Tax the Churches

In the United States of America today, churches and religious groups are treated with enormous sensitivity and deference by politicians and the media, a deference they have not earned. Far too often, the government and society in general bends over backwards to accommodate and encourage religious beliefs even when there is no rational reason why they should do so. The most egregious example of this is the sweeping tax exemptions granted to religion.

It is not just one tax that religious organizations are excused from paying, but an entire constellation of them. Clergy are exempt from federal taxes on housing and can opt out of Social Security and Medicare withholding. Religious employers are generally exempt from federal and state unemployment taxes, and in some states, religious publications are exempt from sales tax. Church benefit and retirement plans do not require the church employer to match its employees’ contributions. Churches are automatically exempted from filing annual public informational reports on their financial status and activities, and donations made to churches are eligible for income tax deductions. And, of course, the two major tax breaks: church groups do not have to pay income tax and do not have to pay taxes on property which they own.

It is time to end this unfair and unjustifiable special treatment. Religion has done nothing to deserve it, and has done much to disqualify itself. There are compelling reasons to tax the churches, and this post will examine them.

Repealing churches’ tax exemption prevents unnecessary and complicated legal tangles. At the moment, the tax-exempt status of a church gives groups a strong incentive to declare themselves to be religious organizations, which inevitably leads to protracted legal battles over whether a given organization is a church or not. (The space alien cult of Scientology‘s multi-year legal battle with the U.S. government to win tax-exempt status is a case in point.) This policy puts the government in the unenviable position of having to set policy on exactly what constitutes a religion.

As part of its tax-exempt status, a recognized church may not endorse candidates from the pulpit. However, it can speak out without restriction on issues, a loophole large enough to drive a truck through, and one which has been exploited to the hilt by church groups of every political faction. Any church leader with an ounce of intelligence can figure out how to use this as a backdoor strategy to make it exceedingly clear which candidate his parishioners are expected to vote for, and again the government is placed in the unenviable situation of examining church leaders’ statements and trying to figure out whether they only concern issues or whether they are about candidates (and if a church leader takes all the same positions on the issues as a candidate, how is this any different from endorsing that candidate directly?). If anything fosters an “excessive entanglement” between church and state, this does.

Eliminating the tax-exempt status of churches would neatly slice these two Gordian knots and solve both of these problems in a single stroke. If churches paid taxes like any other group, there would be no reason for anyone to fight over whether a particular group is “religious enough” to constitute a church or not, and no reason for anyone to affect that status as a tax strategy. And if churches could endorse candidates the ludicrous loophole that currently allows them to do so free of charge would be closed. They are already doing so anyway; they might as well pay taxes for the privilege like everyone else.

Repealing churches’ tax exemption threatens no one’s freedom of religion. If a church sought to rent property from a private owner to conduct religious services but could not afford the rent that the owner was asking, would the church members’ freedom to practice their religion have been destroyed? Obviously not: the freedom to practice religion that is guaranteed by the First Amendment does not mean that a religious group has an absolute right to take any property they want for their own use. Church taxation is the same. If a religious group could not afford to pay taxes on property that they owned, this does not mean that this group has been prevented from practicing its religion; it means that the group must seek out a new location to do so, one which they can afford. In the highly unlikely scenario that a church could not find any property whose taxes they could afford to pay, they would still be free to hold services on public property, such as a park, or in their individual members’ residences. Even in such a case, no one’s freedom of religion has been infringed in any way. The only “right” that is threatened by church taxation is the facetious and imaginary right of a religious group to do anything they want just because they are religious.

Repealing churches’ tax exemption makes sense, given that they are unlike not-for-profit organizations. Churches are fundamentally unlike the other kinds of groups that usually declare not-for-profit status. Charities and educational institutions, for example, serve all people equally. However, churches do not. They are free to discriminate, and do discriminate, against people who do not share their beliefs (this is called the “ministerial exemption”). They can and do discriminate against people for being gay, for being women, for being unmarried, for their age, for having health problems, or for virtually any other reason. (A recent New York Times article, “Where Faith Abides, Employees Have Few Rights“, gives more information on the liberties given to churches that would never be granted to any other employer.) At the very least, these groups should pay taxes if they intend to treat their employees in this way. Even better, this special treatment should end, and they should be held to the same anti-discrimination rules as any other business.

In addition, unlike other tax-exempt entities, churches can and very often do make a substantial profit. A great number of church leaders enjoy wildly expensive and lavish lifestyles. What is so objectionable about asking these incredibly wealthy groups to pay taxes on the money they take in?

Repealing churches’ tax exemption ends their unfair free ride. Most of all, churches should be taxed because it is the right thing to do. There is simply no good reason why churches should be tax-exempt. The common assertion that churches provide a necessary inducement to morality fails to find support in the evidence: multiple studies have found that nonbelievers are at least as moral as religious people, and possibly more so. For example, in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins discusses a study which found that there was no statistically significant difference between the answers of atheists and the answers of religious people to a variety of moral dilemmas.

Additionally, the tax exemption given to churches harms the rest of us: because they do not pay taxes on the assets they own, all the rest of us must pay higher taxes to make up for that lost revenue. This ought to irk believers enough, knowing that they are paying more because of the vast assets owned by rival churches, but atheists are harmed worst of all. Having no equivalent organizations that are free to raise money and acquire assets with such abandon, we are in effect subsidizing all tax-exempt religious activity, to the tune of millions of dollars per year. (An aside: If, as some apologists say, atheism is a religion, does that mean those apologists would support giving atheist groups the same tax exemption given to churches?) This baseless and unconstitutional discrimination should be ended immediately by taxing the churches.

Church tax exemptions also tilt the playing field and violate the principles of the free market. Allowing churches to buy up as much land as they want, and hold it forever without paying taxes, stifles the ability of other people to make meaningful use of that property in the future and grants churches an unfair advantage when providing social services that compete with other businesses. Even worse, churches are also unfairly exempt from many licensing and regulation requirements that all other types of businesses must comply with. Churches are even exempt from taxes on side assets like parking lots.

There can be no justification for this special treatment. Religious groups have been given a free ride for far too long just because they are religious. If churches want to take part in our society, they should contribute to its upkeep just like everyone else. It is time to tax the churches.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Joe

    Can’t agree more, they all should be taxed. At least on the vast property that churches own in this country.

  • Chris

    I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I think employment discrimination is a more problematic area. If organizations that exist to promote a certain ideology (which certainly includes churches) are forced to hire people who are opposed to that ideology, doesn’t that damage their rights of expression and association?

    If you don’t see anything wrong with the gay-bashing church being forced to hire gays (or, generalizing to ideologies in general, a neo-Nazi organization being denied their right to reject Jewish job applicants), try turning it around. The government can’t be trusted with the position of determining which ideologies are legitimate, so if you don’t allow ideological organizations to refuse to hire their opponents, then a white supremacist can sue the NAACP for refusing to hire him. (If for some bizarre reason he actually did apply to work there.) Similarly a gay-basher and the Rainbow Coalition, a neo-Nazi and the Anti-Defamation League, an advocate of torture and the ACLU or Amnesty International.

    But if an organization dedicated to a particular ideology *is* allowed to exclude the opponents of that ideology in membership, hiring, choice of contractors etc., then clearly religions belong in that category. As unfair as it is to grant them special privileges for being religious, it’s equally unfair to subject them to special burdens for it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    You raise an important point, Chris, and that did occur to me while writing this post. While I’m strongly opposed to employment discrimination and think that it should be outlawed, I agree that it would be ridiculous for, say, a Catholic church to be forced to fill an open clergy post with a Protestant. Non-discrimination laws are important, but private organizations should also have a right to define themselves and their mission through free association.

    The best solution that’s occurred to me so far is this: Any group that exists to promote a recognizable cause or ideology should be permitted to choose among applicants on the basis of their beliefs when hiring for positions having to do with that mission. So a church wouldn’t be forced to hire someone of a different religion to be a minister, for example, and an atheist organization wouldn’t be forced to hire a right-wing evangelical to be their communications director. (I like this because it doesn’t give a special privilege to churches in this regard.)

    On the other hand, when it comes to positions not related to a group’s ideological mission, that is where anti-discrimination laws should apply. So a church would not, for example, be permitted to discriminate against gays or women when looking for someone to wash dishes in their kitchen or maintain their grounds. This is the best answer I’ve come up with so far, and if anyone thinks they have a better one, they’re welcome to present it.

    P.S.: I should add that I think this should only apply to entirely private groups. If any group receives public funding or other special access or accommodation from the government, then all bets are off and they should be required to abide by the same anti-discrimination laws as anyone else. This seems sensible to me, since the government should be aiding only non-partisan not-for-profit groups and not bona fide ideological organizations anyway. The government’s role is to create the marketplace of ideas and then step back and let it work, not to tell us what we should be thinking.

  • Crosius

    I would tend to think that if an organization wants to practice discriminatory hiring, they should certainly have to pay taxes for that privilege. That way, the tax revenue could be used to offset the damage the discriminatory organization does to the community.

    In other words: If you want to be exempt from fair hiring practices, you’re tax burden should go UP, instead of putting your organization into a classification where you get to discriminate and pay no taxes.

  • Chris

    Well, I certainly agree that the government should be banned from funding advocacy groups (although they presently *do* fund, for example, groups dedicated to maintaining popular support for the War on Some Drugs). Your compromise does look reasonable; I think some ideological groups would resent the restriction, but their resentment is a small price to pay for preventing discrimination on irrelevant grounds.

    I think there are going to be groups that deliberately blur the line, though, such as church-run schools. Is every teacher an advocate of the church’s position and they should therefore be allowed to refuse to hire gays, atheists, etc.? Possibly; but then the same group is going to turn right around and claim that as a school they should be entitled to the tax privileges and even educational-funding vouchers of a school. This is blatant equivocation, but in the US, they are almost certain to get away with it. They get funding as a school (or hospital, food bank, etc.) and then use that funding to preach and to hire only like-minded people to spread their message.

    Schools are an especially troublesome case, though, because the *only* purpose of schools is to spread ideas. Every school is teaching *something*, and many things that are taught in schools are not universally agreed on. How can you *non*-ideologically teach about the rise and fall of habeas corpus, Huckleberry Finn (censored or not?) or evolution vs. creationism? Does that make all schools ideological organizations that shouldn’t be publically funded because doing so forces people who dissent from the school’s viewpoint to fund it anyway?

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Your recommendation should work pretty well, Ebomuse, but I think I’d tweak it just a bit. Instead of allowing discrimination based on meeting the ideology of the organization, I’d base it on someone’s ability to perform the job. In essence, if someone’s beliefs or nature would interfere with their ability to perform the job properly, the employer has the right to not hire them. This would cover the instances you provided of ideological differences, but also a few other relavent cases.

    Take the issue of a casting director for a movie, who’s looking for someone to play an oriental character (and, for point of argument, the character’s race is relevant to the story). He should obviously be allowed to discriminate against white actors looking for the role without risking a lawsuit. Here, the reason is obvious: Being white hampers one’s ability to play the role of an oriental character. This exception is, of course, already allowed in America, but it makes sense to lump it into the same law. Of course, there are other ways someone’s race might come into play, such as a social worker in a primarily black ghetto. A black social worker would likely have an easier time gaining the trust of the people, which is a critical part of the job. In this case, the employer should also be allowed to discriminate.

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I doubt you would get many instances of applicants applying for jobs working for churches or faith based organizations. In a post on my blog, I point out, for example, that gays have to pay bills just like non-gays, and they are not going to try and work for a Christian bookstore for a mere seven bucks an hour just out of sheer spite. Rational people will want to work in environments where they will fit in or feel comfortable.

  • O. Wolcott

    The solution to this issue is simple. Asy ebonmuse originally posited, tax any and all land evenly. You must pay to play so to speak. This would entirely eliminate (not without some major gripping initially on behalf of the churches) the ridiculous pass religious organizations have been afforded, which is more than just a sore eye for our government and its public policies. If the churches claimed this would harm their ability to remain operational, provide adequate service to its parishoners, or any other ad hoc bs excuse they might conjur up, no doubt they wouldn’t cry long; asking for more money from its members has never been lacking (they’ve had a lot of years to practice that sales pitch!) Lastly, in saying the solution is simple I don’t mean to convey that this would be easy to impliment. It would certainly not hold much footing initially in Congress and you could forget about a majority public backing. Over time though, one could only hope that enough people in positions of power took a truly egalitarian approach to the issue.

    While the fight to keep our country morally “pure” and “Godly” rages on: through energy and time spent on banning gay-marriage, abortion, flag burning, and online gambling (the four horsemen of the apocolypse!). There just isn’t enough time in the day to get to the little stuff – the deficit, health care, global warming, education, etc. etc. Needless to say I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Freeyourmind

    Excellent post.

    And although it would be difficult to come up with defined laws surrounding discrimination, it would be even harder (especially in the US) to enforce them. However, does that mean we shouldn’t? Absolutely not.

  • andrea

    This is a timely argument at least here in Harrisburg, PA. We’re having a budget crisis in our city as well as several others in PA. Many cities have huge amounts of their land as tax-exempt because of churches, etc (state capitols suffer more than most since weirdly enough, land used by the state is tax-exempt). To make up the money still needed for sewer, water, police, fire, trash, etc, residents (me) and businesses get over-taxed. If churches are so faith-based, let God supply them with protection and convert their wastes to wine. Let the city take care of those who actually pay for the services.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Chris:

    …the War on Some Drugs…

    Ha! I like that line so much I just may have to steal it. :)

    Every school is teaching *something*, and many things that are taught in schools are not universally agreed on. How can you *non*-ideologically teach about the rise and fall of habeas corpus, Huckleberry Finn (censored or not?) or evolution vs. creationism? Does that make all schools ideological organizations that shouldn’t be publically funded because doing so forces people who dissent from the school’s viewpoint to fund it anyway?

    A thorny problem. While I firmly maintain that the government should not be in the business of indoctrination, I also think it goes against the interests of a secular, democratic society to allow different groups to wall themselves off from the free flow of ideas. There have to be some things we hold in common, and public school is an excellent way to cause that state of affairs to obtain. The right to free speech does not, and should not, include the right to never be exposed to opinions that you disagree with.

    I think the best solution is to ensure that public schools are always in the business of imparting information, but never in the business of requiring students to believe it (as opposed to, say, private religious schools, where belief in and not just knowledge of the subject matter being taught is demanded). Classes on evolution, for example, should inform their students that it is the scientific consensus and give the reasons for why scientists think that way. A student shouldn’t have to agree with that position to pass the course, but they should have to demonstrate understanding of the evidence underlying it.

    Infophile:

    Your recommendation should work pretty well, Ebomuse, but I think I’d tweak it just a bit. Instead of allowing discrimination based on meeting the ideology of the organization, I’d base it on someone’s ability to perform the job. In essence, if someone’s beliefs or nature would interfere with their ability to perform the job properly, the employer has the right to not hire them.

    This is a very good suggestion, better than mine, I think. However, there’s still the question of what happens when a church insists that gay people cannot, for example, be hired to do bookkeeping or maintain the grounds because they would not be able to carry out the church’s mission of discriminating against gays. I’m not suggesting there’s any easy solution to this: as long as people are determined to be stubborn and irrational, the reasonable people in society will always have a hard time dealing with them.

  • Chris

    Not my line anyway. I forget where I got it, but it just fits so well. “Another successful raid on those damn dirty drug users. Let’s go have a beer and celebrate.”

    Your suggestion on requiring understanding without requiring belief – wouldn’t it require a lot of weaseling? E.g. we can’t just ask “how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust”, not if we want to mark the answer “None, it was a hoax” as incorrect. We have to ask “According to most historians, how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust”, so that even people who don’t *believe* the consensus of historians can still demonstrate they *know* the consensus position. (But what about the people who not only believe that the Holocaust was a hoax, but also believe that the hoax view *is* mainstream among historians and it’s only a Jewish conspiracy that makes it look otherwise?)

    It gets even worse when you get to civics. People who don’t agree that “The founders of the US believed that people should be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property” are not just wrong, they’re an active danger to everyone else in the country. (If you’re not convinced, read the Military Commissions Act.) People who don’t agree that “Government agencies and officials acting in their official capacities should not support, advocate, or claim to be guided by any god, angel or other supernatural being” are possibly an even greater danger. Worse, there are some people who not only don’t agree with these statements themselves, but don’t believe that Madison or Jefferson would have agreed with them! Is that a difference of opinion that deserves to be handled respectfully?

    You’re getting awfully close to allowing people to keep their own facts, as long as they can show they know what the real facts are (but still not accept them). I’m not sure I’m comfortable with being *that* nonjudgmental. Just as Churchill refused to be neutral between the fire brigade and the fire, I can’t be neutral between a position supported by evidence and an outright lie.

  • Kyran

    I’m a Christian, and I’ve thought through all this before. Tax-exempt status a double-edged sword like any other privilege. You get power, but it comes with strings attached. And yeah, it wouldn’t be popular if government told churches who they can and cannot hire.

    This is what happens in a privileged society. Everyone’s fighting over everyone else’s benefits and restrictions.

    Churches need local law enforcement protection like everyone else because people set churches on fire.

    I don’t think the answer is property and income taxes for everyone though. Property taxes are local like state income taxes, so changes would have to be done at two levels. Income taxes are embedded in the cost of goods and hidden from the consumer. It’d be easier to fix the problem if Neal Boortz’s FairTax (a sales tax) was already law so there’s no federal income tax.

    That way churches would pay federal sales taxes on books and tapes while donation revenues (which are untaxed for political campaigns and charities) would remain untaxed…I think.

    Just make me dictator so these problems get solved.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Chris – a somewhat belated reply to your excellent last comment:

    Your suggestion on requiring understanding without requiring belief – wouldn’t it require a lot of weaseling? E.g. we can’t just ask “how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust”, not if we want to mark the answer “None, it was a hoax” as incorrect.

    Oh, I very much disagree. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. Six million humans did die in the Holocaust, and while we cannot force anyone to believe that, we also should not bend over backwards to accommodate their prejudices when their opinion is contradicted by every reputable historian and all available evidence. When there is a legitimate scholarly controversy, schools should pay heed to it, but on some issues there is no legitimate controversy. Educators should not be hostile to minority opinions, but they also should not play the false game of balance so beloved by the media these days by pretending that every opinion is on equal evidentiary ground.

    It gets even worse when you get to civics. People who don’t agree that “The founders of the US believed that people should be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property” are not just wrong, they’re an active danger to everyone else in the country.

    I couldn’t agree more. (See my recent post “This Is Not America”). But what do we do about those people? What can we do? We certainly can’t, for example, convene loyalty review boards and punish citizens for holding unapproved opinions; that would be a greater evil than the one we sought to prevent. In seeking to ward off tyranny, that would turn us into tyrants. We can present the evidence and try to persuade people, but we can’t force them to believe it. The only feasible solution I can see is the one America’s founders adopted: establish a society that permits the free exchange of ideas, and trust that good speech and good ideas will win out over the bad ones. It’s not a perfect solution, but then, what is?

  • http://www.mojoey.blogspot.com Mojoey

    As with most things in our government, what started out as an idea to help small charitable organizations gain a foothold without granting much political power, has backfired because of the evolution of their tax-exempt status over the past 50 years. I think churches should be granted tax exemptions for real charitable work, everything else is on the table.

    The problem of political participation is moot. Churches constitute one of the most influential political organizations in our political process. Even pretending otherwise is a shame.

  • nmac

    SIMPLE SOLUTION: They have to pay. Although many religious organizations “do good” via charity work, the majority of the money flowing through them goes towards expansion, maintenance, and special interests. And since tax exemption is a form of government – read public – subsidy, any formal involvement by these organizations in campaigning, legislation, and/or lobbying (which almost all of them exercise) should then be considered as being publicly funded. Therefore, ALL religious organizations which have essentially forfeited their private status should pay taxes as such. For any charity work they actually do, they should be closely audited and only given legitimate applicable tax exemptions. Otherwise, they should be treated like any other business.

    Also: ALL religious organizations should adhere to anti-discrimination laws (which are in place for both public AND private organizations). Those religious orgs/churches that DO NOT allow women or gay persons to be promoted within its hierarchy (like Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews) have to change their policies, regardless of their mythologies, dogma, history, and/or decrees. I’ve had it up to here with the hypocrisy. This is where all forms of discrimination begin and fester. When a church or synagogue or temple treats a person as being inferior on any level based upon their sex or sexual orientation, it legitimizes the entire foundation of discrimination. All fanaticism stems from and is empowered by the mysticism, false superiority, and ignorance generated by “faith”. It’s religion – however skewed – that ultimately legitimizes terrorism in the minds of the brainwashed. Community centers, clubs, and secular organizations can fulfill the human need for interaction and belonging without perpetuating backwards thinking and exclusion. We as a country need to promote and support rational behavior and thought.

  • mkht

    This is a question i hope you can answer or direct me to find the answer. If real estate property is owned by a pastor of a church, what would be the benefit of transferring property into the wifes name as primary owner? For tax exemption purposes, wouldn’t the property need to be in the pastor’s name or the church name? do wifes of pastors have tax exempt priviledges if they work outside of the church in the private sector? Thanks in advance for your time and assistance.

    Margauex

  • Alex Weaver

    What’s the purpose of this question, mkht?

  • Gordon Hide

    Talk about preaching to the converted! Couldn’t you think of something a bit more controversial?

    There is one economic idea you might be interested in here though. There is a model that says if you make one group exempt from property tax they will eventually own all the property.

  • William

    Tax the greedy bastards!
    They say: “Give your tithes to God…” but they don’t give it to him but pocket it instead and build themselves obsene multi-million dollar temples and have multi-million dollar businesses.
    Yeah, tax the greedy bastards!

  • Joe

    so how far do you all want this anti-discrimination stuff to go? after you force the Boy Scouts to hire gay scout masters, and the baptist church to hire a gay atheist as its pastor – then what? should the government then move deeper into private life and, say, start forcing people to not discriminate when they choose a marriage partner or buy toilet paper?

    just wondering.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    To whom are you speaking, Joe?

  • Joe

    it’s just an open question.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Then I suggest you read the post and comments more carefully and not just assume what opinions atheists hold based on what your pastor told you. No one in this thread, or elsewhere as far as I know, has voiced the opinion that a church should be “forced” to hire people of a different denomination to fill an open clergy position. This comment, for example, gives my views on religious groups’ status when it comes to non-discrimination laws.

  • Joe

    fuck you , you pompous fuck. i don’t have a fucking pastor.

  • Alex Weaver

    Denial about your pastor’s refusal to practice what he preaches won’t help matters.

  • Alex Weaver

    Incidentally, doesn’t Jesus say that unclean words and thoughts defile a man?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Everyone gets one warning, Joe, so here’s yours: Behave yourself and act like an adult, or you will be banned from this site. I welcome civil and rational debate; I do not tolerate vitriol and abuse.

  • Joe

    i came on this site civil. YOU started the vitriol. I gave an honest question and you
    reacted to me with hostility. You assumed i was a christian, and tried to put me in my place.

    your anti-faith bigotry is glaring.

    but anyway, to all the atheistic anti-faith bigots in the world, Merry CHRISTmas!!!!

  • Joe

    alex, would a christian person say “fuck”?
    christians don’t say “fuck,” alex.
    i’m not a christian with a pastor.
    i’m trying to get an idea what will satisfy the atheist secularists when it comes to government intrusion into private life.
    i’m sure all atheists don’t believe the same things, but
    i’m just trying to get an overall feel about what this country would be like if the average atheist could wave a magic wand (yes, i’m sure atheists don’t believe in magic)
    and remake the country in their image using the power of the government.

    For example, Muse wants to use anti-discrimination laws to force churches to hire non-believers in certain posts. Why? And if so, why not force churches to hire non-believers in ministerial posts? Why not go all the way to end all discrimination?

    this is a chance for you guys to use your superior intellect and educate a hillbilly from Tennessee.
    I’m ignorant. I keep my women barefoot and pregnant. I inbreed. Deliver me from my ignorance.

  • Alex Weaver

    alex, would a christian person say “fuck”?
    christians don’t say “fuck,” alex.

    Really? I know my nominally Catholic wife has said it quite a few times, as have about 90% of the Christians I’ve known. Even my uptight “please watch the language” friend in North Dakota alludes to saying it herself when she’s angry or frustrated. And surely you’ve seen the jawdroppingly profane anti-atheist flames some Christians have sent?

    i’m not a christian with a pastor.

    So you say. DaveScot on Uncommon Descent reportedly pretends to be an agnostic. Pretending to be an atheist while arguing in support of, or at least arguing against active opposition to, wingnut ideology and causes is a habitual tactic employing by those engaging in Pious Fraud, also called “lying for Jesus.” Your behavior fits this pattern closely enough for me to be skeptical.

    i’m trying to get an idea what will satisfy the atheist secularists when it comes to government intrusion into private life.

    Then I would suggest you read more and swear less. Most of us have our own ideas, and they aren’t all the same, though there are many similarities, and these are discussed in the comments on this and other threads.

    i’m sure all atheists don’t believe the same things, but
    i’m just trying to get an overall feel about what this country would be like if the average atheist could wave a magic wand (yes, i’m sure atheists don’t believe in magic)
    and remake the country in their image using the power of the government.

    What on earth editor are you using to format your text? O.o

    Anyway, Adam specifically addresses his own ideas on this in several posts and at least one essay on EbonMusings, this blog’s parent site.

    For example, Muse wants to use anti-discrimination laws to force churches to hire non-believers in certain posts. Why? And if so, why not force churches to hire non-believers in ministerial posts? Why not go all the way to end all discrimination?

    For the simple reason that believing in the Church’s doctrine is rationally a requirement for preaching it convincingly and effectively and for going through the rituals related to it wholeheartedly, whereas it is complete irrelevant to one’s ability to sweep the floors or compile the church’s financial statements.

    this is a chance for you guys to use your superior intellect and educate a hillbilly from Tennessee.
    I’m ignorant. I keep my women barefoot and pregnant. I inbreed. Deliver me from my ignorance.

    No one accused you of any of that, possibly excepting simply being “ignorant” (to which I would add “boorish” and “hotheaded”, but that’s beside the point). I am inclined to wonder whether there is any particular reason you might expect someone to infer these things about you?

    (Although frankly, between your tone and your grammar, I can believe it.)

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    christians don’t say “fuck,” alex. [sic]

    I think you would have a hard time supporting that, as I know of several who have or do.

    i’m trying to get an idea what will satisfy the atheist secularists when it comes to government intrusion into private life. [sic]

    I can’t speak for all atheists (really, no one can, unless they’re saying, “There are no gods.”), but I must say that I’m far more concerned about how much government intrusion so-called Christians want. Some would like to tell people who they can and can’t love, what they can do in their bedrooms with other consenting adults, under what circumstances they can do those things, or even what kinds of science they can and can’t do. They want to do all of that through the government, whether by passing laws, amending constitutions, or infiltrating the schools. That is, by far, much more intrusive than asking a group that is exempt from paying taxes to be an equal opportunity employer.

    Now, for how far I would go. If a group is receiving government funds, or is exempt from paying taxes to the government, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they abide by rules that the government itself has to go by. I don’t care if this group is a church, the KKK, the ACLU, or the FFRF. (Wow, of those 3 groups, the FFRF is the only one that Firefox’s spell checker marked as misspelled. I’ll have to teach it that one.) If they start paying taxes, then I think they can call themselves a private entity and do whatever they please as far as hiring practices and such are concerned.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    i came on this site civil. YOU started the vitriol.

    Joe, a piece of advice: the only thing more tedious than a rude loudmouth is a rude loudmouth trying to act like a victim. You came here with a chip on your shoulder, made some insulting and unfounded generalizations about atheists, and reacted with profanity and hostility when people called you on it. I’m feeling generous tonight, so I won’t ban you this time, but be aware you’re skating on very thin ice.

    i’m just trying to get an overall feel about what this country would be like if the average atheist could wave a magic wand… and remake the country in their image using the power of the government.

    I’ve written an essay on that very question. Happy reading.

    For example, Muse wants to use anti-discrimination laws to force churches to hire non-believers in certain posts.

    Wrong. You persist in misrepresenting my view, although I have clearly explained it. I am not advocating that churches or any other group be “forced” to hire anyone, but that they not be permitted to categorically exclude an entire category of applicants prior to any consideration of their ability to do the job. I advocate this because the corrosive and harmful effects of discrimination have already been well established and because democratic countries should seek to extend the basic principle upon which they are built by giving all their citizens an equal ability to participate in society.

    Why? And if so, why not force churches to hire non-believers in ministerial posts? Why not go all the way to end all discrimination?

    As I said in my earlier comment: “Non-discrimination laws are important, but private organizations should also have a right to define themselves and their mission through free association.” The expression of distinct views is important to a democratic society, and a law that required ideological groups to hire without regard to viewpoint would dilute and blend all messages until they were no longer distinguishable. That would be harmful to democracy, which progresses best by permitting the expression of many distinct views so that voters can select among them based on the force of rational persuasion.

  • Raphael

    I know I am coming a bit late to this discussion, but I thought I would toss in my two cents.

    It is said there is wall of seperation between church and state. If it is not acceptable that for the state to provide funding for religions, it should not be acceptable for religions to provide funding for the state. Anything less would be an acceptance that such a wall does not exist.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    What your argument misses, Raphael, is that the principle of separation of church and state does not imply that the government can pass no laws that affect religious groups. The government can pass a law against murder, and even if a certain religion protests that human sacrifice is an integral part of their beliefs, that law would still apply to them and they would be required to abide by it.

    What violates separation is when the government passes a law specifically targeted at a particular religion or religion in general, either to assist it or to disadvantage it. But the U.S. Supreme Court and other lawmaking bodies have repeatedly held that the government can pass laws of general applicability that happen to affect religious groups. The collection of tax is such a law. The government is not specifically targeting churches or burdening them more heavily than other groups. Rather, every for-profit group should be required to pay taxes, and religious groups would naturally be included among those.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I wouldn’t care if a church received government money if it was for something that any other group could have received money for, if it wasn’t given specifically because it was a church, and it was spent on non-religious items. For example, a church asking for assistance to purchase water for disaster relief somewhere, then distributing that water without proselytizing, preaching, or discriminating.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Ooh, I think I misinterpreted Raphael’s post. I read “If it is not acceptable that for the state to provide funding for religions…” as “If the state cannot give any money to churches at all…”, which isn’t quite the same thing as funding those churches. Please ignore my other other post.

  • Raphael

    Debating our views on the seperation of church and state would not serve the purpose of the discussion. Simply, I feel the the SCOTUS used too broad a brush when interpretting the power of the goverment. A wall with holes is not just a wall, but a defensive construction such as a castle wall. If the wall of seperation is a castle wall, then it does afford mono-directional protect. It protects religions exclusively. A “secular purpose” clearly lies on the outside of the castle walls. Thus, to use such as a portion of the measuring stick is to breach the wall. If a wall is to exist which protects the Government from religion and religion from the government, there can be no holes. You likely feel differently, and there is little ground to reach a common concensus.

    However, any debate over our interpretation of the seperation of Church and state is moot. The question of tax exemption of churches was already decided in 397 U.S. 664. In the Majority opinion they quote from Freund, Public Aid to Parochial Schools, 82 Harv.L. Rev. 1680, 1687 n. 16 (1969).

    ‘the symbolism of tax exemption is significant as a manifestation that organized religion is not expected to support the state; by the same token the state is not expected to support the church.’

    The SCOTUS has held that state support of religion and religion support of the state are two sides of the same coin.

  • Raphael

    Sorry, that wasn’t quoted in the majority opinion. But it was from a concurring opinion by Justice Brennan. My memory isn’t what it used to be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I’m well aware of what the legal precedents currently are. I’m arguing that they should be changed. We do not exempt religious organizations from many other generally applicable laws. We should not exempt them from taxation.

  • Raphael

    Ok. That certainly is a viable opinion. With the Lemon test, it may be possible to tax churches.

    First question– How would you phrase the law which causes a church, which does not volunteer to incorporate, to become a taxable entity?

    Obviously this would be required to be the first requirement in any series of laws. Before any individual or organization can be taxed there must be a law making such taxable.

    The first problem I see with this is that the government should not be able to tell a church how to organize. Including, but not limited to, any organizational structure which may be recognizable as a business.

  • Raphael

    On a side note: If you are aware of the legal precedents why did you claim that my argument did not take into account legal precedents?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    How would you phrase the law which causes a church, which does not volunteer to incorporate, to become a taxable entity?

    Obviously, the law must already define what a church is; otherwise there would be no way to tell who would qualify for a tax exemption. I would simply change that law so that entities meeting the previously given description were no longer tax-exempt.

    If you are aware of the legal precedents why did you claim that my argument did not take into account legal precedents?

    You claimed that it would violate the separation of church and state to tax churches. That argument is wrong, and I was explaining why. I’m proposing the elimination of the arbitrary and ad hoc exemption from taxation that churches currently enjoy.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    What if churches had to apply for “not for profit” status like every other nonprofit organization. Would that be more fair?

    Matt R.

  • Raphael

    If state funding of church is a seperation of church-state issue, and church funding of the state is the other side of the same coin, then taxing churches is, by default, a seperation of church-state issue. That the conclusion that a strict enforcement is required can be debated does not make the argument wrong.

    For income tax, churches are not defined as a taxable entity. If you remove the mention of churches and religious organizations in the 501c3 exemptions would not create a taxable church. The 501c3 exemption is for corporations. In order to avoid an excessive entanglement, all churches are considered 501c3 exempt, whether a coorporation or not, unless they are found to be violating the restrictions for said corporations. The entanglement for revoking exemption status and subsequent determinations (what legal entity is said church and which taxes apply) is less excessive than the same determinations for every church on a case per case basis.

  • Raphael

    While you are considering my last post, I thought I would give you something else to consider.

    In the United States of America today, churches and religious groups are treated with enormous sensitivity and deference by politicians and the media, a deference they have not earned. Far too often, the government and society in general bends over backwards to accommodate and encourage religious beliefs even when there is no rational reason why they should do so. The most egregious example of this is the sweeping tax exemptions granted to religion.

    Exercise of religion is an unalienable right. Religious groups need not do anything to earn it. Unalienable rights are not granted or created by governments they are pre-existing. Our government was created to secure such rights and is obligated to protect them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Free exercise of religion is certainly an inalienable right. Government support of religion is not.

  • The Bible is our map!

    Wut!!!!!!!!!!! Why should ppl taxe the churches!!!!!!!! Im just curoius is it against the rules to be an christain in dis website!? Christany is real! I might be new but why tax the churches wut did they do 2 u atheists????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    The Bible is our map!

    Based on my observations, it is not against the rules to be a Christian in this website. I believe this website was designed so that people with different viewpoints and ideas could come together to discuss them with each other. Do not be angry because people here disagree with you. If you have a different view, state your idea, then back it up with supporting arguments and facts. I think that if you can make a strong, logical case, then people will listen. They may not agree, but they may respect your idea as valid.

    Respectfully,

    Matt R

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Just as a clarification:

    “The Bible is our map!”

    Is not an assertion in my above post. It is a salutation to the previous poster whose screen name is “The Bible is our map!”.

    Matt R

  • Raphael

    Our founding fathers’ idea of a seperation of church and state cannot be applied today. When they were coining the term, it was possible for the federal government to allow the states to pass all laws concerning religion, thus maintain a wall of seperation in the federal government. With the ratification of the 14th amendment, in 1868, the view held by the forefathers ceased to be viable. Any attempt to maintain the wall of seperation, while protecting religious liberty, creates anomalies in the law. These anomalies are seen by areligious people as supporting the religious. But, the government is not in power to maintain a wall of seperation; it is in power to secure the unalienable rights of the people. If securing unalienable rights is viewed as support then support must be allowed.

  • http://www.PetitionOnline.com/patriots/petition Richard Schultz

    It’s now time churches, synagogues and mosques be held financially accountable for the terror and criminal activity demanded in their religious worship handbooks. Before President George W. Bush can fight a Global War On Terror with any Moral Authority he must first clean up our own house of worship right here in the United States.

    Religious handbooks condone advocate and command criminal activity that is utterly abominable.

    Freedom of religion must be vigorously protected but tax exempt privilege must be revoked from these pulpits of terror and pews of poison. Religious organizations of whatever faith that demand heinous crimes and flagrant acts of abominable terror..yet folks say to me over and over – “mostly all religious organizational worship handbooks demand that” – my point exactly.

    These are plain facts – these are the demands in the majority of worship handbooks today. If anyone has any doubt on what is being said http://www.freedomboots.blogspot.com provides a compelling and shocking factual account of this premise.

    Religious Institutions whose worship text do not uphold the laws of the land must no longer be free from the tax of the land..

    Stop our government from funding The War On Terror right here in our own house of worship.

    President George W. Bush Sign This!

    To: U.S. Congress
    We The People ~

    petition that all churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, religious organizations, schools, universities, all entities unburdened by the Weight of Taxation, to retain the privilege Free From Taxation must expurgate (cleanse) from Religious Worship Handbooks, all text which Condone, Advocate and Command illegal activity according to the laws of the United States of America.

    We The People ~

    no longer allow our elected officials financially aiding favor to Religious Institutions whose Worship Texts call for actionable abhorrent Holy Acts of Criminality. Those which demand violence and those which induce the yoke of suppression on ourselves and future generations. Those activities of Holiness creating the Global War of Terror.

    All Religious Worship Text including, but not limited to: Hate crimes – Human Rights Violations – Sexual Crimes – Censorship of Speech and Religion – Child Abuse – Animal Cruelty – Suppression and Cruelty of Women – Rape – Incest – Slavery – Terrorism – Torture – Genocide – War Crimes and all Crimes Against Humanity.

    Precepts of terror, disguised as Holy Worship to Gods, shall no longer reign as Platforms for Financial Privilege. Religious Institutions whose Worship Text do not uphold the Laws of the Land shall no longer be free from the Tax of the Land of the United States of America.

    We The People ~

    example to our ourselves and our children, petitioning before Congress and beacon to the world upholding America in the true light of Spiritual Liberty and the true light of Justice and Freedom. Offering footprints, upholding America in Authentic Family Values. Today this courageous step in history demonstrating Freedom of Speech and Freedom of and from Religion – yet giving no favor, neither financially awarding special privilege, whose Religious Worship Texts, Condone, Advocate and Command violation of the laws of the United States of America.

    Sign the Jefferson/Paine Religious Terror Taxation Act now.
    http://www.PetitionOnline.com/patriots/petition.html

  • Alex Weaver

    “These anomalies are seen by areligious people as supporting the religious. But, the government is not in power to maintain a wall of seperation; it is in power to secure the unalienable rights of the people. If securing unalienable rights is viewed as support then support must be allowed.”

    And why is it that taxing religious organizations is violating an inalienable right? Does taxing television stations violate the right to free speech? Think this through…

  • Raphael

    Concerning taxes and unalienable rights: The power to tax is the power to control or destroy.

    Concerning Television stations: short answer is yes. Long answer is no. Short explanation of the long answer: “congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech” has never been interpretted as reading what it says.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The power to tax is the power to control or destroy.

    I disagree: the church tax exemption is what constitutes the “power to control”. The arcane and often unclear restrictions that churches must adhere to in order to retain their tax-exempt status – endorsing issues but not candidates? – coercively limit their speech and prevent them from voicing their opinions on a wide variety of issues. Removing this exemption would permit all churches to speak freely without fear that they will be disadvantaged for it, and would thus lessen government control over churches.

    As far as “the power to destroy”, you’ll notice that no one is advocating churches be taxed differently based on what they say. They should pay taxes based only on how much property and assets they hold, just like everyone else. As I stressed in my original article, taxing a church’s assets would in no way impair their ability to practice their religion, any more than the income taxes levied on individual congregants prevent them from doing so. If your religion is “don’t pay taxes” (like some people I could name), then maybe you have a problem, but we’ve already established that religious groups do not and should not have a special exemption from otherwise generally applicable laws.

  • Raphael

    Non-taxable vs Tax Exempt. Tax exemption assumes the power to tax. While I certainly agree that the current system exerts control on churches, removing the exemption is not the only option. Removing the restrictions would remove the control. The real question is, should the government have the power to tax churches. This was one of the issues facing our founding fathers. Along the way, we have forgotten why they are not taxed.

    It doesn’t matter that no particular religion is targetted for destruction. All churches would exist only by the grace of the government. In a time of governemental need, taxes could be substantially increased. The increased tax burden on the people would cause a decrease in donations. People simply do not donate as much when they are suffering hardships. Churches, now taxable, would not only be liable for the higher taxes, they must pay with a decreased revenue. It is possible to increase the tax burden to eliminate all churches who rely solely on contributions of the less then well off.

  • Alex Weaver

    The fact that you’ve gone on this long without either giving up or providing a substantive reason for why churches should be singled out for a tax exemption absolutely amazes me.

  • Raphael

    The reasons I do not believe they should be taxable, is because of seperation of church and state. The state should not have to support churches, and churches should not have to support the state. I stated that in my first post. I hadn’t thought there was need to repeat myself.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    A thought: If I started a religion that was based on the belief that a certain video game was the best one ever, and that it had to be divine, and that all those who didn’t believe so would be sentenced to an eternity in The Void (a location in the game), and that the stories told in the game were literal truth and actually happened (or, perhaps, they were only metaphorical), then if like-minded individuals and I bought a one billion dollar piece of property to meet at once a week (open to the public; we want more people to join us!) to celebrate the game (largely by playing it, no doubt), and if we occasionally did some good works around the community (and tried to spread the good word of how great this game was), and if we took in donations during our weekly meetings… You would have no problem with that one billion dollar building being tax free?

  • Alex Weaver

    Businesses and citizens are also separate from the state, and benefit from the services provided by the state no more than churches. What is it that makes churches different?

  • Raphael

    Nes,
    While I have many problems with churches owning high value property, one of them is not that they are tax free. My father, who deals in collectables, always pointed out that an item only had some value if it sold for that value.

    Alex,
    I also believe the Governments have failed in their duty to secure unalienable rights of its citizens. Paying rent to the state to continue to live on owned property is an infringement of an unalienable right to own property. The Governements should spend less time figuring out what they can do, and more time figuring out what they should do. There are methods of taxation in which a person chooses to be taxed. For example, the “fair tax” (www.fairtax.org), if implimented by the federal governement and states, would go farther than any other tax system to limit the impact on individual rights.

    But, what makes churches different? Other than 2000 years of precedence dating back to the Roman Empire’s tax exemption of religious property, there are the first two clauses of the first amendment. They are rights which the government is reminded to secure. That the government has failed to secure those unalienable rights which were not expressly defined in the Bill of Rights, should be an affront to everyone.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    The legality/morality of taxing property aside, how does taxing a church (like any other property) stop people from exercising their freedom of religion? All that freedom of religion means is, basically, “believe what you want,” it does not guarantee a building to do it in, nor should it. There are at least 2 Christian groups in my town that meet at the local school because they don’t have a church to meet in. Their lack of a church doesn’t seem to be stopping their freedom of religion at all.

    I also think you totally missed the point of what I was trying to say. The value of the building wasn’t really important (though I’m sure that religious buildings across the country collectively hold property several times that value), though I was admittedly trying to highlight the absurd extravagance of some religious buildings. Replace “one billion” with “ten thousand,” read it again, and please answer the question at the end.

  • Alex Weaver

    Slavery had considerably more than 2000 years of precedence, prior to being outlawed. Should we regard that as legitimizing it?

    And you still have not explained how A) taxing people in order to pay for the government services they benefit from is a violation of individual rights (do you also regard it as a violation of your “inalienable rights” that you have to put money into a vending machine in order to get a soda out of it?), and B) what makes churches special in this regard. The first amendment makes other guarantees than freedom of religion, yet you apparently do not have the same concerns about taxing organizations whose principal concern is speech or the press, or petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. Why single out religious organizations?

  • Raphael

    Let us assume for a second that churches are taxed. Those churches no longer able to afford to maintain a building hold their services on public property. Given a limitted amount of public space, it may not be possible to accommodate all those churches in need. Some functionary of the government must then decide which churches may hold their services on public property. Further, public land would be utilized for worship, and that same land is paid for and maintained by the taxpayers. Which leads us back to the same argument, why must taxpayers be burdened so that a religious group may be free to worship?

    Of all the taxes, porperty tax is the one I am least able to support a right that is held by churches. However, our founding fathers did recognize that the ownership of property is an unalienable right. However, this right has been turned into a privilege. A privilege one must pay for. No one should have to pay the government rent for land which is not owned by the government. But then, what right does a church have to own property? Why not strip all churches of their lands, and have them find some other means to exercise their religion?

    Why single out religious organizations? There is a fitting question. Of all the non-commercial organizations which qualify as being tax exempt, why single out religious organizations for the removal of exempt status? Why not revoke all tax exemptions?

    The taxing of churches is a tax on religious liberty.

    Why am I not vocal about taxation of speech or the press? I am, but this topic was not about those. I am opposed to taxation which is not voluntary on a personal basis. While a great deal of revenue is produced by the taxation of businesses, that revenue ultimately comes out of the pocket of the individual. Sale tax would be voluntary, as it is possible for a person adopt a lifestyle in which he does not purchase anything. I do not have a problem with a church having to pay sales tax. Worship does not require the purchase of goods. Worship, with a group, does require a place to worship. And while that place need not be owned by the church, it will inevitably place a burden on the taxpayer.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Given a limitted amount of public space, it may not be possible to accommodate all those churches in need. Some functionary of the government must then decide which churches may hold their services on public property.

    You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel for objections at this point. First of all, if a church couldn’t afford any land whatsoever to conduct services – an extremely unrealistic scenario at the best of times – then services could simply be held in any member’s house. (Which is what most religions have been doing for millennia, including Christianity.) This is a point that was already discussed in my post. Second, in the even more ludicrously unrealistic scenario where we have dozens of churches with absolutely nowhere to meet clamoring for scarce public space that is so overused they can’t even fit onto it all at once, then they’ll just have to take turns just like everyone else. If some government functionary tries to block a specific church from holding their services on public land, then they can sue to assert their rights, just like they can do and regularly do already.

    Which leads us back to the same argument, why must taxpayers be burdened so that a religious group may be free to worship?

    Taxpayers are already burdened so that religious groups are free to worship. Because of the church tax exemption, taxpayers of other religions, or who have no religion at all, are forced to pay higher taxes to subsidize churches and make up for the money they are not paying. What I am proposing would decrease this burden, not increase it, by more fairly spreading it out among the various groups and individuals that make up our society.

    However, this right has been turned into a privilege. A privilege one must pay for.

    We pay for the privilege of every right we have. That’s what taxes are for: to maintain and protect the society that gives us so many wonderful freedoms so that we and others can continue to enjoy those freedoms. Or did you think freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and all the rest came for free and required no effort or price?

    Why single out religious organizations? There is a fitting question. Of all the non-commercial organizations which qualify as being tax exempt, why single out religious organizations for the removal of exempt status? Why not revoke all tax exemptions?

    Raphael, you obviously didn’t pay very close attention to my original post, where I answered this exact question in detail:

    Churches are fundamentally unlike the other kinds of groups that usually declare not-for-profit status. Charities and educational institutions, for example, serve all people equally. However, churches do not. They are free to discriminate, and do discriminate, against people who do not share their beliefs (this is called the “ministerial exemption”). They can and do discriminate against people for being gay, for being women, for being unmarried, for their age, for having health problems, or for virtually any other reason… At the very least, these groups should pay taxes if they intend to treat their employees in this way.

    In addition, unlike other tax-exempt entities, churches can and very often do make a substantial profit. A great number of church leaders enjoy wildly expensive and lavish lifestyles. What is so objectionable about asking these incredibly wealthy groups to pay taxes on the money they take in?

    Since this thread is now just rehashing objections that I’ve already dealt with, I’m closing comments.