It beats Vacation Bible School

A church, Panama City Beach’s Life Center is no longer tax exempt, because authorities decided that they didn’t like its sacraments…which involved nude body-painting events (but the human body is one of god’s greatest creations, how can you object to celebrating it?) and selling sexually explicit t-shirts (again, sex is holy, isn’t it?). They were specifically appealing to college youth who were in town for spring break.

The city appraiser passed judgement in a clear act of discrimination.

"A bottle club, charging $20 at the door and selling obscene T-shirts is not being used as a church," Sowell said. "A God-fearing, God-honoring church in January does not sponsor this type of debauchery in March."

He does have a point. Here in Minnesota, the churches don’t encourage debauchery until late May, when the weather is a bit more forgiving. But Florida has been blessed by the Lord with warm sunny weather, and debauchery season reasonably starts a little earlier.

But otherwise, why is selling sex grounds for removing a church’s tax exemption, but selling threats of damnation and false promises of paradise not?


  1. Usernames! (ᵔᴥᵔ) says

    But otherwise, why is selling sex grounds for removing a church’s tax exemption, but selling threats of damnation and false promises of paradise not?

    Because MY religion is okay, but everyone else’s is the WRONG religion, therefore the latter should be banned.

    The idiots do not understand that if they actually achieve their wet dream of turning America into a Christian Caliphate, they will end up on the losing end once the Christian religious war begins.

  2. says

    This is why I think the religious exemption should be abolished across the board. Government shouldn’t be deciding what is or isn’t a church. If the congregants say it’s a church, it’s a church,

  3. saganite says

    I hope they appeal it, up to the supreme court even. Basically, what this judge is saying that this CAN’T BE real religion because it doesn’t fit his views of what a religion is or should be. Considering how varied beliefs, how absurd various rituals and so on, I honestly think making this sort of judgement is untenable. It’s not like there’s any one TRUE religion to compare other claimants against; him acting like there is some particular standard probably wouldn’t stand up.

  4. rossthompson says

    charging $20 at the door

    I suspect this will be the pin it hinges on. Can you charge people to enter a church? (As opposed to strongly encouraging them to make a donation)

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SCOTUS has said that scientology is a religion. They have a broad definition. Wonder what they would say?
    Sounds like a Xain was feeling persecuted because not everybody else was bowing to their way of worship.

  6. iknklast says

    As to your title – most things beat Vacation Bible School. OK, maybe not being poked in the eye with a sharp stick…

  7. futurechemist says

    I assumed charging money was allowed. Every Jewish congregation my parents have belonged to charged mandatory membership dues. If that’s allowed for a mainstream congregation, I don’t see why a $20 entry fee wouldn’t be allowed.

  8. anteprepro says

    Well this is just a fantastic precedent: Religious organizations can only get their tax exemptions taken away if they are doing things that politicians don’t like and doesn’t match what they expect that religion to represent.

    It’s great that they are setting a precedent for removing tax exempt status, but essentially what they have done here is used government power to punish a church for not being True Christian enough. That’s not fucking right, and it is playing with fire.

  9. Alverant says

    I agree, the state should not be dictating what qualifies as a religious belief if they are going to grant/remove privileges. It’s bad enough the Hobby Lobby decision explicitly said the ruling was for birth control only and should not be applied to things like blood transfusions even though there are religions that forbid it.

  10. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re @4:
    I agree, I read that line, “Bottle club,…” as indicative of a loophole in “dry” towns where “private clubs” are allowed to serve alcoholic bevs. So bars will xform into ‘private clubs’ where first entry charges a “membership fee” and give out a ‘membership card’ (for future, free entry). Maybe that first night of membership could include free drinks (to ensure dependency). (~.~)
    I’m reading too much into those ‘two words’ there. Sorry, it seems to’ve triggered somethin in me.

  11. nich says

    I hope they appeal it, up to the supreme court even.


  12. =8)-DX says

    Darn it, every other church goes on about sex all year long, and I’ve never heard of any church losing tax breaks due to sexual debauchery, a passtime that Christian churchpeople partake in all the time, often inside their churchs.

  13. anteprepro says

    Apparently the more accurate rationale for removing their tax exempt status is that they are essentially, in practice, actually a night club pretending to be a church to get tax exemption. Not sure how accurate that description is. Especially considering the little info I found below.

    Trigger Warning:

    I guess a pastor/the pastor of this place (or former pastor?) was named Markus Bishop. Markus Bishop was arrested in September last year for giving a minor marijuana and then raping her.

    I saw one video of him speaking at the Life Center, posted January of 2014. And this sure as shit makes these events much much creepier. Whether or not Bishop himself is still there.

  14. loreo says

    In my perfectly tax-exempt church, when I was 13 I was encouraged to regularly tell a celibate man three times my age about the times I masturbated.

    Sounds like debauchery to me.

  15. says

    It would be interesting to see if the ancient and revered practice of temple prostitution could be revived in this current climate of “religious beliefs trump any and all law.”

  16. EvoMonkey says

    This sounds like good marketing/prostelitizing in this church. Traditionlists always hate some upstart radicals beating them at their own game.

    If these authorities think body painting and selling sexually explicit t-shirts are debauchery in religion then they need to read some history (see – Roman fertility cults, etc.) or recent newspapers (see – Ted Haggard, pedophilia scandals, etc.).

  17. shadow says

    @3 saganite:

    The OP and linked article says the determination was made by the tax assessor, with input from the sheriff (linked article).

    Still, that isn’t the call of either of them — it is in the realm of the IRS to make said decision.

  18. Alverant says

    And in Georgia a pastor is telling his subjects that God wants him to have a private jet and wants them to pay for it.

  19. Trickster Goddess says

    anteprepro @13

    Well that settles it then. If the pastor is raping minors, then it definitely must be a bona fide church.

  20. K E Decilon says


    Trickster Goddess at 23: That’s just in bad taste.

    Like Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints?

    Or is it not in bad taste if you marry them first?

  21. lorn says

    Sounds like typical Christian niggling over details to me:

    $20 is certainly a tenth, tithe, of income over some number of hours or days.

    An “obscene” T-shirt, and nude body painting, could be considered a form of vestment. Nothing in the Bible that I know of defines exactly what can, or cannot be a worn in church, or used as a vestment. As long as it is 100% cotton, or otherwise doesn’t mix fibers.

    As for alcohol consumption? Does the Bible define the flavor of the wine? The size of the chalice, or how deeply one may drink?

    Objecting to some forms of sex may constitute another niggling argument over sacraments. This time over the shape, size, method of blessing, and placement of the host.

  22. Trickster Goddess says

    anteprepro @24

    I agree completely. Raping anybody is in extremely bad taste. Religion is in bad taste, too.

  23. K E Decilon says


    Trickster Goddess, K E Decilon: You can fuck right off with your rape jokes.

    WTF? You think Warren Jeffs is funny? You think that I do? You think I am making rape jokes?

    Lately, this place is just crawling with thought police.