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Christian Groups Seek Exemption From Social Security

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Washington--Christian church and school representatives said last week that they would rather go to jail than comply with a new law requiring them to participate in the federal Social Security system.

The representatives also warned during a press conference here that President Reagan and other politicians would feel the consequences in the election year if they do not intervene on behalf of the churches.

The church leaders said to comply with the law would force them to violate Biblical laws prohibiting the use of donations to churches for secular purposes.

Under the Social Security Amendments of 1983, passed by the Congress earlier this year, employees of nonprofit organizations are required to participate in the Social Security system beginning Jan. 1, 1984. Until that law was approved, participation in the program was voluntary.

The Congress turned down an amendment to the measure, sponsored by Senator Roger Jepsen, Republican of Iowa, that would have exempted churches and Christian schools from compliance with the new law for two years.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week, Senator Thomas Eagleton, Democrat of Missouri, testified in support of the Jepsen amendment, saying he believed the present law mandating church participation in the federal system violated the First Amendment. Mr. Eagleton was the only Congressman to appear before the committee; representatives from numerous evangelical groups also voiced opposition to the provision.

A spokesman for Senator Robert Dole, Republican of Kansas and chairman of the Finance Committee, said the hearing had been called in response to the large amount of mail the Senator has received opposing the provision.

During a press conference called before the hearing by the National Christian Action Coalition, an evangelical political-action group, Repre-sentative George Hansen, Republican of Idaho, also denounced the inclusion of church employees in the Social Security system. He charged that "our insatiable lust for revenue" has led Americans to the point of "going to war with the very groups which form the character of the nation."

William Billings, president of the group, warned that if President Reagan does not intervene, he may feel the consequences in next year's campaign.

"I doubt we'll do anything for him unless he does something for us,'' said Mr. Billings. He added that Senator Jepsen will try to attach his amendment to another revenue bill when Congress reconvenes next month.--ha

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