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The IRS and the Private Schools

Some time ago we presented reports of the attempt of the IRS to require of private schools proof that they were not established for the purpose of evading the regulations concerning racial discrimination in the public schools. If such proof was not given, these schools would lose their tax-exempt status. The difficulty with the requirement was that it placed the whole burden of proof on the private school. It had to prove itself innocent according to the regulations of the IRS if its tax-exempt status would be continued. In addition, the IRS proposal failed to take into consideration the many other possible reasons for a racial imbalance within private schools. 

The proposal drew unprecedented response from the public. The result was that the IRS backed off for review and revised proposals. Had it not done so, the real prospect was that Congress would have rejected the proposal. However, the revision which appears to be a reasonable modification, in fact does not change the main thrust of the ruling. I quote from Human Events, February 24, 1979 on this:

The Internal Revenue Service has released its amended version of the proposed regulations affecting private schools, and just as opponents had feared . . . , the new edict includes changes that appear to be improvements over the earlier proposal but do not eliminate its major flaw: the requirement that many schools will be assumed guilty of racial discrimination until they prove themselves innocent to the IRS’s satisfaction. 

As previously reported, the trouble with the earlier proposal was its arbitrary—and legally dubious—assertion that schools should be presumed guilty of racial discrimination until proven innocent simply because they (1) fail to meet a quota of minority enrollment, and (2) were either founded or substantially expanded at about the time that public school desegregation plans were being carried out in the same communities. Such so-called “reviewable” schools would then be compelled to meet an array of costly affirmative-action requirements, or else lose their tax-exempt status and their right to receive tax-deductible contributions—the life-blood of many such schools. 

The new proposal, which appears in the February 13 issue of the Federal Register, seems to be much more reasonable because it adds a third factor to the definition of the affected so-called “reviewable” schools—namely, that its “creation or substantial expansion was related in fact to public school desegregation in the community” (emphasis added). But while at first glance this would seem to indicate that the agency would have to produce some evidence of discriminatory intent on the part of a school before placing it in the suspect “reviewable” category, closer inspection reveals that this is not the case. 

Instead, Sec. 3(.03)(c) of the new ruling states that the formation or substantial expansion of a school during a period of public-school desegregation will ordinarily “be considered to be related in fact to public-school desegregation,” but that the agency will magnanimously “consider evidence” that such activity was not in fact so related. 

In short, despite the newly deceptive wording, the burden of proving their innocence remains with the schools as much as ever. 

Because the new wording looks more reasonable, however, it may be much more difficult to get the necessary votes in Congress to prevent this power grab. On the assumption that this would happen, opponents had hoped to get congressional hearings scheduled on the regulations before the new version was published. However, as we revealed in our February 3 issue, Chairman Sam Gibbons (D.-Fla.) of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee agreed to hold up the probe until IRS was ready. Those hearings are now slated for February 20-22. 

The IRS, which received some 130,000, letters against the original proposal, is now inviting comments on the new version. Address: Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Attn: E:EO, Washington, D.C. 20224. The deadline for the new comment letters is April 20.

One might do well to communicate to the Commissioner as well as to one’s congressmen to express objection to the proposed ruling of the IRS on the tax-exempt status of private schools. Such letters should contain specific objections as: (1) that this proposal places the burden of proof for innocence on the schools and (2) fails to recognize properly that racial imbalance is often due to other factors than a desire to discriminate. 

Canadian Reformed-Orthodox Presbyterian

These two denominations, the Canadian Reformed (liberated) and the Orthodox Presbyterian, have been discussing closer ties of fellowship. Calvinist Contact, Feb. 2, 1979, reports:

The Canadian Reformed Church has strengthened her ties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as a result of a meeting in October between committees of both denominations. The meeting was the result of some three years of correspondence between the churches.

A delegation of five men, members of the Committee for Ecumenicity, represented the Canadian Reformed Church at a meeting in Philadelphia with members of the OPC Inter-Church Relations Committee. 

The Canadian Reformed delegation came with a proposal for ecclesiastical contact with the OPC, the result of a decision taken by the Canadian Reformed Synod of Coaldale, 1977. 

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church Committee will recommend to its General Assembly later this year that it consider the Canadian Reformed Church to be a “church in ecclesiastical fellowship”. If approved, it would result in an exchange of fraternal delegates at major assemblies, joint action in areas of common responsibility, communications on issues of common concern, and the exercise of mutual concern and admonition with a view to promoting the fundamentals of Christian unity. 

A discussion on church government and confession was postponed until a future meeting to be hosted by the Canadian Reformed Church.

“…Whose Heart the Lord Opened”

From Christianity Today, January 19, 1979, comes a report of the high-powered approach for the establishment of new congregations. It concerns the efforts of the Reformed Church in America:

An old church denomination has a new approach to church-planting. The result has been the formation of three new congregations in Dallas, Texas. The 350-year-old Reformed Church in America broke from traditional methods of church mission with its “Dallas Project.” The 15.5 persons who attended the first services last month were the fruit of a complex program of statistical research, telephone surveys, and media promotions. 

. . . The Dallas Project came from a $6 million, five-year church growth drive within the 215,000- member body. Concerned about decreasing membership figures, church leaders set a minimum goal of twenty-five new churches a year. They were particularly interested in areas that had no Reformed Church influence. 

Dallas was selected for the initial thrust of the church growth drive only after extensive demographic research had been made of several U.S. cities. 

. . . With a Dallas advertising agency that “helped . . . sharpen the process,” Paulsen designed a media strategy for the Dallas Project. He used the newspapers and radio to promote a telephone survey of 4,500 persons in the northern suburbs of Dallas.

Volunteers from Reformed churches staffed the telephone lines, introducing themselves as members of the denomination of Norman Vincent Peale and television pastor Robert Schuller—n attempt to get name recognition. Then the respondents were queried about church attendance. If they had no affiliation with a local church, they were invited to join a new Reformed Church congregation. 

With information gained from the telephone surveys, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, marketing studies, and commuter patterns, the project staff members determined where to plant the first churches. Facilities were rented in the Dallas suburbs of Plano, Carrolton, and North Dallas. These were areas “that were growing more rapidly than existing churches could respond to,” said Paulsen. 

Initially, the objective of the project was to establish three congregations of 1,000 members each. But their goals have changed. “The people that we’ve talked to say they want to attend smaller churches where they’re known by name and where their contributions are counted as worthwhile,” Paulsen said. 

From the three-year, $800,000 budget, the project will purchase media spots to promote the Reformed Church drive. A series of ads ran in Dallas newspapers and on radio to promote a Christmas Eve service in a North Dallas Holiday Inn—the central meeting place for the new congregations. 

Pastors of the three new churches were selected by a task force of Reformed Church laymen and pastors from a long list of applicants. . . . 

Paulsen, 36, denies that the Dallas Project ignores the human element by way of a calculated, Madison Avenue approach. “Having done the research carefully, using the available resources, we now are freed to be as completely human in Christ as we can be,” he said.

That means must be used to promote the truths of the gospel seems undeniable. The approach reported above, however, appears utterly foolish. It is not a question of ignoring the “human element by way of a calculated, Madison Avenue approach.” One rather gets the impression that there is the ignoring of the “Divine element” in mission work. There seems to be no confidence in the power of the cross and the work of the Spirit. The “Madison Avenue approach” appears to be the better method of establishing the church of Christ. One wonders about the work of the missionary Paul when the Spirit directed him where to go. Think of what he could have accomplished with 6 million dollars and Madison Avenue! Yet the Scriptural report is far, far more impressive. When Paul, for instance, went to Philippi, he began preaching first at the river side to a small group of women. The fruit of that work was assured because of the work of the Spirit: “And a certain woman named Lydia . . . which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”