Under Utah tax law, churches are exempt from having to pay federal, state, and local taxes. For purposes of Utah tax law, churches are considered to be public charities, also known as Section 501(c)(3) organizations. As such, they are generally exempt from federal, state, and local income and property taxes. “Exempt” means they don’t have to pay these taxes. This is so even though they may earn substantial amounts of money. Not just anybody can call themselves a church and enjoy a tax exemption. An organization must be an authentic church to qualify. For tax purposes, a church is a place of worship including Christian churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other worship places. Churches also include conventions and associations of churches. Usually, it’s pretty obvious whether an organization qualifies as a church.
However, where questions arise, the IRS looks at the following factors to determine whether an organization is a church for tax purposes. These include whether it has:
• a distinct legal existence
• a recognized creed and form of worship
• a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
• a formal code of doctrine and discipline
• a distinct religious history
• a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
• ordained ministers ministering to its congregations
• ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies
• a literature of its own
• established places of worship
• regular congregations
• regular religious services
• Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young, and
• schools for the preparation of its ministers.
Limited IRS Oversight of Churches
Because of the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, the IRS has long adopted a largely hands-off approach to regulating churches. For example as long as an organization qualifies as a church, it need not apply to the IRS to receive its tax exemption—the exemption is automatic. Moreover, churches need not file the dreaded IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ–the annual information forms that other charities must file each year. However, many churches apply to the IRS anyway. The advantages of doing so are that the organization will obtain official recognition of its tax-exempt status which assures donors that their contributions are tax deductible, and it will be listed in IRS records as a qualified charitable organization and it can obtain a determination letter from the IRS stating that contributions to it are tax deductible.
How to Be Respectful when Visiting a Hindu Temple
If you are foreign to Hindu temples and culture but would like to learn about this faith, visiting a temple is a good way to begin. You do not have to practice the Hindu religion to visit a Hindu temple; their temples are open for any to visit. You may decide to visit at a significant time, such as when a specific service or ceremony is being conducted. Otherwise, drop by and observe the temple for yourself, or call ahead and ask if they can offer you a guided tour. Since Hindu temples are sacred places to people of Hindu faith, behave calmly and respectfully at all times.
Preparing to Visit the Temple
• Wash yourself before visiting a temple: Before you plan to go to temple, you should take a shower or bath. Anyone is allowed entry inside a temple, but since temples are spiritual places, it’s traditional to bathe before attending a temple. To prepare yourself mentally and spiritually, you may also wish to take several moments to pray and think about God or your personal spiritual beliefs.
• Dress appropriately for the temple: While it’s not necessary to wear traditional clothing to a temple, both men and women should wear modest, conservative clothing to the temple. This will indicate respect for the sacred place, and will allow other attendees to focus on the temple gods and their own acts of worship, rather than being distracted by loud or inappropriate clothing. Women should wear a long skirt or dress. It’s also appropriate for women to wear long pants. Wear something that is loose enough for you to comfortably sit cross-legged in. Men should wear business-casual clothing, such as slacks and a button-down shirt. Avoid wearing animal skin of any kind; this could be offensive to practicing Hindus.
• Buy offerings to bring to the temple: Deities can be offered various material things: flowers and fruit are common and affordable choices. You could also choose to offer cloth or sweets. Presenting your offerings to the temple deities is a form of respect. Hindus believe that offerings like these will please the Gods and may result in blessings and fulfilled prayers. Commercial establishments generally set up makeshift shops in the surrounding area selling various things that you can offer the statues. It is not required to bring offerings; if you would rather not bring offerings for your first visit, you don’t have to.
• Remove your footwear outside the temple: Most temples will have a space designated for your shoes: usually a series of cubby-holes along one of the temple’s exterior walls. Removing shoes shows respect for the temple and the deity statues within. This is not optional: removing shoes, sandals, or any other footwear is a mandatory rule of every Hindu temple. Socks are fine, you can keep wearing them. However, if the temple floor is made of marble or any other slippery stone, you want to remove socks so you don’t fall.
• Circulate through the temple: Traditionally, upon entering a Hindu temple, you’ll see an array of deities and statues arranged around the temple walls. Begin with the deity on your left. From there, continue to walk through the temple in a clockwise direction, pausing before each deity you come across. Many temples have separate queues for men and women, and you will have to follow it accordingly. If you’d like to know ahead of time if there are separate queues for each gender, you can call the temple and ask in advance.
• Respectfully view the statues: When you finally get to see the statue closely, you may join the palms of your hands near the heart into a traditional pose and bow. This is the minimum act you should perform in front of each statue as a respectful gesture. Practicing Hindus will often bow or fully prostrate themselves in front of statues as a sign of respect and reverence. If you feel comfortable, you can prostrate yourself as well, although it’s not required.
• Bring your offerings before individual statues: If you have brought fruit or flowers to offer to the deity, you may do this as you circulate through the temple. Hand each offering to the priest sitting outside the idol’s chamber. Under no circumstances should you enter the inner chamber. The inner chamber or the chamber where the idol is seated is considered the most sacred and private area and no one can go in without previous sanction. If there is no priest outside the chamber, there may be a nearby platform for worshipers to place their offerings on
• Accept any items from the priest: While you are in the temple, you may notice a priest pouring water over the hands of worshipers. This is a spiritual, purifying gesture: if the priest offers you the water, let him pour it over your hands. The priests may also give “Prasad:” blessed food (always vegetarian) which is offered to the deities. Prasad is also considered holy, and you should eat it outside the temple. Anything the priest gives you should be accepted with your right hand. Avoid taking or giving anything with the left hand.
• Avoid touching shrines or statues: A single temple can house hundreds of statues—do not attempt to touch any one of them; this will be seen as an inappropriate and disrespectful act. In Hindu faith, only priests are permitted to touch the statues. Keep a respectful distance. Also avoid photography. Taking pictures is restricted or forbidden in many temples. Before taking a photo, look for the temple’s rules. Rules may be written outside on notice boards, or you may ask someone, including the priest.
• Follow rules of common decency: The temple is a sacred, holy space, and you should exhibit polite, constrained behavior when visiting. You can speak quietly, but avoid loud conversation, laughter, or crying. Do not chew gum loudly or at all—and throw any trash you have in a trash can. To show your respect for the temple, turn your phone off when you enter, and don’t smoke in or around the temple. A priest may offer to place a small mark on your forehead (usually made from ash or turmeric). You may accept or decline as you feel comfortable; the mark carries no great spiritual significance and does not necessarily indicate a belief in the Hindu religion
• Provide a donation, if desired. As you make your way through the temple, you may see a small donation box. If you feel like donating, fold the bills and put them with your right hand in the donation box. Remember that donations are never required and you do not have to donate. Even if someone coaxes you to donate, you always have the right to refuse
• Keep an eye out for beggars: Depending on your location, you may find many beggars outside temples. You don’t have to give them cash if you don’t want to. If you want to help them temporarily, buy them some food. If you are alone, it would be a good idea to not encourage beggars. They can be persistent, and can keep following you or trouble you for more money
Utah Religious Law
Religious law includes ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Different religious systems hold sacred law in a greater or lesser degree of importance to their belief systems, with some being explicitly antinomian whereas others are nomistic or “legalistic” in nature. In particular, religions such as Judaism, Islam and the Baháʼí Faith teach the need for revealed positive law for both state and society, whereas other religions such as Christianity generally reject the idea that this is necessary or desirable and instead emphasize the eternal moral precepts of divine law over the civil, ceremonial or judicial aspects, which may have been annulled as in theologies of grace over law.
Types of Religion
The major religions of the world (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, and Judaism) differ in many respects, including how each religion is organized and the belief system each upholds. Other differences include the nature of belief in a higher power, the history of how the world and the religion began, and the use of sacred texts and objects. Religions organize themselves—their institutions, practitioners, and structures—in a variety of fashions.
Some basic Hindu concepts include:
• Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,” as opposed to a single, organized religion.
• Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means they worship a single deity, known as “Brahman,” but still recognize other gods and goddesses. Followers believe there are multiple paths to reaching their god.
• Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect).
• One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to achieve “moksha,” or salvation, which ends the cycle of rebirths to become part of the absolute soul.
• One fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives.
• Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality.
• Hindus revere all living creatures and consider the cow a sacred animal.
• Food is an important part of life for Hindus. Most don’t eat beef or pork, and many are vegetarians.
• Hinduism is closely related to other Indian religions, including Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
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