Is It Okay for Me to Opt Out of Social Security?

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Here is the latest question from a reader (or composite from several readers, with identifying marks extinguished). As always, I’ll throw it to you first. How would you advise this person? I’ll weigh in later.

Dear Dr. Moore,

I’m a young Baptist minister. As I was about to be ordained, I was told that I’d now be considered ‘”self-employed” for purposes of paying my Social Security payroll taxes. This means the church won’t pay the part an employer typically pays for social security, but I’d pay the whole thing on my own.

I was told though that there is a way ministers can “opt out” of the Social Security system altogether. It’s kind of a “conscientious objector” clause. What it means is that I don’t pay Social Security taxes now, and I won’t receive any Social Security at retirement, or in case of disability.

The reason I did this is because, frankly, I don’t think Social Security will be around for me when I retire anyway. I’m in my twenties and, given the entitlement mess our government is in, I don’t see any way the system is still around when I would need it.

Is it ethical for me to have opted out of Social Security?


Socially Secure

What do you think? How would you advise this young preacher? And, remember, to send me your ethical question for a future column to [email protected]

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.