Caesar’s continued war against the Church…

July 31st, 2012 Post by

In 2007 the United States House of Representatives passed “The College Cost Reduction and Access Act.”  This act established the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.  Under the provisions of this program, Federal Direct student loans of those who are in public service.  The definition of this is:

PUBLIC LAW 110–84—SEPT. 27, 2007 121 STAT. 801

20 U.S.C. 1087e

‘‘[(m)(1)](B) PUBLIC SERVICE JOB.—The term ‘public service job’ means—

‘‘(i) a full-time job in emergency management, government, military service, public safety, law enforcement, public health, public education (including early childhood education), social work in a public child or family service agency, public interest law services (including prosecution or public defense or legal advocacy in low-income communities at a nonprofit organization), public child care, public service for individuals with disabilities, public service for the elderly, public library sciences, school-based library sciences and other school-based services, or at an organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code; or

‘‘(ii) teaching as a full-time faculty member at a Tribal College or University as defined in section 316(b) and other faculty teaching in high-needs areas, as determined by the Secretary.’’

Under the underlined provision, this would include pastors and teachers in the LCMS, who after being a part of certain repayment plans would have their student loans forgiven after 10 years of repayment.  The LCMS even promoted this among our recent graduates.  Another LCMS page speaks about the program here.

Two weeks ago, the application for this program finally became available.  You can see it online here.  What is odd is that the definition of Public Service jobs has changed from the signed law.  It seems that the executive branch of our government which has shown so much hostility to the Church lately (see the Hosanna Tabor case, also the Religious Freedom cases that Pres. Harrison has been championing) has now taken aim at our church workers who carry loans.

Here is what language is added:

Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, when determining full-time public service employment at a not-for-profit organization you may not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.

So LCMS teachers and pastors, as well as church workers elsewhere are now not considered “public servants” by the executive branch of our government in spite of what the actual passed and signed Law says.  They will have to repay their student loans even though this Law made provision to forgive them.

 

What can be done?  If you have a younger pastor or parochial school teachers in your congregation, you should talk to them about it.  I would also suggest contacting your federal legislators as they may not know that their law has been “edited” to exclude church workers from the benefits that originally were given to them.  Also pray that our government would once again bow before the Lord who established them, and actually follow what is “King” in this land – The Constitution of the United States.






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  1. Sue Grabe Wilson
    July 31st, 2012 at 08:38 | #1

    Well, we can’t be too surprised. We are living in a time of not only adversity for the church, but genuine attack. The saddest part of this news from Pastor Scheer is that many, many Christians will either meet it with total apathy, or recite the world’s mantra of “separation of church and state” and actually agree with the law change.

  2. Joe Olson
    July 31st, 2012 at 09:02 | #2

    It is not appropriate for the executive branch to redefine terms that Congress already defined in the text of a law. That is effectively allowing the executive to legislate. Big old separation of powers issue there.

    That said, there is nothing unconstitutional about a definition of public service that does not include pastors or teachers at a christian school.

    As Christians we need to be careful of how much we want from Ceaser. If you take his subsidy, you will subject yourself to his authority. You will make your service, his service. The Supreme Court has long recognized that the Spending Power of Congress allows it to condition the receipt of money on adherence to federal standards and policies.

  3. David Hartung
    July 31st, 2012 at 09:17 | #3

    I understand the need to address the indebtedness incurred in the education of pastors and teachers, and I recognize the positive influence these people have on our society. That being said, I must question the wisdom of accepting government assistance in repaying student loans of our seminary graduates and the graduates of our teaching schools.

    Two things come to mind.
    1. He who pays the bills controls the content.

    In other words, if the government is paying for the education of our pastors, the government has some say in what our seminarians are taught. Don’t laugh, it can and will happen.

    2. Would you be comfortable with graduates of some other schools of theology being given this same privilege? I am thinking specifically of potential graduates of some of the radical Islamist schools which seem to be cropping up. Should the government forgive their student debt?

  4. July 31st, 2012 at 09:20 | #4

    @Joe Olson #2
    There is something unconstitutional to the executive branch changing Laws on its own either by amending them (the job of the legislative branch) or by re-interpreting them (the job of the judicial branch). Excluding pastors and other church workers by executive fiat is not in keeping with the Constitution or the original Law (passed by Congress, signed by the President).

    @Mark Loder #3
    Income Based Repayment and Income Contingent Repayment are different payment plans for Federal Student loans. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is on top of those. If you are in IBR for 25 years the remnant of the loan will be forgiven, but the forgiven amount (principal plus interest) will count as income for your taxes that 25th year.

    @Sue Grabe Wilson #1
    That is the saddest part.

    I WOULD ADD TO MY SUGGESTIONS: We need to as a Synod think of way in which church workers can come out of school without much student loan debt (without trading in the quality of education through non-residential training.)

  5. July 31st, 2012 at 09:27 | #5

    @David Hartung #4
    The Law states that an employee of a 501(c)3 is allowed to be a part of a program. This action changes that definition. As to government control over churches, look at the 501(c)3 as it is. You may also want to look at most “accreditation” stuff for our colleges and seminaries. Then there are all of the regulations already in place concerning church property (codes and so forth). All of this outside involvement can become “not good” at any time, but it is the system we have right now. We also have a system which allows for corrections to abuses, and that also should be used.

  6. Joe Olson
    July 31st, 2012 at 09:43 | #6

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #5

    Pastor Scheer — I already stated that the executive changing the definition set forth by congress is unconstitutional (that’s what my separation of powers comment means.) I then went on to state that there would be nothing unconstitutional about a definition that excludes pastors and Christian day school teachers — and that is correct. If Congress had defined “public service” to exclude clergy and teachers it would not violate the Constitution.

  7. July 31st, 2012 at 09:51 | #7

    @Joe Olson #7
    My mistake, I understood you to be saying something different. Thank you for the clarification.

  8. Pr. H. R. Curtis
    July 31st, 2012 at 10:01 | #8

    I don’t think this will hurt our teachers as most of their time is not spent in religious instruction. In fact, in our school we don’t count any of the time spent in religious instruction or chapel as part of the time required by the state of IL for a proper school year.

    But this is a terrible blow to pastors who took out loans counting on this program. . .

    +HRC

  9. ralph luedtke
    July 31st, 2012 at 10:57 | #9

    may we add polity war against the truth of teaching and proper usage and of course faithful pastors, faithful members and faithful wives and husbands standing firm in the love of Christ???

  10. Rev. Michael Piper
    July 31st, 2012 at 10:58 | #10

    Religious instruction – 2 hrs

    worship services – 1 hr

    proseletyzing – ??
    ___________________________

    3 or 4 hours

    On call 24 hrs a day x 7 days a week = 168 hours a week for a called position. 3 hours, 4 hours? Small percentage.

    Maybe we should be more annoyed than worried. I don’t think this rule will knock anyone out. But it still does not seem fair in that it judges what we do publically as not having public value.

  11. Carol Broome
    July 31st, 2012 at 12:27 | #11

    Pastor Joshua Scheer :I WOULD ADD TO MY SUGGESTIONS: We need to as a Synod think of way in which church workers can come out of school without much student loan debt (without trading in the quality of education through non-residential training.)

    This is extremely important.

  12. Rev. McCall
    July 31st, 2012 at 13:01 | #12

    1. Students should not enter into seminary assuming that the government will pay for or forgive their loans. Rather, whatever you need to borrow assume that you will need to pay back. If you cannot afford it you should seriously pray and consider whether or not you should go. I know too many men who go into seminary not caring about the loans or thinking the gov’t will help and they come out with (easily) $50,000 in debt. Prospective students MUST think about this BEFORE they enroll.

    2. Amen to Pr. Scheer’s comment. Congregations, districts, and synod MUST find a way to bring costs down and make seminary reasonable. I personally would favor synod or districts perhaps setting up funds to pay some or part or even all of incoming called pastors seminary debt. It would only benefit those who complete seminary and would provide a much needed relief to a new pastor starting out to know his district took some of the financial burden off his family.

  13. Joe
    July 31st, 2012 at 13:03 | #13

    I wonder if this is something that the LCMS can cooperate with other organizations to help change or at least bring to public attention. The Alliance Defense Fund for example has done some excellent work challenging the liberal establishment. This is America! Sue their pants off!

  14. Rev. Michael Piper
    July 31st, 2012 at 13:15 | #14

    “Districts perhaps setting up funds to pay some or part or even all of incoming called pastors seminary debt”

    I’m afraid what would happen is that districts would refuse to take candidates.

  15. Rev. Panzer
    July 31st, 2012 at 13:32 | #15

    Rev. McCall :
    1. Students should not enter into seminary assuming that the government will pay for or forgive their loans. Rather, whatever you need to borrow assume that you will need to pay back. If you cannot afford it you should seriously pray and consider whether or not you should go. I know too many men who go into seminary not caring about the loans or thinking the gov’t will help and they come out with (easily) $50,000 in debt. Prospective students MUST think about this BEFORE they enroll.
    2. Amen to Pr. Scheer’s comment. Congregations, districts, and synod MUST find a way to bring costs down and make seminary reasonable. I personally would favor synod or districts perhaps setting up funds to pay some or part or even all of incoming called pastors seminary debt. It would only benefit those who complete seminary and would provide a much needed relief to a new pastor starting out to know his district took some of the financial burden off his family.

    I serve on the KS District Educational Loan Repayment Committee. Yes, the KS District has a program to help churchworkers who have been out 10 years or less to pay down student loan indebtedness. District congregations are “encouraged” to designated their Ash Wednesday offering towards the District educational loan repayment/scholarship fund. Names are always kept confidential; we just receive the numbers from the applicants. Needless to say, they are staggering.
    Still, this program passed by Congress will only add to the increasing debt load of the United States. Rev. McCall’s words are wise for all to hear.

  16. Carl Vehse
    July 31st, 2012 at 13:41 | #16

    In addition to the concerns raised by Joe Olson @2, there is also the realization anytime Congress passes a law that uses the phrase, “Cost Reduction,” it is a good bet that costs will actually increase.

    This liberal-led College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 is an incredibly bad law (Bush, to his utter shame, did not veto it). It does not reduce the cost of education, including seminary education, which is partially driven by the cost of education in general. In fact the Act is likely to increase costs!

    The law limits the maximum monthly repayment of student loans and allows the federal (but not other) loans to be forgiven after 10 years of “public service.” This encourages students to seek to justify as large a loan as possible while in school, knowing that the total debt will not need to be paid back if one is in “public service.” Tuition increases, as university adminstrators well know, will no longer be constrained by supply and demand, or by such students’ concerns about how to afford the payments. Those who pay for their college education out of their own or their parents’ pocket will bear the higher burden.

    So who pays the forgiven loans? Colleges and universities? Don’t be ridiculous! The public service sector who benefitted from students’ education and work in a low-paying job? Negatory. It is the good ol’ taxpayer who will be bending over a little more, especially in 2017 when the first load of “loan forgiveness” will hit the fan.

    Now the question is – Should future servants of the Word participate in a (legal, but morally bankrupt) federal shell game that will eventually harm the people of this nation?

    Who should be helping with these pastors’ education? How about the organization whose constitution declares it shall “[r]ecruit and train pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers” and “support synodical colleges, universities, and seminaries”?

  17. MissionMobilizer
    July 31st, 2012 at 14:15 | #17

    I want to point out a factual error. :-) The application and subsequent changes to this program became available on January 31 of this year. I know because I applied for the program. I got turned down on a technicality – I had not consolidated my loans with “Federal Family Education Loans”.

  18. Lumpenkönig
    July 31st, 2012 at 16:09 | #18

    @Rev. McCall #12
    Perhaps it would be reasonable to move the Fort Wayne seminary overseas? For example, think how little it would cost an American student to study at an LCMS seminary in Nicaragua:

    http://blog.lcmsworldmission.org/2012/01/26/new-seminary-class-begins-studies-in-nicaragua/

    Newly ordained pastors could then set up shop in one of the many growing Hispanic areas in the USA……

    This is one example, but there are other countries where an American can study overseas cheaply……

  19. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    July 31st, 2012 at 16:13 | #19

    @Rev. Michael Piper #14
    I do believe that the Rocky Mountain district has a repayment program for graduates.

  20. sue wilson
    July 31st, 2012 at 19:56 | #20

    Many of you are missing the point of Pastor Scheer’s comment. In this case, the executive branch of the government changed a law passed by congress, without returning to congress, without going to court–but just by taking it onto their own to change a law in effect for 5 years.
    This is dangerous–not only because it attacks Christian workers, but not other non-profit organizational workers. Along with the attacks on religious freedom that we witnessed when President Harrison and other religious leaders were ridiculed and ignored in Washington a few months ago, we must begin to realize that this administration considers itself above the laws passed by the elected members of congress.
    If you stop and think for a moment you will realize the danger to all religious freedom presented by this administration.
    Stop getting stuck on whether the pastoral candidate should repay his loan and get to the root of the problem–government that genuinely wants religion to become a vague and unimportant part of this society. To put it another way, do you really enjoy being the lobster in the water — comfortable and warm — and slowly coming to a boil!

  21. Carol Broome
    July 31st, 2012 at 20:20 | #21

    @sue wilson #20
    Well put.

    I would add that the freedom of religious expression guarenteed in the US constitution has not historically been and must never be limited to freedom to say whatever you want on Sundays during church. That is just a small part of it.

  22. helen
    July 31st, 2012 at 20:42 | #22

    @sue wilson #20
    Of course. Isn’t ACORN a non-profit? Numerous campaign funds are running under that ‘cover’. And don’t forget Planned Parenthood!

    [Thanks for sparing "the mythical frog" this once!] :(

    So, write your Congressman!

  23. Lumpenkönig
    July 31st, 2012 at 20:45 | #23

    @Lumpenkönig #18
    Yes, I am replying to my own quote. There is no way for a blogger to return to an old post and edit it himself without asking the webmaster to do it. I wanted to add one thing:

    I would wager that none of the seminary students at The Lutheran Seminary in Nicaragua will graduate with any student loan debt.

  24. helen
    July 31st, 2012 at 20:58 | #24

    A loan is a loan.
    I think students would re order their priorities if they didn’t believe it was monopoly money! It looks like the generation which was given “everything their parents did without” thinks it should live well on someone else’s money indefinitely!
    When will they grow up and support themselves?

    Why did Congress pass this giveaway Act at all?
    [Aren't we deeply enough in debt paying off banks and large corporations?] :(

  25. David Hartung
    July 31st, 2012 at 21:09 | #25

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #5

    Pastor Scheer,
    Everything you say is true. You are also correct to be concerned that the Executive branch seems to have unilaterally changed a law passed by Congress. I recognize all that. I am simply one who more and more, has come to believe that the less the Church has to do with government, the better off we are.

    In order for the Lutheran Church to survive, Luther had to get cozy with the princes of his day. In the 19th Century, German Lutherans paid the penalty for that coziness. I am not faulting Luther, he did what he had to do. I am simply saying the the two kingdoms should be as separate as possible.

  26. July 31st, 2012 at 21:20 | #26

    @Carl Vehse #16
    Do you not benefit from a pastor’s “public service”?

  27. July 31st, 2012 at 21:23 | #27

    @David Hartung #25
    You may be right, but I wonder what the results will be in the local congregation when the members no longer receive tax benefits for their charitable giving. I fully believe that is what is coming down the road unless our government dramatically changes course (and I don’t see that happening with any result in this election).

    One of the biggest problems we have in this country is that if you ask most people who or what replaced King George III, they will answer “the President”. The real answer is “the Constitution”. If more people understood that, they would be objecting to such violations of authority as this example represents.

  28. David Hartung
    July 31st, 2012 at 22:09 | #28

    Pastor Joshua Scheer :
    @David Hartung #25

    One of the biggest problems we have in this country is that if you ask most people who or what replaced King George III, they will answer “the President”. The real answer is “the Constitution”. If more people understood that, they would be objecting to such violations of authority as this example represents.

    Absolutely!

  29. Carl Vehse
    July 31st, 2012 at 22:41 | #29

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #26 : Do you not benefit from a pastor’s “public service”?

    The answer to that question is “Yes.”

    However “Yes” should not be the answer to the question asked in #16.

  30. Jim Riske
    July 31st, 2012 at 22:42 | #30

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #27

    Since the law is fairly clear, this SHOULD be a case where a district court ruling should solve the problem. Might not, but should. Have we tried calling the ACLJ?

  31. Win
    July 31st, 2012 at 22:48 | #31

    Pastor Joshua Scheer :
    @Carl Vehse #16
    Do you not benefit from a pastor’s “public service”?

    With all respect, Pastor, it should have been obvious to everyone that that’s not the point that Carl was making. Re-defining the Holy Ministry as “Public Service”, mixes the two kingdoms with potentially disastrous results. If we accept this definition, the Hosanna Tabor case can be re-opened and litigated on that basis. Don’t go there!! It is without question that the current administration is hostile to Christianity.

    This problem of huge student loads might have been avoided if the LCMS had not decided that directed giving was a good thing. “Bottom line” management strikes again!

  32. July 31st, 2012 at 23:13 | #32

    @Jim Riske #30
    I am in consultation with a few folks about it, not the one you mentioned.

    @Win #31
    I guess I don’t understand it. Pastors do serve a general good for society, and in the kingdom of this world that is public service (and if they want to recognize it as such they can). Yes, it is not the pastor’s proper work, but it is a “side-effect” of their proper work. Was Pres. Harrison’s description of the LCMS making “good citizens” for our country a mixing of the two kingdoms?

    Fact of the matter is this, guys who want to become pastors in the LCMS have to take out student loans. Even with each seminary working hard to lessen the cost through student adoption and trying to offer tuition reduction, they can’t keep up. The estimated cost for a single man to attend Fort Wayne is $43,000 per year (families expenses are higher). Three years of that plus a vicarage year are plenty of costs (at least $129,000 if vicarage is a break-even experience).
    This is based upon the figures at: http://ctsfw.edu/document.doc?id=738

    I can’t tell how many guys graduated from CTS or CSL this year, but say it is like 150 each year, so to cover each year’s graduating class costs, it would take our Synod 19.3 million each year to cover all the costs (again, estimating 150 grads each year and using the numbers for “single” men). Our Synod’s budget in 2011 was 86.9 million. Seminaries according to the Synod receive 2% of that. Missions Services gets 30 million of that total. (according to: http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=932 )

    Could our Synod find the money? I think so.

  33. The PPPadre
    July 31st, 2012 at 23:56 | #33

    #1 – Executive Orders carry the weight of legislation and can be overturned by subsequent legislation, but this EO is a clarification in light of other legislation and court interpretation. The definition does not say that those who are engaging in religious instruction, worship, and/or proselytization are ineligible for the program. You just can’t count those activities towards the definition of “full time employment.” To do so would be to provide dollars directly to sectarian activities, which has long been held to violate the establishment clause. (For example, textbook grants can be used by parochial schools to buy math or science books but not catechisms.) It is entirely appropriate for an executive department to incorporate all pertinent legislation and court precedents into their EOs pertaining to the enforcement/execution of a particular new law.

    #2 – Using the principles set forth in the opinion of the court in Hosanna Tabor, one does not have to spend a majority of their time in purely sectarian activities to be classified as a “minister” under the law of the land. As Pr. Piper mentioned, called pastors and teachers should not have difficulty establishing sufficient duties to be considered “full time” even apart from the activities excluded from the calculus. By the way, “full time employment” is not specifically defined by the Department of Labor. It leaves that determination to the employer. I haven’t read the entirety of this legislation, but I would imagine that there aren’t any surprises. Most of the labor regulations say that at 40 hours per week, you must be considered full time, but, no minimum is established for that designation. Likewise, Obamacare considers 30 hrs/wk as the maximum one can work without being considered full time for the purposes of that act, but no minimum is listed. At one time, Concordia Plan Services defined “full time” as a minimum of 20 hrs/wk in order to qualify for coverage. Surely our pastors and teachers can detail 20 hrs/wk of “secular” duties included in their “employment.”

    #3 – In answer to the “what to do” question: fill out the paperwork and apply for the program. Nothing can be done until someone has been “harmed” by the clarification of the definition. If the clarification does not exclude clergy and religious teachers, then this is much ado about nothing. If the clarification does end up harming clergy and religious teachers, then the appropriate secular recourse is the clarification of the courts.
    But be careful what you wish for. In Plessy v. Ferguson, both the plaintiffs and the railroad company wanted a segregation law overturned, so they fabricated a test case. What they gave us, however, was 50+ years of “separate but equal” as the law of the land, rife with abuse and misapplication. They made the situation worse, not better.

  34. Jack K
    August 1st, 2012 at 04:34 | #34

    Let’s see.

    I want freedom OF religion, with no government intervention, whatsoever.

    I, on the other hand desire to be trained to be a pastor in a religion with the government forgiving student loans to which I have become obligated, regardless of the fact that the recipients of my education constitute only a part of the country’s population.

    How many congregations, today provide a home for a pastor and his family? Isn’t it easier to provide money to the pastor and leave it to him to figure things out on his own?

    Why would a person even consider entering into the ministry, today when those whom he is to serve believe that it’s his problem to go into his education with the full knowledge that he does so at his total expense?

    Times, they have changed. Maybe it’s time for congregations to add student loan repayment in their calls, and not at the expense of other areas.

    I guess I only have questions. Sorry.

  35. August 1st, 2012 at 07:23 | #35

    Since, for most of the districts, the Synod’s constitution is their constitution (you could look it up), and training pastors is among the objectives of synod, it makes some sense that the districts ought to take a hard look at how they can assist in this objective. I like the idea of assisting with loans–but outright grants would be better yet. Again–this means that many districts have to re-order their priorities. Boards of Directors–take note!

  36. Sue Grabe Wilson
    August 1st, 2012 at 08:55 | #36

    While we certainly do not want to be legally linked to the government and obligated to follow their directions, that is exactly what is beginning to happen–note the so-called panel attended by President Harrison in Washington. The case that Pastor Scheer refers to is just the tip of the iceberg, if you can excuse an old cliche’.

    Also, our teachers most certainly do provide service and teaching to the public. Many non-members, and even non-Christians, are sending their children to parochial schools so that they will learn that there is absolute truth, right and wrong defined by a “higher power” if you will, and they want their children removed from the public school arena.

    While you may disagree, our pastors should also be participating in public service, leading their flocks into the community to serve the poor, the homeless, the widows, and elderly. We are obliged to aid both those within the church and outside of the church. Christ did not ignore the Greeks and Samaritans, nor did he withhold his miracles from the Romans. Though it was by far the most important, He did not only offer them his spiritual food.

  37. Rev. McCall
    August 1st, 2012 at 09:03 | #37

    @sue wilson #20
    I think we get Pr. Scheer’s point. The point lots are making on here is to stop relying on the government period. Comment #34 hits it pretty good with his first few sentences. If students enter seminary understanding and intending to pay back their loans on their own then what does it matter what the government does? Cut them out of the picture entirely. If we train and pay for our own education then there are no strings attached. If every pastor intended on paying back his loans or if we made seminary affordable this “ruling” by the government would mean nothing. But if you have your hand out and suddenly the gov’t takes away the cookie jar, then you really are in trouble!

  38. August 1st, 2012 at 09:27 | #38

    First of all, I don’t think anyone has mentioned that men are entering seminary counting on this. After all, this only became law in 2007. I know many men who once they entered the parish and started looking at the reality of the financial situation they found in the parish, that THEN they saw this program and entered it. I haven’t known anyone who talks flagrantly about this program as an excuse to “run up the bill”.

    The article is not primarily about student loan debt, but about the government’s continued animosity toward the Church.

    @Sue Grabe Wilson #36
    Also, let’s not forget that the members of the congregation are the “public” as well.

    @Win #35
    Actually, every District has to have the Synod’s Constitution as their own, and they also cannot have any bylaws which contradict Synod’s bylaws.

  39. Sue Grabe Wilson
    August 1st, 2012 at 09:38 | #39

    @ Rev McCall

    While you have answered one point, my concern is that we often do not realize that the danger to our religious freedom is not linked to a financial connection to the government.

    President Harrison’s visit to D.C. proved that there is a movement in our country to limit freedom of open speech of a religious (Christian) nature.

    When the executive branch can change laws without consulting either of the other two branches, then it can do pretty much as it pleases. We now have an executive branch that is showing itself hostile to the faith. The culture is hostile to the faith– if you have not read the following link, I hope that you will read it in its entirety http://www.mrc.org/eye-culture/media-crusade-against-chick-fil-continues . When a hostile executive branch receives such support from its base, there is no stopping what it can do if it is not required to consult other branches or the constitution.

    Pastors in England have already been arrested for “hate speech” from the pulpit. Such as saying that homosexuality is a sin. We must recognize that our religious freedom is not a permanent “given” in this country, and begin to watch what is happening (regardless of the concept of relying on the government) and speak up, or we could find ourselves unable to even speak the gospel outside of the church walls. Already we have teachers not allowed to bring their personal bibles to school, children not allowed to write about Jesus as the most influential person in their lives, etc. Gotta go–meeting time. Peace!

  40. Rev. Jesse Krusemark
    August 1st, 2012 at 13:25 | #40

    I became aware of the Obama administration’s narrowing application of the 2007 law to exclude clergy earlier this year but phoned Direct Loans (the holder of all loans to be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness) several times to get several different operators, and they all maintained that the program still applied to me, even after I directly questioned them about the Obama administration’s new interpretation of the law.

    Participation in this program was sort of scary from the start because one doesn’t actually enroll until he makes 120 qualified monthly payments in either the Standard or Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan and proves that he worked for a 501(c)(3) over this period. There aren’t any origination forms or documents for the program. One begins when he moves his loans to Direct Loans and makes his first payment.

    I did this in 2008, opting also for the IBR plan to get the lowest possible payment. This is where one rolls the dice. If it’s going to be forgiven, I’d want to pay the least amount in. If it’s not going to be forgiven, I’d have wanted to have kept up with payments I could afford because now the period of my payment will have been greatly extended as well as the total amount to be paid, given how interest works. I was not aware, as mentioned above, that participation in IBR ends after 25 years with the remainder of the loan counting as income that 25th year.

    Who knows what will happen politically over ten years, whether the 2007 law will even exist at that point, whether the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law will prevail? What I decided to do was to invest the difference between the Standard payment and the IBR payment in a Roth IRA in order to make a large payment at that ten year mark if necessary. Else it seems that I could save that money for a big fat tax bill at 25 years.

    As to whether it is morally appropriate for a pastor to participate in this program or whether the law is a good one in the first place, there has been good discussion here. I believe the church, me as a pastor, and my congregation do have a positive public impact that society may wish to support. At the same time I’d like to pay my own way and not burden others. I believe the church could step forward so that pastors do not have to make this choice. But the church seems to have already decided that it’s okay with being subsidized by the broader society given the number of pastors (while dutifully employed by a congregation) who must support their families through WIC, SNAP (food stamps), and other welfare sources.

  41. helen
    August 1st, 2012 at 13:26 | #41

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #26

    Pastor Scheer,
    I’ve benefitted greatly from Pastors’ “public service” although I usually thought of it as their serving Christ for my good.
    I’ve contributed a son to Synod and supported the sons of other people to some extent.

    I also pay taxes.
    But I think it becomes more and more unsafe for religion to rely on government for support/money. It may also be difficult to maintain the freedom to do what we believe: witness the HHS mandate.
    Like the “Bush tax cuts” this is another act of Congress that shouldn’t have happened, IMHO.

  42. The PPPadre
    August 1st, 2012 at 16:34 | #42

    Joe Olson @2 :
    It is not appropriate for the executive branch to redefine terms that Congress already defined in the text of a law.  That is effectively allowing the executive to legislate.

    Pastor Joshua Scheer@4 :
    There is something unconstitutional to the executive branch changing Laws on its own either by amending them (the job of the legislative branch) or by re-interpreting them (the job of the judicial branch).  Excluding pastors and other church workers by executive fiat is not in keeping with the Constitution or the original Law (passed by Congress, signed by the President).

    Pastor Joshua Scheer@5 :
    The Law states that an employee of a 501(c)3 is allowed to be a part of a program.  This action changes that definition.

    sue wilson@20 :
    Many of you are missing the point of Pastor Scheer’s comment. In this case, the executive branch of the government changed a law passed by congress, without returning to congress, without going to court–but just by taking it onto their own to change a law in effect for 5 years

    David Hartung@25 :
    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #5
    Pastor Scheer,
    Everything you say is true. You are also correct to be concerned that the Executive branch seems to have unilaterally changed a law passed by Congress.

    As much as I loathe many of the actions of the current occupant of the White House and detest many of the things he does which limit the free exercise of religion in this country, you all are simply barking up the wrong tree here. The executive branch has not authored new law or altered what Congress has passed.

    Let me put it into Lutheran cultural terms. Where in the Bible do you find the Words of Institution that Luther instructs in the Small Catechism for fathers to teach their children? You cannot find his exact phrasing in the “enabling legislation” of Scripture because Luther incorporates not only 1 Corinthians, but Matthew, Mark and Luke as well. Would we accuse Luther of taking his own initiative to change the words of our Lord because of this? Of course not. Neither should we, in this instance, accuse the administration of malfeasance for merely incorporating the language of legislation and court interpretations going back at least as far as The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and subsequent court challenges to that act. It has been held in this country for more than 50 years to be a violation of the Establishment Clause to provide direct funding to religious education, worship, or proselytization. If you have a problem with this, your problem is not with the current Chief Executive, but with Lyndon Johnson and the Warren/Burger Courts, if not the Constitution itself.

    Unless and until you can demonstrate that someone has been denied entry into this program solely because they are a pastor or religious teacher who otherwise meets all of the other requirements of the program, I would suggest dropping this. Unless you can demonstrate that Congress intended to enact a law that was either patently in violation of the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause or sought to amend the Constitution and overturn nearly 60 years of jurisprudence by repealing the Establishment Clause, we should probably refrain from calling “evil” the “good” action of the executive in making sure that ALL precedents passed by Congress and established by the courts were followed. We should do this not only because of the obvious, dominical proscriptions (which are indeed more than sufficient), but also for the added practical consideration that such false cries of persecution only serve to lessen the impact of legitimate objections, such as those raised by President Harrison in his appearance before the Congressional committee.

    There is much to decry regarding this administration’s treatment of religious freedom. This is not one of them. Let’s not weaken our voice by espousing falsehood, half-truths, or mistaken notions.

  43. Rev. McCall
    August 1st, 2012 at 18:25 | #43

    I am not denying that the government is trying to infringe or limit religion or religious expression. My question is, ‘Why is this such a surprise?’ Jesus didn’t say the world would love His followers, He said the world would hate them. So the government says religion can’t benefit from a school loan program. I say, So what?! Then let’s not rely on the government in any way! The government can only bother us if we believe we are of this world and not of Christ. We serve the risen Christ, not Caesar. If the government wants to take our money, our buildings, our very lives, SO WHAT! They can never take what has been won for us and given to us in Christ Jesus. St. Paul looks at every hardship and imprisonment and persecution by the gov’t or anyone else for that matter as an opportunity; an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and risen, even if that opportunity might be in a prison cell awaiting death. So who cares if the gov’t hates religion. Let’s man up as Christians and set our minds on the things that are above. Let’s remember who we truly serve.

  44. Mrs. Hume
    August 5th, 2012 at 15:13 | #44

    Military chaplains?

  45. David Hartung
    August 5th, 2012 at 18:04 | #45

    Mrs. Hume :
    Military chaplains?

    An example of one who is paid by Caesar and must as a result obey Caesar.

    LCMS Chaplains are expected to provide pastoral care to all Lutherans in their units, I assume this means to serve them at the Lord’s Table. What do you suppose the result would be should an LCMS chaplain refuse to commune an ELCA service member because they are in different church bodies?

    Off topic perhaps, if so please forgive me.

  46. August 5th, 2012 at 20:06 | #46

    @David Hartung #45
    “What do you suppose the result would be should an LCMS chaplain refuse to commune an ELCA service member because they are in different church bodies?”

    I can tell you what happened when an LCMS chaplain refused to conduct Divine Service with an ELCA chaplain, who was also his supervisor. The boss chaplain’s supervisor, who happened to be an LCMS chaplain (and an old friend of the ELCA chaplain), told me, “If you refuse to conduct worship with him, there will be trouble.”

    “Thank you, Bishop, may I have another?”

  47. helen
    August 5th, 2012 at 20:38 | #47

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #46
    What service had two Lutheran Chaplains in one spot at the same time?

  48. David Hartung
    August 5th, 2012 at 23:36 | #48

    Pastor Ted Crandall :
    @David Hartung #45
    “What do you suppose the result would be should an LCMS chaplain refuse to commune an ELCA service member because they are in different church bodies?”
    I can tell you what happened when an LCMS chaplain refused to conduct Divine Service with an ELCA chaplain, who was also his supervisor. The boss chaplain’s supervisor, who happened to be an LCMS chaplain (and an old friend of the ELCA chaplain), told me, “If you refuse to conduct worship with him, there will be trouble.”
    “Thank you, Bishop, may I have another?”

    Were you by chance the LCMS chaplain?

  49. August 6th, 2012 at 04:20 | #49

    @David Hartung #48
    Yes.
    @helen #47
    It was a rare instance when the only two “Protestant” chaplains stationed at the chapel in Guam were both “Lutheran” — one ELCA and one LCMS.

    Guam is weird anyway. Out in town, the only “Lutheran” congregation on the entire island alternates their calls, to an ELCA pastor this time and to an LCMS pastor the next. The pastor who was there when my family and I tried to worship with them… He had us recite a creed from the bulletin that had us confessing belief in some “Creator/Mother.” (And he was LCMS!)

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