Last updated on: 2/7/2013 | Author:

Dean M. Kelley, ThM Biography

Former Counselor on Religious Liberty to the National Council of Churches
Pro to the question "Should Churches (Including Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt?"

“[T]ax exemption is not something churches (or any nonprofit voluntary organizations, for that matter) win by ‘good’ behavior or lose by ‘bad’ behavior, as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ may be defined at will by incumbent officials from day to day. Churches have their essential function to perform, which they do—and have done for decades and centuries—as best they can, and which outsiders, particularly government officials, cannot judge, and—even if they could—do not have the wisdom, means or right to try to improve the churches’ performance. Loss of tax exemption will not make poorly functioning churches function better, and the threat of it will only have a ‘chilling effect’ on those that are not doing too well as it is, so that they will tend to falter and ‘lose their nerve’ and do even less well.

Tax exemption is not something to be turned on and off like a spigot, but an optimum, constant condition for allowing the religious function to be performed in a ‘free market’ situation, where would-be practitioners are allowed to ‘sink or swim’ on the basis of how well they meet the religious needs of adherents—without governmental interference, either to hinder or to ‘help’ (which is still to hinder). One does not have to be a partisan of one religion or of any to appreciate and wish to maintain this commendable ‘hands off’ neutrality of government toward religion, which the First Amendment commands, and which tax exemption so excellently epitomizes.”

Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes, 1977

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Counselor on Religious Liberty to the National Council of Churches, 1960-1997
  • Executive for Religious Liberty, National Council of Churches, 1960-1990
  • Former Evangelism Committee member, National Council of Churches
  • Former Minister, Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church, New York, NY, and other churches in New York and Colorado
  • ThM, Iliff School of Theology, 1949
  • Graduated, University of Denver, 1946
  • Died of cancer in West Swanzey, NH on May 11, 1997
  • Had one daughter (Lenore)
  • Married Maryon Hoyle in Denver, CO on June 8, 1946
  • Born in Cheyenne, WY on June 1, 1926
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should Churches (Including Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt?