sales and suppers in order to raise money for God’s Cause and Kingdom? Does the Editor commend such tactics?
3. In his statement the Editor implies that no wrong is done; nothing worthy of note has been said against the practice. But is this true? Does the Editor encourage this method of business by our Church Societies? If so, what is to refrain us from making business or recreation centers of our Churches under the auspices of the Societies? As long as all is done decently and in good order why not do it on a large scale? In this way we might possibly be able to raise all our Church and School expenses. It is evident, however, that this would supplant our offerings and the Church would no longer function. But if the large scale business is not right is it correct to permit it on a small scale?
4. The Editor gives the Ladies the “green light” when he writes “continue, with a, free conscience”. Here, it seems to me, it would have been much better if he had entered the debate rather than to write as he did. Here the Editor judges the conscientious objections that have been raised rather than to state his own position and let the readers judge. Possibly, I misunderstood him.
5. Far be it from any of us to compare our ladies to the money changers in the Temple or liken them to robbers and thieves. However, when through their activities the true worship of offering is being supplanted by other forms, the principle is contrary to the law of God. We may never believe that we need the aids to help the Church. I foresee a danger here.
6. I for one do not hesitate to object to the fact that I cannot find it proper to carry on a business under the name Church. I am a member of that Church and it makes a great deal of difference to me what our societies do in the buildings where we congregate to worship God. I object to be classified with business affairs of this nature, as long as this is conducted under the name of Church and in. our church parlor. Let the Ladies buy and sell but disassociate themselves with the name Church in these activities.
Let them buy their sales license and carry on outside of the Church, and I heartily bid them prosper.
Let them sew and give to the poor and needy as Aids, as Dorcas of old, and I rejoice with them.
7. Finally, I wish to remark that if the Editor will carefully take note of our State Laws then the “green light” will turn “red”. I have checked the law since I read Mr. Kortering’s last article and find that if we wish to be law abiding all these sales are done. The general Sales Tax Law forbids all these sales without a license to conduct them. I refer to article No. 167, Public Acts of 1933 as amended to March 1, 1940, rule No. 15 which deals with Ladies Aids or Societies or Churches. This law is carefully defined and rules out all these activities. So much so that I feel our consistories will have to rule them out in order to obey God’s law of, unless we as Churches desire to come under the law as taxable corporations.
In closing I wish to state that I have always been a promoter of Ladies Aid activities under the Scriptural idea of aid to the poor and needy. On the other hand I have always opposed these sales no matter how small they may be. As we crave God’s blessing upon our Churches let us guide our affairs in the way of blessing.
Your brother in Christ,
H. A. Van Putten.
A few brief remarks in reply:
1. To begin with the last argument. If the Sales Tax Law would apply to Ladies’ Aid Sales, it would not follow that they had to be outlawed. Our Ladies’ Aid Societies, I suppose, could obtain a license and collect sales tax.
On the face of it, however, this argument is false. If it were true, the law would certainly prosecute. Ladies’ Aid Sales are conducted quite generally and openly. There is nothing secret about it. Yet the authorities never require that they be licensed.
If brother Van Putten had inquired of those that are in a position and have authority to interpret the Jaw, instead of trying to read it himself, he would have discovered that the Sales Tax Law does not at all apply to such matters as Ladies’ Aid Sales. Lest our ladies, perhaps, should be troubled in conscience by this bogey, I made such inquiry. The result is that I found out that, according to authorities on this matter, the Sales Tax Law does not at all apply to such affairs as Ladies’ Aid Sales, but only to those to which the term “regularly engaged” can be applied. According to a ruling by the attorney general, such things as Ladies’ Aid Sales absolutely do not come under the Tax Law.
2. Ladies’ Aid Sales are a work of Christian love pure and simple. They do not fall under the term “business”. The ladies donate everything for such a sale: their time, their effort ,and the material for the goods sold. And the money received they donate to some cause of God’s kingdom. Why it is wrong to donate one’s time and effort to the kingdom of God is impossible for me to see.
3. As far as I know, Ladies’ Aid Sales in our churches are not necessitated by the fact that our people are unwilling to offer freely for God’s Kingdom, or to meet the Church budget. But if ever such conditions should develop anywhere, don’t blame the Ladies’ Aid Sales (they still do a good work), but the people that have no love for the cause of God’s Kingdom.
4. Our Ladies’ Aids are not the Church in any sense, nor do they represent the Church, nor do they conduct their sales in the name of the Church. They are free societies. That they use the name of the Church to which their members belong is merely to distinguish them from other Ladies’ Aids. In no sense, therefore, can it be said that the Church conducts sales when the ladies sell their goods.
5. If the work of Dorcas, which would appear to pertain especially to the deaconate, is justifiable (and I have no objections), that of our Ladies’ Aids, which has nothing to do with the work of the Church institute, certainly cannot be condemned.
6. If there is anything objectionable in the way the sales are conducted, remove the objectionable element: don’t throw the baby overboard with the bath.