I then told Bill that that Churches are tax exempt by default and that they don't have to file as a 501(c)(3) to be tax exempt. He told me that my statement was ridiculous because churches have lawyers that know the law, and why would a church file unnecessary paperwork to get something (being tax exempt) that they already have. He then asked "are you calling the Church stupid?" I immediately backed off and told him that those were his words, and that I was not calling the Church stupid.
I later did some research and came across IRS Publication 557. According to IRS Publication 557:
Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These include:
• Churches, interchurch organizations of lo- cal units of a church, conventions or as- sociations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men’s or women’s organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group.
• Any organization (other than a private foundation) normally having annual gross receipts of not more than $5,000 (see Gross receipts test, later).
These organizations are exempt automati- cally if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).
That leaves me with one final thought: are Christian lawyers that file 501(c)(3) paperwork for churches on crack or just plain stupid?