The Yearly Cost of Religious Tax Exemptions: $71,000,000,000

We know churches get tax exemptions, but how much money does that actually come out to?

University of Tampa professor Ryan T. Cragun along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega ran some calculations and figured out a number:

While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion — to the tune of about $71 billion every year.

So… chump change.

Their article (with a defense of how they calculated the amount) appears in the June/July 2012 issue of Free Inquiry.

“The issue of religious tax preferment is especially relevant now because the number of Americans living outside any religious tradition continues to grow,” said Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry’s editor. “That underscores the unfairness of taxing all Americans to subsidize religious institutions that only some Americans utilize.”

The researchers already know what they’ll get criticized for:

… before we get into our calculations, we think it best to address a criticism that is likely to be raised about this article. By suggesting that these groups should pay taxes, we are likely to be criticized by those who think that religions are largely charitable institutions engaged in beneficial service or charitable work and should therefore be exempt from taxes.

Cue reporter Kimberly Winston‘s article in which she interviews a critic of this finding:

… Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said that Americans have made a democratic decision that religious institutions are good for our communities — believers and atheists alike.

“Whether it is the Quakers opposing slavery, Reverend King arguing for equality, or a Catholic soup kitchen feeding and sheltering all in need,” Rienzi said, “our history is full of examples confirming the great public benefit of our religious diversity.”

Right… because church leaders never use the pulpit to oppose civil rights for gay Americans, or speak out against affordable/accessible health-care for women, or use the extra money to buy themselves a larger house because Jesus wants them to be prosperous…

The researchers also ran a few other calculations:

States bypass an estimated $26.2 billion per year by not requiring religious institutions to pay property taxes.

Capital gains tax exemptions for religious institutions may be as much as $41 million a year.

U.S. clergy may claim as much as $1.2 billion in tax exemptions annually via the parsonage allowance.

Given the current political scene, none of this is going to change anytime soon. Religious groups have far too much power in Washington and they’re not about to ask the government to remove their special privileges. But we can keep the pressure on.

Even if these calculations are proven to be off, the principle isn’t going to change: Religion is a business, churches get tax breaks they don’t really deserve, and we’d all be better off if they paid their fair share.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Alexander Unwyn Cherry

    Although I mostly agree with this article, I take umbrage with almost any article that tries to use statements like this: “…
     that only some Americans utilize.” Only SOME Americans use Social Security Disability, but I’m very glad it was there for me.  Also only SOME Americans use libraries, and only SOME Americans use the public school system… They should take another tactic.

    • http://aeternum-somnium.blogspot.ca/ Tim Rosenfeldt

      To be fair, the full quote should be “religious institutions that only some Americans utilize”. Churches are neither government services nor federal institutions set up for use by the general public. Instead, churches are organizations by people gathered for “fellowship”. They are organizations that perform charitable work as an aside, not as a primary mission. Yet churches don’t just get a discount on their taxes; they are tax-exempt. Americans (and Canadians, here in Canada) subsidize their whole operation, not solely the few functions that benefit the general public.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688236750 Craig Knox

        Churches also are discriminatory and can deny membership.   This is where I have an issue.   If you are tax exempt, you should not be permitted to deny anyone membership.    Technically they aren’t supposed to… but htey do.

        • Joh nn y

           A very interesting point.

        • Danchuckles

          On this basis you should have been admitted to Harvard or any other university you want to attend.

          • http://www.facebook.com/abraham.roloff Abraham Roloff

            That’s not social discrimination. That’s merit based discrimination. If you are gonna take that tact we might as well have a mentally handicapped quadriplegic with dementia running the White House or it might be considered discrimination if we don’t.

    • AlexTheRose

      The problem is churches aren’t a federal/state service. They’re a LOT more akin to your ever-so-friendly General Electric than they are to your local library or post office.

      Yet another invalid comparison.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    This is unreal. I knew it was bad, but… wow. I had no idea it was like that. I live in Tulsa where there’s a church on almost every corner, and many of them on the South side of town reside on huge properties. I can’t begin to imagine, with our city struggling with debt, what a difference it would make for these property owners to pay their fair share.

    • Ladiealoha72

       There’s been a lot of flak in the Urban Tulsa Weekly about church property ownership, and  Tulsa zoning laws which have been constructed to give churches a huge advantage over the common property owner – some of them even give outright preference to church land purchases.

  • kaydenpat

    Not only are churches exempt from paying taxes on tithes/offerings, additionally, some churches get money from the Federal government directly (vouchers for church schools, grants under the Faith Based Initiative).

  • Atheistbob

    17 billion dollars in tax exclusions in broward county, fl.. ALONE.  Multiply by 50 state w/that size county and it comes to well over 71 billion… add the federal tax exemptions and my figure jumps to well over 150 billion dollars per year…. imagine what we could do for health care, for science, for education with that money?
    What a travesty.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=770060626 Shannon Sloan

      Consider for a moment what it -could- do, now think what they probably -would- do. I smell another war.

    • MrUncleruckus

      Dude, sesame street’s budget is 0.014 the federal budget of the U.S. and it’s just one show. The religious exemption tax is not a big problem to the nation’s economy at all. For the most, these churches assist many people in everyday life  and charity for the poor. It would help the economy more to cut a few TV programs than to cut tax exemptions for religious organizations. However, none affect the economy in a bad way, and how we export and import (economy) has nothing to do with tax exemptions, specially with that amount of money being wasted. So you can relax with your, “We must abolish religion” idea for this topic :)

  • DG

    I’m all for taxing churches.  Pull out the stops and treat them like anything else.  That way, the door will swing both ways and then churches will have free access like any other institution to all things in our country.  Fair call.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Previously you’ve said something about the right get into the political campaign.  And I don’t think I’d have a problem with that.  Mostly, I don’t think it would make a difference, since I doubt if many congregants doubt who their cleric wants them to vote for anyway.  Although it would probably ad a lot more mud-slinging TV ads to the campaign.

      But ‘all things’- That I’m not sure.  Just paying taxes doesn’t give you the right to ‘all things’.  How about the Catholic church sponsoring a school gym and of course decorating it?  And I don’t like that Coke can essentially do the same thing.

      • DG

        I’m not sure how big it would be, but it would be more difficult to justify keeping churches out of public domains if they were compelled to pay taxes.  Sure, there could possibly be some limits, even limits that could be justified if they were applied to others.  But it would make it more difficult to limit them, especially if limits were applied to nobody else.

        FWIW it’s worth noting that congregations don’t always vote the way their leaders do.  I remember in Florida, my nephew was on a soccer team, and one of the coaches was a Southern Baptist pastor.  Nice guy, fun.  Former hippie atheist turned conservative Christian.  In 1992, he gave a sermon railing against Bill Clinton.  The next week, he was made to apologize for giving a sermon against Bill Clinton as he found out that a sizeable portion of his church had every intention of supporting Bill Clinton (and I guess some others who didn’t still thought he should keep it to himself).  I’ve never forgotten that, as it reminds me that the broad brushstrokes with which our popular culture paints things are not always accurate.

        • Coyotenose

           “…it would be more difficult to justify keeping churches out of public domains if they were compelled to pay taxes.”

          It wouldn’t. Separation is well established and has a basis that has nothing to do with taxation. The tax-exempt issue was a compromise to try to protect churches from de facto government influence (among other things). The thing is, it doesn’t work unless people act in good faith, and I doubt any law passed with “good faith” in mind has turned out that way. See the Social Security Act and the Patriot Act.

          • DG

            That’s always a possibility of course.  People may not act in good faith with any law.   And you are right, the tax exemptions themselves were part of keeping the twain from meeting.  However, to eliminate that boon for churches, allowing the government to come in and tax away, while then using the other arm to hold churches at bay, would seem to break down the consistency behind the treatment.  Right now, it’s fair to say Church here, government there, and that’s that.  But build a bridge one direction, it will be difficult to keep things only going in one direction.   But as you point, there would also be quite a few variables to consider on both sides of the debate for anything like that to come close to working for everyone’s benefit.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_62IW5KKDO56PJJTDLJVMDRYCUA Gene

            The “Separation” that you speak of was established to protect religions from the government.  It just so happens that it also would serve to protect a government from being taken over by one religion, such as the King of England’s chosen religion was doing prior to the Revolutionary war.

  • http://karlaporter.com/ Karla Porter

    I was just talking with Justin Vacula about this the other day. Its very sad, the revenue that could be generated from taxation of at the very least the mega churches would benefit the country at large much more than the work being done in them. 

  • Declevidence

    1.  do the religious institutions have to file as non profit organizations, or are they simply non-taxed by claiming religion?  I think they do not have the same regulation as non-profits.
    2.  many churches own/operate other businesses within their tax free shell– which gives them an unfair market advantage
    3.  since they also accept tax dollars, they should have to play by the rules– nondiscrimination acts, e.g.; 
    4.  and in the case of health care, since they take tax dollars, they are open to public or fulfill a public role, and contract for services outside their religious sect, they have relinquished their ‘right’ to force their religion on their secular clientele (e.g. reproductive choices, end of life care choices)
    5.  one way to force this issue is for everyone to declare themselves a minister or religious leader and form their own ‘church’ and declare themselves tax-exempt.  You can be a certified minister on-line (and as far as I know the government does not regulate who is a minister)– so lets all take advantage of the loophole and nobody pay taxes and see what happens.

    • ortcutt

      Re: #2

      Churches are still obligated to pay UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax) if they are operating an unrelated business.  Of course, since they don’t need to do any reporting (#1), they can more easily avoid paying those taxes.  Nonetheless, they are still subject to them.

      Re: #5

      People tried this in the 70s with so-called “House Churches” where people claimed that their households were churches.  This forced the IRS to develop complicated standards for what is a bona fide church. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688236750 Craig Knox

      @ortcutt:disqus     the funny thing is, they start those “businesses” with the tax free donated money they got.   It’s a double standard!
      Religions do have to file as a non-profit but they have far fewer regulations and reviews/audits.   Kind of like none.

      If you want to get rich, start a religion.  Anything can count.   The church of tree worship would be legal.   Granted, you’d need idiots to join, believe and donate to get rolling… but look how well it worked for the mormons

      • Pseudonym

         To be fair, any non-profit organisation can start a subsidiary business (e.g. a charity opening an “op shop”), so there’s actually no double standard in that respect.

  • http://www.thinkatheistradio.com/ Nelson@TA Radio

    Hey guys, I just exchanged emails with Hemant on the question of whether or not the “But churches are charitable organizations…” holds water. I have this link here that quotes some figures that certainly calls into question whether churches even are charitable organizations. He’s not able to update the post right now so he’s asked me to post it here in the comments.
    http://galileounchained.com/2012/05/14/are-churches-more-like-charities-or-country-clubs/

    Just quickly,  when comparing organizations that exist explicitly as charitable organizations, 80 to 100% of revenue generated goes to activities that are what we would recognize as charitable. When looking at churches, that might be as low as 2%. And then there’s the $34 billion dollars in financial fraud projected to be committed by religious leaders.

    So, you may not even have to argue with the person that says “churches are charitable organizations, therefore…” by saying “it doesn’t matter, they’re still churches.” You can point out that they don’t seem to do much charity at all.

    • newavocation

      They are more like country clubs with people waiting in the club house before going to that great fairway in the sky with Jesus as their caddy.

    • ortcutt

      The IRS uses the term “exempt purpose” not “charitable purpose”.  Charitable purpose is one one of the categories of exempt purposes.  The exempt purposes are “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for
      public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports
      competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.”

      http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=175418,00.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

        Is there a category for INFLICTING cruelty on children?

        • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

          Unfair generalization. Not all churches, officially or otherwise, inflict cruelty on children.

          • Aegis

            He didn’t make a generalization. You assumed one. Learn to read.

            • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

              My apologies. Please educate me. The discussion was about having a category for granting tax-exempt status to churches in general. How was his comment not a generalization?

          • Penisenlargementpills4urkids

             Telling children that god will send them to hell for eternity if they don’t believe the right way is not cruelty? Telling gay children that they are an abomination and they are better off dead is not cruelty? Telling children that their favorite cartoons, books, and music are of the devil and burning their possessions is not cruelty? Telling children that question the irrational things in the bible that they are demon possessed and bound for hell is not cruelty? I guess sexual abuse is the only thing you consider as cruelty.

            • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

              I’m sorry, but all churches teach this? I know mine doesn’t, you see.

              • Penisenlargementpills4urkids

                 Well glad that your perspective
                is so narrow as to think your experience with religion is the norm
                for everyone else. Pray tell, what DOES your church teach? If they
                teach that there is a hell and that god will send you there, then how
                is that any different than what I said? Everything I have said has
                been the norm for most people in religion. Did you casually forget
                the big stink Christians made about Harry Pottery? The book burnings,
                the condemnation? Also, only 15% of Christian denominations fully
                support gays and the rest are anti-gay and not only preach out
                against it but spend large sums of that tax free cash to prevent gays
                from having rights. Lastly, have you every went to your religious
                figures and told them you doubted say the Noah story and they feed
                you the typical god works in mysterious ways crap every-time you have
                a legitimate question and once you push far enough they conclude that
                your questioning is the devils work bringing you to doubt.
                Oh…no…you haven’t because I doubt you ever did question anything
                stupid in the bible. You are just assuming that they will react with
                acceptance and reason. It’s fine if you have your personal faith but
                there is no reason to have faith in churches and Jesus was in fact
                against the idea of churches.

                • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

                  1. I did not say that my experience with religion is the norm for everyone else. What I was saying was that your sweeping generalization about the evils of religion do not hold true for all faiths because it does not hold true for mine, which is Roman Catholicism.

                  2. You said, “Telling children that god will send them to hell for eternity if they don’t believe the right way is not cruelty?” Yes, my Church believes in hell but we believe that God does not “send” anyone, and we do not believe that children (or anyone) goes there just because they do not believe as we do.

                  3. My Church never officially condemned Harry Potter. On the contrary, it recognizes that the arts have a rightful place in the development of man.

                  4. My Church teaches quite clearly that gay people, before anything else, are people, created in the image and likeness of God and thus deserve full respect for being such. If we believe that homosexual marriages should not happen, then that is a legitimate difference in opinion, I think.

                  5. I have raised many questions about the Bible and my faith to the priests of my Church, and they have affirmed that questioning is good, for only in asking does one move toward the answer. They taught that God gave us a brain and that He meant for us to use it, and that He wanted not blind faith but an informed one.

                  6. On the contrary, Jesus instituted the sacraments, the Eucharist, the command to baptize and to do these things in memory of Him. He established a Church of His own with Peter at its head and said that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

                  7. It seems to me that you have had a mostly negative experience of religion. I am sorry for that. That is not the way it is supposed to be. Christianity is about love, even if its members are not always so loving.

                • http://www.facebook.com/abraham.roloff Abraham Roloff

                   #1 Roman Catholicism is one of the worst offenders in this category of conversation, both for child abuse and tax evasion.
                  #2 The RCC has recently rescinded the doctrine of belief in Purgatory. Unbaptized/saved children go straight to hell according to the pope.
                  #3 Though it did not ban that one series it has banned hundreds if not thousands of other texts, then persecute, excommunicated or murdered their writers.
                  #4 Your church comdemns gay people to hell and orderes you to kill them for being who they are. That’s on biblical commandment that the church has never rescinded or condemned.
                  #5 You have clearly not been asking the right questions. Such as…”Why did Judas Iscariot die twice and in two different ways?” or “Why are there two different and contradictory creation accounts?”
                  #6 I have nothing to say about this. It’s not an argument with any merit.
                  #7 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the
                  earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to
                  turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a
                  daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the
                  members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother
                  more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter
                  more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:34-37

                • Harumph

                  Church Gay = Jew for Hitler

                • Isaiah

                   if it brings you ease my brother. The Bible says God created everything on this earth including man. after the 7th day it states God made adam and eve (this is God’s descendants) there were men before adam and eve. I agree most religious leaders can’t answer questions about who was going to kill cain that God had to put a mark on him, or who were the people laughing at Noah? Everything is in the Bible if you open your eyes to understand.  God loves us all, even you and He knows your thoughts, don’t wait until is too late to seek refuge in Him. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to end up like those people begging noah to open the door and let them in. Enter while the door still open because when it closes, it will not be open no matter hard you knock and you will be left out to be with your non belief in the darkness, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The way you express yourself sounds like you’ve given yourself to evil. repent and seek the Lord and he will have mercy on you ask Him in the name of Jesus Christ to forgive you. p.s. THERE’S NOT SUCH THING AS AN “ATHEIST” if you don’t believe in God, you belong to the devil.

                • David Johnson

                  “The faults of which we ask you [God] the remittance, it is you who make us commit them; the traps of which we implore you to deliver us, it is you who has set them for us; and the Satan which surrounds us, this Satan, it is you.”Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

            • Freedumb

              America has no law allowing the taxation of churches. Besides – all the money they get came from taxed money anyway.

          • Clipboard

            Lying to them isn’t cruel?

      • Pseudonym

        Bingo. Your local church should be no different from your local sports club when it comes to its tax status. Hold all organisations to the same standards, regardless of religious status.

      • Overton

        Did you just say Consumers Laboratories?  What about that tax exempt Insurance Agency and Lobbying organization [Liberal of course] AARP?

        • ortcutt

           AARP is a 501(c)4.  Donations to AARP aren’t tax-deductble and they aren’t subject to the limitations on 501(c)3. 

  • Matt Smith

    I… wow.
    To put this in perspective, it’s over four times the budget for NASA in 2008.

    • Reginald Selkirk

       Solution: let’s send churches into space.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=770060626 Shannon Sloan

        We already send enough garbage into space.

        • Evroty

          That wasnt a cool post.  Not all churches are bad.  No one gets a salary at our church. We have to do all kinds of fund raises to keep it open for our members.  Im not trying to make it like poor us, but churches bring alot of peace to alot of people…..but to say churches are garbage, that isnt right.

          • Aegis

            It’s not churches bringing people peace, it’s people bringing people piece. Churches are garbage. Space it is!

            • Seandelhardge

               please, lets not disrespect Gods house like that. I make you the promise Aegis, that the very God and house you speak ill of shall one day be your place of refuge and you will need the Lord

              • william

                ROFL

              • percussaresurgo

                ROFL

              • http://www.facebook.com/squankyv2 Mike Warner

                Even I find it hard to read that with a straight face. one could argue that the church is a symbol that people find peace in but then they are just idolizing the church which isn’t that against the bible? An inanimate object doesn’t bring peace nor does it bring chaos. It is the people behind them that bring the peace and chaos.

              • VALENTINO

                BULLSHIT FOR YOU HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED,FOR THE BIBLE IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE TRUTH.

            • VALENTINO

              TRUE THAT

          • Seandelhardge

             Hi Evroty. i know you dont know me, buy i formed a company called Commonwealth Dominion “LLC”
            i like what you said about your church raising funds, that’s call collective resources. Can u connect me to your Pastor, I’d like to speak with your Pastor about joining with a number of churches that pool our wealth and attribute to the needs of the saints. would to like to speak in greater detail about what we are doing to enhance the  quality of living among the saints
            678-914-5809

            • http://www.facebook.com/squankyv2 Mike Warner

              I doubt it’s a very good company. You can’t even type correctly.

          • http://twitter.com/TrulyFubar WTF?!

            There are a lot of loving and compassionate people in the world, including those who do good deeds for the needy through their church.  But why would they stop?  We don’t need support a religious institution with preferential tax treatment to do good.  Spend less time listening to pep-rally’s and how wonderful your god it, and spend more time directly being active in comforting and helping  disadvantaged and suffering people; that doesn’t require religion.

    • Amy Pond

      Doctor?

  • Sulac

    This is proof that religion is the biggest industry in the world. Can you imagine if religions tax free status is removed worldwide? There would be no such thing as an economic crisis. Makes you wonder what they really do with the money given to them but considering that poor countries are still really poor despite billions going into charities every year is a bit suspicious. 

    • MrUncleruckus

      Dude, sesame street’s budget is 0.014 the federal budget of the U.S. and it’s just one show. The religious exemption tax is not a big problem to the nation’s economy at all. For the most, these churches assist many people in everyday life  and charity for the poor. It would help the economy more to cut a few TV programs than to cut tax exemptions for religious organizations. However, none affect the economy in a bad way, and how we export and import (economy) has nothing to do with tax exemptions, specially with that amount of money being wasted. So you can relax with your, “We must abolish religion” idea for this topic :)

      • RascalRaidex

        Sesame street does not use government funding, however the channel PBS which hosts the show does get a small amount of government funding. Then again, this channel shows primarily educational television, which is a good thing. Sesame Street makes its money from licensing agreements, not the government.

  • jagadishchandar

    2011 budget of NASA ~$18 billion.

  • Joseph Auclair

    Couldn’t agree more, either with you or with Madison. Or Hitchens. Or Mencken. Or so many others.

  • F1nn3as

    It is well past time to start taxing religious corporations. It is past time to start taxing all corporations effectively. 

  • Joseph Auclair

    Oh, before I forget.

    Up to now the idea has been to not tax them on condition they stay out of politics.

    It was a kind of bribe to get them to shut up.

    They aren’t doing it as honestly as they should but they still feel constrained and want us to give them the tax breaks without the muzzle.

    I say, tax them AND muzzle them.

    And let them choke on their rage.

    • LutherW

       And don’t give them an exemption for shipping money overseas for missionary work, or anything else.

    • ortcutt

      Some tax-exempt organizations, like 501(c)4s, are allowed to electioneer.  All 501(c)3s, whether they are churches, scientific organizations, private universities, food banks, animal shelters, etc… aren’t allowed to electioneer because donations to those organizations are tax-deductible.  We don’t want the government subsidizing people’s campaign donations.   There is nothing stopping a church from sending a letter to the IRS disclaiming 501(c)3 status if they want to get involved in electoral politics.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

        What distinguishes churches from REAL 501(c)3′s is that the religious have laxer Federal reporting standards.    To me, that’s the worst part of the whole rotten deal.

        • Pseudonym

          So how about we tighten up the reporting standards, like they do in most other developed countries?  Sounds like a plan to me.

      • Here in The Trenches

        If anyone here wants to help bring this to the attention of the white house, there is a petition you can sign (only need name and email to sign), it is to stop the tax exemtion for churches that want to break the law and endorse candidates.  They have until Dec. 7 to get about 14,000 more signatures to be reviewed. Go here to sign it:  https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/enforce-tax-code-and-strip-violating-religious-institutions-their-tax-exempt-501c-status/mCsW32Ng

        Also, take the time to follow the link in this article about the findings of University of Tampa professor Ryan T. Cragun along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega   on the numbers. It was rather shocking to me! Here is the link: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=cragun_32_4

        • http://twitter.com/TrulyFubar WTF?!

          Petition doesn’t go far enough.  We should eliminate all preferential tax treatment for all “non-profits” (including charities and all religious institutions). 

          • VALENTINO

            BULLSHIT,NO ONE DESERVES TO PAY TAX ON EARTH FOR IT ONLY MAKES THE ROTHSCHILD/ROCKAFELLAS OR ANY OTHER UNKNOWN ELITE FAMILY A LOT RICHER

    • frankie

      When have they ever stayed out of politics? They are very much involved.

    • VALENTINO

      BULLSHIT,NO ONE DESERVES TO PAY TAX ON EARTH BECAUSE PAYING TAXES IS ACTUALLY PAYING FOR A DEBT THAT YOU NEVER MADE,I THINK HUMANITY SHOULD GO AGAINST THE TAX LAW AND WE AS THE PEOPLE SHOULD WRITE THE LAW NOT THE CORRUP JUDGES AND IF THIS WOULD LEAD US TO WORLD WAR 3 THEN SO BE IT.

  • Stev84

    The problem with the charity thing is that churches are just assumed to be charities by default. If a church is actually run as a charity, I have no problem giving them the same status as other charitable organizations. But with the same conditions and obligations. That means having to file financial documents proving their status. Churches do not have to do that! They just get tax exempt status while their books are secret.

    • Jalj

       I agree. No need of justification for special provisions for religion per se.

    • Aurthor Thing

      Correct my friend and 99% of their funds come in the form of CASH, isn’t that convenient… Idol worship, Tax exemption, law of the land, they all read from the same book but disagree about what it means and ignore other parts, total ignorance in faith has alluded them into a false sense security that is no different than the Muslims that a Christian person bashes all day long. It’s sick on many levels.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Religion; what a fucking racket.

    • Seandelhardge

       Don’t put down every churches because of one bad church.
      just like you wont put-down the whole world because of one terrible thing YOU have said or done. you don’t judge the world because of you. so don’t judge religion because of one bad church.
      and by-the-way according to scripture, true religion is to feed the hungry, care for the widows, visit the sick.

      • Joris

        Well then aren’t they doing it wrong? And he doesn’t put down every church because of one bad church, it’s the entire religion that is a bunch of nut. It’s an immoral teaching of ancient manners. And IF the scripture you are mentioning is the scripture they should follow, then you verify the argument that ALL churches are to be put down, because even having a building there is wasting money that could have been put to better use by people suffering from hunger, disease or widows… You see? It’s a bag of contradictions.

      • VALENTINO

        BULLSHIT FOR IT WAS A RELIGIOUS LIE THAT WAS TOLD THAT STAYED IN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE THAT DIVIDED HUMANITY UNTIL THIS DAY

      • Rica J Gilmore

        According to the Bible: True religion is to give free and receive free. True religion is to stay out of politics. True religion is to preach – free! True religious people are to pay taxes (per Jesus). It is all in the Bible. These huge religions are forcing their personal religious values on others, participating in politics, If ones giving the sermons are getting the donations.. it is NOT Jesus and the apostles directions. I love this – religion is a snare and a racket. https://archive.org/details/ReligionIsASnareAndARacket

    • Frankie

      Exactly!!!!!, just like our Government!!!! Only our government has the power to make em pay..and should do rightfully so. After Jesus told his disciples to be no part of this worldly system of things, the disciples asked whether paying taxes was being part of the world. Jesus specifically commanded them to “Give to Ceasar Ceaser’s things, and give to God, God’s things. Therefore telling them that if The government puts law into place, you MUST pay it to be in God’s favor. So there’s nothing wrong with the government requiring taxes on church orginizations! And according to God, if they aren’t willing to pay or fight against it??? Well then, they certainly are not doing god’s will, and will not gain everlasting life as promised. I SAY TAX THEM!…LET THEIR FAITH WITHOUT WORKS DIE. haha

  • ragarth

    I seem to remember an argument someone made to me about taxing churches, that most run on shoestring budgets and therefore would go belly up if taxed. I personally am not against this since churches that do valuable work could file as non-profits and those that don’t are social black holes, but it does mean that, if true, a good chunk of that 71 billion dollar figure would go poof within a couple years if the tax exemption for churches were lifted.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I don’t know how small churches would fair, but I suspect the vast majority of the total tax revenue would come from so called ‘mega churches’.  I know, deep insight there.  Amazon and Wal Mart are driving Mom&Pops out of business.  It might be the same thing.  I’m not saying that’s good but I think the revenue stream would probably remain.  It’s not like people are going to stop buying things or going to church.  They’ll just be buying from Wal Mart or going to Saddleback.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dwightwelch Dwight Welch

        though many of the walmarts of churches are in fact conservative, politically and theologically. The small ones tend to be the liberal ones in the first place Secondly it is hard to measure charity. For instance much of the church I work for budget is to keep the lights on And yet that provides space for our only soup kitchen in town, a place for AA, Girl Scouts, and other such groups to meet. We don’t fund such groups (except the soup kitchen in some measure) so on paper there is no direct income being moved to them, it’s just going to the space but the space itself becomes a key part (and the organizational skills, knowledge of church members to pull together such a program)

    • brianmacker

      There are many for profit activities that have gone belly up because of taxation. If an activity cannot pay for the governmental services it receives then why shouldn’t it go belly up?

  • Barbfox63

    I think the actual CHURCH should be tax-exempt. But all other property including parsonage should be taxable. Many churches own vast amounts of real property.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       Why?  If I decided to form a club of like-minded people (people who really dig Pink Floyd music, for example), then bought a piece of prime real-estate for us to meet in each week, should our clubhouse be tax exempt?  If not, why should religious people be allowed to soak the taxpayers for their clubhouses, which are often on multimillion dollar pieces of land?

      • flyb

        Please send your newsletter. I’d like to join your Pink Floyd club.

  • CoboWowbo

    I agree that churches should be taxed, but with substantial exemptions & deductions for actual charity work done. 

  • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

    Tax Exemptions are not a cost.  It’s unrealized income.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is an actual cost and is Socialistic by nature.

    • brianmacker

      Of course you are correct. I’m still against all tax exemptions for religious organizations and “non-profits”. I know you were not addressing my second point so don’t take it as a criticism.

      The actual costs are in the government services that are provided to nonprofits. Of course, the solution to that can also be to not provide such services where there is no free rider problem. Unfortunately there is an unavoidable free rider problem in the case of the military. Public roads are an avoidable free rider problem by collecting tolls but there are debatable issues on cost effectiveness of doing so. So it does cost, not the government, but the taxpayer who is the victim of the free rider problem, freeloader resources and services when the non-profits do not pay any taxes.

      I do however really hate when people who haven’t given much thought to these issues call uncollected taxes a cost, so I will agree with that point.

    • amycas

      Please define “socialistic,” and explain why you capitalized it.

      • brianmacker

        He is referring to the fact that it’s redistributive which is one if the tenants of the socialist ideologies.

  • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

    Here’s the COST:

    EITC is One of the Largest Antipoverty Programs
    Last year, over 26.8 million received almost $59.5 billion in EITC for 2010 tax year returns1. Four of five people eligible for the credit claim it. EITC lifted an estimated 6.6 million people out of poverty, including 3.3 million or half of them children The cost of administering the EITC program ratio to claims paid is less than one percent.
    1Source: Report NR. 701-98-11 As of December 31, 2011, Year to Date

    • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

      Now that’s an actual cost!

    • brianmacker

      Every tax payer has a job which “lifts them out of poverty” so why should that be a tax exempt activity? They get taxed as the beneficiaries of such, so why shouldn’t others being lifted out of poverty be taxed on the income they receive from such gifts? Half the population doesn’t pay taxes, and should.

      • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

        The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is made to non tax payers as well as in excess to what some pay in taxes. 

        Example:
        In the early 2000′s, I had a guy working for me who I paid contract labor (no taxes withheld).  I knew I was wrong so I had my CPA do his taxes the following year.  Now remember, no taxes were withheld for 8 months.  Because he was a single dad and only made $18,000 he qualified for the EITC.  Not only did he have his Social Security paid, but he received a check for $1,200. 

        Some call this a “REFUND.”  But I ask, what was refunded?  Don’t you have to spend to be refunded.  That is socialistic by nature and IS a COST and a BURDEN to the taxpayer. 

        How many BILLIONS if not TRILLIONS, has this cost the American tax payers of the years I wonder?

        • amycas

           How much was withheld during the other four months? You seem to have forgotten that bit. Also, do you really think $18,000 is a good yearly income for a man and his son to live off of?

      • Baby_Raptor

        Your statement is incorrect.

        There are people out there who make so little that they don’t pay federal taxes. However, they still pay taxes every time they buy things. They still pay taxes attached to things like their home, their car, ETC. 

        The problem isn’t that they aren’t paying federal taxes. It’s that they’re making so little they can’t afford to, and all half the government cares about is making them so they can charge multibillion dollar corporations even less.

        • brianmacker

          I was referring to federal taxes, of course. Everyone receives federal services and around half of earners do not pay for those services and are therefore freeloaders on things like the military, and federal highways and should be paying for them like I said. Sales tax only pays local services, and many items like food aren’t taxed also. Plus there are many who make no money who are receiving services. If I have ten kids I shouldn’t have to pay less taxes but more for the services they consume.

          You are I’ll informed on corporate taxes. We had the second highest corporate tax rate in the world and may now be in first place if Japan lowered their rate. We in fact have a very progressive tax system. Silly of you to complain that people paying zero federal tax on their income, or with no income, or receiving an earned income subsidy, are somehow being taxed more to lower corporate taxes. How can zero be more taxes without the insane concept of negative taxes?

          I’m considering the balance of services to the money contributed to pay for those services. It’s obvious some paying zero over a long period and receiving services is freeloading. Also everyone who earns even only $100 has something to contribute to taxes, and yes they are freeloading even if they did pay taxes on such a low income just so long as the services they received cost more.

          Fact is that there are lots of freeloaders on the system and that is why it will eventually collapse or need to be readjusted just like Greece.

    • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

      I’m for reducing taxes paid, but not redistributing wealth (aka Socialism) which is what the EITC does.

    • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

      Although certainly the lesser of 2 evils, the Republicans have been in the same boat the Mr Thomas spoke about below.  Scarey isn’t?

      Norman Thomas said this in a 1944 speech:
      “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of “liberalism,” they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” He went on to say: “I no longer need to run as a Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party. The Democratic Party has adopted our platform.”

      • Baby_Raptor

        What’s *scary* is that you consider the Republicans the lesser of two evils. 

        • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

          Please explain.

        • brianmacker

          Why is that scary. One can easily make the case that the things democrats complain about Republicans doing they are far worse at. Like when did Obama get congressional approval to get involved in two more wars? Iif you are paying attention you’d also know that it was Democrats that got us in WWII and Vietnam. One can do this on a whole host of other issues, like drone attacks, deficit spending, etc.

  • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

    Is the 71 Billion what was “donated” or what the tax on the “donation” would have been.

    Should we start to tax all “donations?”

    Here’s a solutions:  http://www.FairTax.org  With this, everyone who makes a purchase, pays sales tax.  Families would receive a quarterly rebate depending on the size of the family so low income families would still pay less to no taxes.

  • ortcutt

    I would be happy enough if churches were treated the same as other non-profits.   Instead they are given certain special privileges like the parsonage allowance and complete exemption from any of the reporting requirements like filing Form 990s. 

  • anon101

    One should stop that
    whining about the tax exempt status of churches. Even if there was no
    special exemption for churches they would still claim and be granted
    the social and / or educational exemption that organizations like the
    AA or the FFRF receive. So if you want to get rid of the tax free
    status of social and educational organizations – fine, but be
    honest about it.

    • ortcutt

      Fine.  Let them try to organize under the other exempt purposes and make them file 990s.  I’d love to see Benny Hinn explain what educational benefit he provides.  I’d also love to see him open his books to the IRS and the public and explain how he isn’t getting private inurement out of his church. 

  • http://twitter.com/thegoezzel Dan Goeddel

    This article is ridiculously biased. 

    To put this in real perspective, think of all the services that churches provide for society. For example, how many students does the church educate at no cost to the state? Think about all of the savings the government actually gets from churches. What about all of the service work churches do too? 

    • Stev84

      Not all of those services are entirely paid for by the churches. There are tons of examples where churches are merely contractors who get paid to provide a service. And often with horrendous results due them injecting their beliefs in places where it doesn’t belong.

    • agh

      1)  Church education == childhood indoctrination.
      2) The “savings” come at the cost of an increasingly religiously radicalized population.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       Did you actually read the article, or did you read the title and start ranting?

    • brianmacker

      Think of all the services doctors, lawyers, dentists, plumbers, and janitors provide. They are all taxed. Now think of all the governmental services that churches consume yet don’t pay taxes to support. That will put it in perspective. The people who donate to churches are buying a product that the church provides. They value certain things that the rest of us don’t or at levels that are different from the rest of us. Just because someone likes stained glass, vaulted ceilings, and choir music more than I do, but wraps it in the cloaked in religion does not mean they shouldn’t have to pay for governmental services. The same is true if you are running a soup kitchen or teaching girls to sew their vaginas shut.

      • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

        The professionals you mentioned are NOT, “not for profit” though are they.  That is the difference.

        • amycas

          I would argue the same for many churches as well. 

        • brianmacker

          If an activity is not profitable then why do it? All these activities are designed to generate some kind of profit. When I buy music I profit from the enjoyment of listening to it. When church goers listen to choir music they are doing the same thing. The donations are a payment scheme for the things they value. Which can include a church based insurance schemes (a soup kitchen). Surely the church goers plan to benefit from the charity if they end up down on their luck.

          Besides his comment wasn’t based on profit, but on sevices provided to “society”, however such services are never provided to society as a whole, only to specific individuals.

  • unclemike

    If a church can’t survive without federal and state largesse, perhaps god didn’t want it around in the first place.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fiscusd David Fiscus

      If poor people can’t survive without federal and state largesse, then perhaps god doesn’t want them around either…you monkey.

      • unclemike

        False equivalency, David. But thanks for the name-calling.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/VEISRE2XFESS62PFTJ7W3MCULM Albert

        For as wrong as it is, this country has bigger problems than pastors living in million dollar homes. It has nothing to do with God, and everything to do with people. The same people that run government, corporations, etc. Go ahead and believe taking away their tax exempt status will make the world a better place. If a corrupt pastor can’t make his money in church, he’ll just find a government job.  

        • Tyle

          This is a strange response. You’re right that there are bigger problems. But does that mean we should ignore this one? (Hint: Of course not.)

        • david

          Exactly, most churches are in bed with our leaders. But it’s the tax payer that’s getting screwed

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VB2IGTVKSEASGDALPTWU52K5VU alexanderw

         Except poor people don’t declare that their existence is the one true existence, and that they are condoned and mandated by a God.  Unclemike is proffering a kind of “live what you preach” argument.  If your going to argue God favors you, its somewhat difficult to also argue you need help from others.

      • The one

        So you are comparing a human life with a building?
        Who’s the monkey now?
        It makes me so angry that there are kids starving in this world but all people care about is some big unnecessary building.
        Do you really need a lavish building to be religious?
        If this is what it is to have faith then i’ll pass thanks.
        If you actual believed in what your book says the people in the churches would volunteer to withdraw their right to tax exceptions.

        • Frankie

          THANK YOU!!!!! couldn’t have said it any better than this.

        • Don’tleanonyourunderstanding

          Visit your local kingdom hall you may be suprised to know they run off of donations only and that those donations are used specifically for the preaching work.

      • rick brandt

        fortunately, there ain’t no god onda net

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    I say tax them. I’m sick to death of subsidizing them and still having them whine about “their” money, and continuously demand special rights no other business/organization would be granted. 

  • Keulan

    Yes, churches should pay taxes. They can afford it, and they’re not keeping out of politics like they’re supposed to under their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/lupesopacus Joel Gonzaga

    All religious things aside… the distinction between “subsidizing” an organization and “not taxing” an organization should be obvious…

    • Stev84

      It’s a technicality. The result is about the same. Deliberate tax breaks are a form of subsidies that’s used to support all kinds of businesses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwightwelch Dwight Welch

    As has been noted, it’s hard to see how churches should not have the same tax exemptions as other non profits, outside of a particular animus against churches. Nor are non profits prevented from speaking about issues, like churches The question is one of endorsing candidates. The housing allowance, again folks in the military also receive this, exemption from Social Security, as a pastor I can say that puts a financial burden on me that most folks don’t have (but again, this is not because there is some special church category, it’s that we’re treated as independent contractors), I’m hard pressed to find any thing in tax law that separates churches out from a good number of groups

    • Stev84

      Not all churches are charities. They just claim to be. In fact no one knows if it’s actually true, because their books are secret. They don’t have to publish any financial information. Like actual non-profits, you know. If you say they are the same, then treat them the same. By making them prove they are non-profits in order to be tax exempt.

      Oh, and they constantly laugh and wink and the “no candidates” rule. Every radical pastor endorses candidates indirectly. Some even say things like “I have to be careful, since I’m not supposed to endorses candidates, but…” Everyone in the church knows who they are supposed to vote for. Even if they actually advocate for a candidate directly, it’s not like anyone is ever punished for it. Just does not happen.
      Besides, their political activity against all kinds of things, all throughout the year, is infinitely more damaging.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dwightwelch Dwight Welch

        which is why I’m a fan of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which seeks to keep church honest on such things, while my own democratic leanings are known in the church, our congregation is mixed and they are not likely to take any orders or hints from me to vote for Obama *heh* congregationalists in general are not keen on such things

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’m a member of AU before SCA or FFRF or anything else.

    • Country Crock

      Church is not a non-profit. A charity is usually designated by the IRS as a 501c3 non-profit corporation. A free church is a different category, the category of a “church”. It was that way before the category of 501c3 existed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dwightwelch Dwight Welch
        • Country Crock

          A church is not a 501c3.  There is a difference.  The article discusses the IRS designation of the 501c3 non-profit corporation.    The article does not discuss churches except to state that a church organization can qualify to become a 5o1c3.  But a church is not automatically a 501c3.

          The article states ”
          Qualifying organizations include…churches”  It does NOT say all churches are a 501c3.  Because they aren’t.A church or free church is a separate entity from a non-profit corporation.  Some church organizations have chosen to incorporate and become a 501c3.  But churches by definition are not a 501c3.  

    • Country Crock

      Most pastors are employees. Most pastors are not independent contractors.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dwightwelch Dwight Welch

        true but under tax law they are

        • Country Crock

          That is simply not true.   In the vast majority of churches, the pastor is employed by the church, pays fica and ss tax like other employees.  Some independent churches may hire the pastor, musicians and others as contract labor, but that is not the common practice.   

          Do a survey yourself.  Call ten churches or ask around and you will discover that the pastor is hired and paid as an employee, just like the secretary and janitor.  Trust me (he says), I have been on the payroll of several churches or an evangelical organization for over three decades.  In every case, the pastor was an employee, not contract labor.   In every case the pastor paid fica and ss like all the other employees.  The difference was, up to 40% of the pastor’s salary was designated as housing allowance.  So virtually every other employee paid more taxes and often higher rates than the pastor.

        • Country Crock

          I have been everything on a church staff except the senior minister.  So I possibly assumed too much, but not entirely incorrectly.  Most ministers have a “dual tax status.” That means that although ministers are always self-employed for Social Security purposes (for their ministerial income), they are usually employees for income tax purposes.  That allows them deductions for insurance and those massive housing gifts from the church.  However some ministers are self-employed for income tax purposes.   I have been considered contract/self-employed in a few cases and employee in most cases, depending on the position.  Ministers who receive gifts for weddings, funerals, etc., like musicians also have the joy of reporting that as contract/self-employed income.  One year I received NINE 1099 forms and two w-2 forms.  It certainly makes $$ for the guy who does my taxes.  

    • Baby_Raptor

      It’s really not hard to see at all, unless you feel they have every right to completely disregard the rules as they do.

  • brianmacker

    That was “freeloader resources and services” not “freeloader resources…”

  • Luce

    I wonder how much of that actually does go towards charitable work. If it was all or the majority, then sure, keep the taxes off. But clearly that’s very much not the case…….. Remind me, again, why the church and it’s leaders still occupy a position that most of society deems above reproach?

  • Frieso Pouwer

    I find this hilarious, I’m reading the article and thinking about how my church operates and I look to the banners on the side and top and say to myself,”oh there it is, I’m a Mormon to!”  With an unpaid local clergy and only a small stipend for general authorities who travel, we have that part at least covered.  I feel that tax exemptions are a means of keeping religious organizations happy and at bay.  If I am going to obey the “no respecter of person” commandment I would expect my church to pay their fair sure of taxes according to their increase.  Now if only we could figure a way to get taxes out altogether.

  • Judithwmoore

    I would end all “tax-exempt” entities, including foundations and family trust funds. Many if not most only exist for the purpose of avoiding tax. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688236750 Craig Knox

      I’m sorta of with and against you.   A lot of non-profits do a lot of good.  (MORE than any church.)   Non-profits don’t make any money… any money made is given away to the cause (research, building homes, feeding the poor).   Churches actually DO make a profit.  They are not non-profit, they are more tax exempt.   There is nothing the says a church cannot make profits, just that those profits can’t be from outside unrelated businesses (like the church owning a mall and leasing spaces.)      The church can take the “profits” they make and buy a mall with them… then pay taxes on those profits they earned by duping taxes.

      There is no requirement a church not make money and use profit gained to do something good with it.  None.  And they really don’t.  Even when churches do food banks for people, most of that is donated my members and not the church.  It’s a racket all right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/simonslant Simon Tam

    A pretty limited and flawed argument, in my opinion. Why target churches specifically on this issue? Why not bring up non-profit secularist organizations, such as the Atheist Alliance International who also enjoy tax breaks? Many organizations (including corporations) get tax breaks. Let’s face reality, most people in ministry don’t live in million dollar homes (and even the ones that buy homes do pay taxes). 
     There are also millionaire non-profit CEO’s, why isn’t anyone having issue with that? If you look at the list of the top wage-earning non-profit leaders, non are religious. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688236750 Craig Knox

      Simon, you’re not getting something.   The Atheist Alliance is considered religion.  Scientologists are considered a religion.    God/Christ is not required for these deductions, tax breaks, and subsidies.   There are people worshiping alien gods getting them too.  (Yes you Tom Cruise and your scientology group!)

      Technically, Wiccans could form an organized gathering and get these.  

      Non Profit CEO’s…really?  Do you realize how little (the very few) people who work for non-profits actually get paid?   My friend was the director for Habitat For Humanity… she made $21,000/year doing a job a for profit company would have paid her $80K for.   Skilled workers are even required in non-profit settings.   Especially non-profits that have a lot of legal things that need tended.   AND…non profits actually exist to benefit people.   Churches primarily only benefit their members, and in very limiited ways.  As the main article says, you are paying a preacher for a sermon.  

      There is a huge difference between a tax breaks for corporations (who pay 90% of our tax bill by the way…) than tax free for churches

      • John

         Do you realize how little most pastors, and most Church support staff, earn?  Most churches are poor. I don’t see any reason to go after one category
        of non-profit over another (e.g. religious vs. secular) just because
        you (and I don’t mean you specifically) have a problem with
        religion. Just to be clear, I’m in the secular camp; but I’d be a liar if I said I agree with you that Church’s (and their organizations) don’t do things to actually benefit people. It is not true, as I can see in my community, where almost all the soup kitchens, shelters, etc. are ran by churches. Christian churches have a commandment concerning the poor from the very lips of Jesus. It is a commandment that some churches have to work very hard to ignore, and most don’t. And frankly, as much as some people think that religion does no good, when I see all those ex-cons and drug-addicts get religion, while I might find their religiosity annoying and a bit absurd, I must acknowledge that it gives them a reason and the inspirational/emotional means to do very difficult things (like not drink, or break off friendships with people who are bad influences, etc.). I also think that religion is particular capable of effecting these sorts of emotional transformations that render genuine change, more capable in fact that most secular things. Certainly, if you tell them that really there is not deep meaning or purpose to life, that when they die they’re just going to be more dirt, that the universe isn’t sentient and doesn’t care whether they shoot heroin in their veins or hack their neighbors heads off for watching too much Jeopardy…I’m a secular atheist, but I don’t pretend that my philosophy has any comfort for the oppressed and in need.

        • Baby_Raptor

          It’s not “just because people have a problem with religion.” It’s because the Church in general hasn’t been following the rules. If the Church wants a say in politics, then they need to pay taxes. 

          And anyone who isn’t either blind or willfully stupid can see that the Church feels like telling everyone else how to live is their #1 priority nowadays. 

          • HighPriestOfThePainfulTruth

            You can’t lump the all together just because there are problems in some churches.   They also don’t tell people how to live, they teach what the bible says.  Some misrepresent the bible but that doesn’t mean ALL churches feel that way.

          • Pseudonym

            If the Church wants a say in politics, then they need to pay taxes.

            Maybe. I’d feel bad if a disability advocacy group had to pay taxes just so it could engage in political debate.

          • brianmacker

            ” If the Church wants a say in politics, then they need to pay taxes”

            Do you think the same reasoning applies to voting, because that gives you a say in politics. Should you only be allowed to vote in federal elections if you have a net positive federal tax contribution.

          • Danchuckles

            apply that same logic to a university.  Your prof’s had no political bias in their teaching?  If someone teaches something unpopular they might get fired from their post.  If a church teaches something unpopular people will leave.  If a church continues to teach the same stuff they’ve taught for 2000 years its the religious equivalent of a “classics” study.  This is a renowned educational concept and is practiced at the most revered secondary educations throughout the world. 

  • Rich Goranson

    Just another example Red State Socialism. 

  • Bob Clark

    In Italy, the government recently decided to “tax the Vatican” on all their “holdings that were secular,” and having nothing to do with religious purposes.  We should do that everywhere.  Since most “Churchs” are now pushing their “support systems” onto the taxpayers by utilizing government program money.  They no longer support their “down-and-out” members of the congregations… we do.

    • Overton

      The largest land owner in New York City is the Catholic Church, and pays nothing, evven for emergency services.  It is time to end this madness and then move on to others.

      • whats it to you

         Burden of proof.  Please provide sources before making claims, It makes you like a retard when you don’t.

  • Suzienne

    If churches were TRULY
    charitable, they would realize how their failure to pay their taxes is
    harmful to them and the surrounding communities; then opt in and choose
    to pay their taxes.

  • Trex2000

    Anyone want to take a stab at the estimated value of all the universities, schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, foster homes, charities, personal counseling, drug addiction recovery programs, disaster relief efforts, clothing drives, soup kitchens, battered women shelters, affordable home construction, medical mission trips, etc that churches run?

    • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

      Well said.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.reinthaler Brian Reinthaler

      Good point. But while you’re at it, also calculate the value of all of the above that taxpaying, non-religious organizations run.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Yeah, and while you’re adding all that up, make sure to factor in all the government money those places get.

      Then get back to us on why they should still get it. 

    • Txtom56

      Not every entity on your list is charitable. Why should we care about religious universities, schools or hospitals when they aren’t free? We already have public universities, schools and hospitals! The amount of charitable work done by churches is very small when you compare that to the amount of money they avoid paying due to tax exemption.
      Also, some of that charitable work you list, such as drug addiction programs, women shelters, soup kitchens, foster care systems and disaster relief are receiving tax payer funds from state and/or federal agencies.
      Which basically means, in some cases, the churches are double dipping!

  • Michaelb

    I don’t this includes the exemption from property tax

  • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

    Maybe because religion is not a business, it is granted tax-exempt status?

  • Joan

    I grew up in California.  I remember in 1963,  The Rumford Fair Housing Act was passed by the state in an effort to end housing discrimination by making it illegal for property owners to refuse to rent or sell to “colored” customers.  Then, in 1964, Proposition 14 was put on the ballot by Real Estate groups.  It’s purpose was to to counteract the effects of the act (in other words, to make discrimination legal again.)

    I remember that the pastor of our community church spoke from the pulpit about Proposition 14, urging the congregation to vote against it, and telling us that it was unfair, immoral and unchristian.  I’m ashamed to say that many people were upset by his words and actually left our church because of this, and I’m ashamed to say that the proposition passed.  (However, in 1966, it was found to be unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.)

    Anyway, when people say that churches should stay out of politics, I always think about our old pastor, and how brave and moral I thought it was, and I wonder if we’re saying that he should not have been able to preach about this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

      I agree.  Both religion and politics are about people. Faith and reason go together. 

      • John

         So do faith and unreason, but your point is well taken.

        • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

          So is yours. I agree. Faith, just like anything else, can be abused.

      • Baby_Raptor

        To you they do. To people like me, when “faith” is one of the biggest reasons my rights are under attack, and just plain being denied to me…

        Keep your religion to yourself. It has no place dictating public laws.

        • Pseudonym

          I agree that religion has no place dictating public laws. Nobody has a place dictating public laws.

          Everyone should be allowed to make their case in public square. Nobody should be allowed to monopolise it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

            Exactly, pseudoym.

        • http://www.facebook.com/pheelyp Pheelyp Aytona

          Hmm. First of all, I think there is no one “faith” but rather multiple ones, and I doubt all of them deny you what you think are your rights.

          Second of all, no one is dictating anything to anyone. My religion cannot require and does not have the power to require the State to follow its teachings. The most it can do is convince its members, who in turn make their voice heard.

          Third of all, and related to the second one, though you may disagree with my views that are based on my religion, they are still my views, and as a citizen of a democracy have a place in crafting public laws.

    • Phantoboy

      Joan, as I see it, that pastor should be able to speak to his congregation on any topic he chooses, as long as he and his organization are paying taxes like anyone else. The muzzle on political speech is an attempt to keep taxpayer dollars from being funneled into partisan political causes, and allay suspicions of political favoritism toward certain churches or denominations. But that hasn’t really worked. The answer is to remove the religious tax exemption altogether, and take the muzzle off churches. Level playing field for all ideas to be heard.

  • LanceSmith

    If we are going to dump fed support for ideology (through tax breaks), then we need to dump fed support for ALL ideology. That includes dumping tax breaks for NOW, for NAACP, etc…etc.. You don’t get to pick and choose, and all religions – secular and otherwise – should be treated the same. Are you prepared to demand equal treatment for all ideologically driven non-profits, or just those you don’t agree with? That’s the question.

  • angela k

    1) Special interests groups such as various civil rights etc.  Are much more outspoken and active for their rights than churches and/or religious groups  are against their rights.  

    2)No info on the amount of services and what programs and money and items and service to the community, churches are non-profit.  Also how much exemptions status is being given to other special interests.  The other tax exempt Non-profit organizations only push their own causes and agenda, are they helping the community or just their own special interests??

    3) If churches/religion had the power in government there would still be prayer in school and the ten commandments posted in government buildings.  Sadly, Religion actually has the least influence and power in Government. 

    The American people aren’t paying for the church-the members are contributing the funds to their church.   

    I’m ok if you want to take away the tax exempt status for the religious groups-but only IF you take it away for all other groups and interest as well.

    This article is seriously flawed and biased and very inaccurate all around.  

  • pete

    I agree religions should pay taxes but I wonder where it would bhe wasted if they did………More welfare fraud maybe?

  • pete

    when will we become Fiscally responsible so raising taxes wouldn’t always be an issue

  • ApostateXP
  • Midwyf36

    Religious charities are just a tiny fraction of the “non profits” in thsi country that pay no taxes.  Groups like The Nature Conservancy take in billions and pay NO tax.  Check the number of non profits in your state, there are hundreds in every state.

  • CurmudgyOne

    I’ve only read through 50 comments,but the general thread of them overlooks something. Do you all know the old saying about throwing out the baby with the bath water … cutting off your nose to spite your face.. ?  The Next Big Problem that would arise if you are successful in removing churches from 501(c)3 status would be that the money they receive and don’t pay taxes on would simply go somewhere else. The fact that donations are tax deductible is a major reason why many individuals donate to churches. If the donations are no longer deductible, those billions currently going to churches just won’t go the the churches anymore. Maybe that’s a comment on the true spirituality of many congregants, and that is beside the question, but it would probably happen.

    The article states that all of that money that churches do not pay in taxes would suddenly be paid in taxes is simply wrong. The premise is that the churches would get the money and pay taxes on it, but the truth is that the churches would not get the money, hence they would not be able to pay taxes on that amount. At the same time, the good things that churches do would be diminished. Nobody would win … where’d that baby go, it was here in the tub just a minute ago … ?

    • Cold Logician

      This assumes that every American agrees that the ‘good things’ that churches do are indeed good enough for our tax dollars to subsidize it.

      Essentially it amounts to taxation without representation due the fact that taxpayers give money to institutions where they have no input on the decision making process of how the money is spent.

      Taxation should not be based on intent of institutions. Taxing or policing based on the intent of the end user is the last step before ‘thoughtcrime’.

  • Christian

    Disappointed by the ignorance displayed here.  ALL 501(c)3 Non-profit organizations receive the same tax exempt status.  This does include the church and it also includes the University of Tampa, where the study was conducted.  Creating misleading arguments that attempt to sway the masses is irresponsible and very short sided.  

  • Jaswinder sandhu

    O’ Balley balley

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_62IW5KKDO56PJJTDLJVMDRYCUA Gene

    “more than any church) is a bold statement to make.  Can you back that up with a source?  Can you back anything you stated above with a source?  I’ve seen the financial books of several churches, some small, some large, and none were making money or profits.    Statistically on average, only 3% of members were donating 10%  or more of their income to the church.  I’ve witnessed a large church give various amounts of cash in sealed envelopes to it’s adult members and the pastor instruct them to give it directly to somebody in need in the community.

    Sure, any situation involving money could be turned into a racket, but to lump all churches into one evil racketeering ploy is evidence of paranoia.  

  • Minami

    Wow. The USA needs to tax religious institutions. It’s ridiculous that they’re bypassing all that money.

  • Ilovegod

    I need to become a pastor.

  • Fed up!

    We would all be much better if the government didn’t pay $300 billion dollars a year to the Federal Reserve in interest…$76 billion to corporate banks in subsidies. That is free money who knows what kind of tax exemptions the banking industry gets. Let’s start talking about the big money and quit attacking people/organizations on religious, sexual, and racial grounds and work together to expose the real fraud in this country.

  • Hodjaz

    The Mormon church built and is running a six billion dollar mall tax-exempt how is that possible? How is that fair to other business trying to compete? How is that fair to non LDS tax payers?

  • Crissajo44

    So this article is saying that the church is cheating the government because it doesn’t pay taxes on it’s money that was given to it by tax-paying citizens……for uses such as feeding the hungry in local communities, sponsoring youth events, give help when natural dissasters occur, financially help widows and widowers, pay their leaders for their time and efforts, and some send money to help people overseas.

    Yeah, that doesn’t seem fair. But then again I think every individual is overtaxed anyway.

    We pay the government when we work and earn money. We pay the government when we buy goods. We pay the government if we want to drive a vehicle on the road. We pay the government every year to own property that we pay for like homes, cars, boats, highway trailers. etc. I’m sure I have left out a few. Yeah, some are reasonable. Some are not.

    At least I’m not forced to pay the government to donate to a church or any other non-profit organization. This is artivle so far fetched!!!

  • Concerned

    Wait, you all want separation of church and state right?  But many of you are saying you want the government to tax churches and religious organizations while also censoring them?   Sounds like there is some confusion.  Sounds like you don’t want a truly free country.

    • phantomreader42

       Your concern is noted and stupid.  Fuck off, worthless lying cowardly troll. 

  • Wonderingzeb

    god i hate jesus freaks

  • Homrichrj

    It’s like I tell my children. If you ask me for money,
    Your giving me the right to voice my opinion on how
    And on what you should spend it.

  • vanessa

    FINALLY SOMEONE KNOW’S WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT 

  • Cantthinkof19246

    Special Rules Limiting IRS Authority to Audit a Church

    Tax Inquiries and Examinations of Churches

    Congress has imposed special limitations, found in section
    7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, on how and when the IRS may
    conduct civil tax inquiries and examinations of churches. The IRS may
    only initiate a church tax inquiry if a high-ranking IRS
    official, reasonably
    believes, based on a written statement of the facts and
    circumstances, that the organization: (a) may not qualify for the
    exemption; or (b) may not be paying tax on unrelated business or other
    taxable activity.

    Additional information
     
    http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Churches-&-Religious-Organizations/Special-Rules-Limiting-IRS-Authority-to-Audit-a-Church

  • Njnolla

    Im an atheist but you people are way too antireligious.  In fact although you think you’re enlightened by knowing of the religious scam you buy into the political scam which replaces religion for you.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDudeInSF Dean

    How did this deal come to pass anyhow? Giving churches a pass in the first place?

  • E.bsmithproject

    thank you..I am a Christian who has become bothered bythe fact our neighborhoods are flooded with churches…yet…most of the help comes from the government……thank you for the truth in statistics

  • Lovecast

    Do you have similar stats on this for Canada? 

  • Josh

    If you’re going to advocate for taxing religion, you may as well advocate for taxing hospitals and colleges as well, both of which make more money than the local churches do. For the most part, donations made to the church are a voluntary God tax. Looking at it that way, you could justify the federal government taxing state government tax revenue.

    But imagine that. 71 billion in taxes from organizations that not all Americans attend, all receiving their revenue from voluntary God taxes, and that’s just a fraction of their total revenue. How is it that they are making at least about 20% the amount the Federal Government makes with their not-so-voluntary taxes on everyone?

    • evodevo

      Well, Josh, ALL employees of hospitals and colleges pay income tax, and hospitals and colleges often pay property tax unless they are non-profit (this is determined at the local level). I, however, can start a church in my barn and claim tax exemption for my property and my income. NO ONE audits my expenses to see if I am using it for charitable works or for bar-hopping. It’s a racket, and always has been.

  • Aurumenk2

    And what exactly is this money gotten spent on?  Have you gone and asked them about it?  Have you asked people who go out and collect donations and food for the poor, or use the money they gain to buy farms so they can give people work and feed the poor continually?  What about all the good done with this money?  All the food and medicine bought?  This is an unworthy argument because I have met many people and all they want is the same thing everyone else wants, a place to go where they feel accepted and a loving place for them, and yet you hate them when you can’t even bring yourself to understand them.  Everyone is hurt or needs help sometimes.  Most of what goes to the church a lot of it goes to the poor and the sick.  I’d say at least 75% of it does.  The church like any other has bills to pay as well and I would encourage you to seek the truth and ask them.  These aren’t bad people because of what has happened in the past.  And neither are you.      

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JU22VTEOZ2XN33BO4IUMHQEKRE Santiagos Curse

    How does tithe work into this mix?  Not only do they get these tax exemptions, but they take money from their congregations.  Hmmmm.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JU22VTEOZ2XN33BO4IUMHQEKRE Santiagos Curse

    Ummmm.  Where did my comment go?  Just wondering about tithe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patricia-Clements/100000941516003 Patricia Clements

    “Unlike dollars paid into the general tax fund, which are divvied-up to pay for national defense, education, etc., dollars paid to a church cannot be traced. No accounting is required, and no mechanism exists for donors to demand one. However, what little we know about how churches spend money shows that donations are deployed primarily to benefit the churches themselves. They are used to erect and maintain buildings, buy assets (like the new $2 billion Mormon shopping mall in Utah), pay for staff and recruit more members. Indeed, if what you seek with your charity is to help others in need, giving to a church could be the worst choice you might make. ”
    The above quote is from this article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-dantonio/mitt-romney-and-the-tithing-gimmick_b_1877447.html

  • Garbo
  • RuQu

    I know this thread is a few months old, but I wanted to add a little context.

    $71 billion to churches per year.
    $17.6 billion to NASA.
    $5.5 billion to NOAA.

    Everyone knows NASA. 
    If you don’t know NOAA, they run the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center.  They (and the Air Force) fly into and above hurricanes to track them. They conduct surveys to keep our ports open, reopen them after disasters, measure snowfall to predict water tables, maintain buoys for tracking El Nino events and tsunami warning, including providing tsunami support to impoverished nations around the Pacific Rim.  They conduct marine mammal population surveys, and fish population surveys to ensure the health of our ocean resources. They operate earth-monitoring satellites, and run the EPIRB emergency locator beacon service for people lost at sea around the globe or hikers in distress.  They keep airports open with obstruction surveys to ensure safe glide paths.  Through the National Geodetic Survey they set and control all of the datums required for any and all surveying and positioning in the US, and set the gold standard used by the rest of the world for survey.  

    NOAA is the largest part of the Department of Commerce, which both Rick Perry and Ron Paul want to eliminate.

    Are churches really providing us 3.07x the benefit of those two agencies?

  • Tommy

    so you guy’s are saying the Church is a business? and this Church is creating  jobs ? while not accepting government funding , but also not paying taxes ? this Church creates hospitals,schools,soup kitchens for the poor yet still creating jobs where pastors can live in million dollar houses. and the great Idea hear is to tax them 71 billion dollars a year so they can’t do all of this have to lay ppl off, close down schools,hospitals many will probably go on well fare and Obama care. yes this sounds like a great IDEA. SMH at the way people think.

  • Shitsky

    So…..atheists want to keep church out of government but you want to thrust government into church? 

  • tm17

    I think it’s time for religious organizations to separate their proselytizing from their charitable work. The charitable work could remain with generous tax deductions. But, the churches would then be taxed. It would be a relatively simple set of accounting changes. Few will deny that the charitable work done by religious organizations has helped millions. However, their intrusions into politics need to be reassessed. It no longer makes any sense to continue with the parson’s exemption and other such tax leniency. I am happy to support their charitable work. But, I no longer want to subsidize their proselytizing by giving such generous tax avoidance!!

  • Martijn

    Churches should be non-profit organizations, so profit tax should be irrelevant. But churches in other countries still pay their payroll taxes, and their employees pay their income taxes. Churches should be treated like any other non-profit organization (assuming they really are non-profit, which they should be in order to have any credibility as a church).

    I’m a Christian, and I’m a member of a church that pays its taxes, and I think that’s the way it should be.

    In fact, giving special tax exemptions to churches could lead to tax loop-holes, financial interests tying themselves to churches, money laundering and corruption of the church itself. This might actually go a long way towards explaining the sorry state of American Christianity. Christianity might ultimately benefit from getting rid of this tax exemption.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Williams/100000104244858 Kenneth Williams

    Most churches preach politics and endorse candidates. It’s time to start taxing them. God knows we could use the money.

  • Israel

    If it wasn’t for God and his work in the Church… I’d be messing around with girls. I’d be a player right now. If it wasn’t for God and his work in the Church.. I’d be a hardcore racist right now… as bad as KKK members might go. If it wasn’t for God and his work in the Church right … I’d still be cussing my mouth out like I did back in high school. The Church is a charity… and I have yet to pay even more than 10$ of tithes to the church. Yes I have given offerings… I’ve given 1-3 dollars in maybe what… 1 out 2 of services… in the past 15 years… and take into account that my mom would give me that offering money.. so it would be more like.. I paid 5 years not 15 years of 1-3 dollars of offerings… lets say I went to church at least twice a month in those past five years… and lets say it was 2 dollars that I paid on average… so I went to church twice a month… meaning I went to church 24 times a year… 24 services X 5 years = 120 times of church services I atteneded… and I paid offerings 1/3 of that time… making it 2$ x 60 = 120$… 120$… is how much I paid the church out of my own money for the benefits I enjoy today. I enjoy being a man of great integrity. Like I said before in the beginning… I don’t mess around with girls. Even further.. I avoid lusting. So, many girls have been spared of being used. I’m a virgin… and I don’t masturbate and watch pornography anymore…. a shame that many men suffer in. I’m sure many men that read this also suffer in that… (God can help you out it, accept Jesus). I’m even saving my first kiss for marriage… thats how great of a work God has done in my life when it comes to …. just purity. Next, lying to me is in-excusable so I avoid lying in any situation. Then I believe we all come from adam and eve meaning there’s 1 race so racism is impossible… and shouldn’t exist. I used to be a racist but thanks to God and the Church he works through… a lot of white people’s lives have been saved…. like I said before.. I was a hardcore racist. I’ve also experienced a vision…. all that for 120$… I’d say I actually owe God and the Church more than that. I’m a changed man… for the better and you can thank God and his Church for that…. this is a charity and a wonderful work. God Bless ya

    • Israel C.

      I just wanted to fix my own math…. I should’ve divided the 120$ with 3… which would come out to be 80$ in offerings. God is good and I’m glad this fine charity that helps people with social problems. This charity that educates people on culture and the ideology that has the highest morals at it’s goals… absolute love, absolute truth, absolute morality… unlike other ideologies that compromise with evil and work on a grey system to allow evil. I’m glad this charity exists where everyone is welcome, EVERYONE. This charity that is largely supported by it’s members as for their benefit and the benefit of all. This charity that saves people’s lives and stops criminals from even beginning to do their crimes… unlike the evolutionary philosophy which teaches “survival of the fittest” which is what ALMOST lead me to be a racist and kill white people. (but never did)
      Thank God for the Church and the benefits it gives.

  • LT

    The money churches get are already taxed.

    • evodevo

      Ever heard of charitable contribution deductions?

  • Bruce

    This estimate of 71 billion is low and I’m very upset that these criminal’s can do an immoral and obscene lie’s before GOD and people they preach on the pulpit and lie to everyone with the blessing’s of fool’s and people that follow them like sheep in blasphemy of the true GOD!!

  • Weismonger

    Its about dman time they pay taxes. Its just beyond my comprehension as an American citizen why the Jesus Industry, that essentially sells “air” and fantasies, and should be exempt from paying taxes. Someone needs to start begin passing around petitions and start a national referendum.

  • Dee

    “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” That is a quote from the founding fathers of our once great, now corrupt and socialist nation. Franklin or Jefferson said it was time to abolish our government when we are taxed “in our food and our drink, our pleasures and pains…” Our Right to own a home and live in it has been taxed – and destroyed, just see what happens if you don’t pay your property tax or the IRS says you owe them. Ditto for your Right to use and enjoy your private property (car) on the public roads that your gas tax is supposed to pay for. Let’s not forget your Right to be left alone by the government so long as you don’t hurt anyone else; then there is our Right to earn a living with the skills and time God gave us – if you don’t pay taxes on it, then your Rights to freedom, due process, fair trial, and liberty are removed.

    If we start taxing churches, then those of faith won’t have any. Not being taxed is not a subsidy – it is being blessedly left alone. Why should I pay through taxes for your child care exemption, your retirement, your work injury, your choosing to have kids out of wedlock, your kids schooling, police “protection” that I don’t want, the welfare whore’s living and kids, your disability, etc.? Oh, lets not forget all the actual subsidies and welfare being given to foreign nations, often hostile ones; the tax money spent to relocate to the U.S. and shelter Hezbollah members from the middle east; and the tax money spent on corporate welfare to multi-million dollar industries like the bank bailout, the auto industry bailout, the oil industry, the lumber industry, and all of the other politician’s pimps – why the hell should any of us be paying for DC and our state Capital’s pet projects, welfare, and b.s. that none of us directly, freely, and willingly consented to? It is our money, not theirs.
    Leave religion alone. Get Uncle Sam out of our personal lives. Hang or imprison all politicians, and let’s start over here in the states to return us to a relatively tax free, responsible nation without a Big Brother spending us all blind.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      So when your church catches on fire, will you pray for rain, or call the fire department that my taxes help pay for?

  • Dee

    Our Constitution was to keep the government out of the Church, to keep Uncle Sam from taxing the freedom of religion or right to speech on important matters – not to muzzle the church regarding politics. You all need a better history education.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      You all need a better history education.

      It’s amazing how many Justices have made it to the Supreme Court, nominated by both Republican and Democrat presidents, with a history education so inferior to yours.

  • Joe

    It is true that there are some badly intended pastors and churches out there. But I know a great number of individuals and churches that really help the community. It seems fair to me to place standards where the ones that are really involved in helping the community be granted exempt status but the ones that are getting richer and only apply the money in luxurious buildings should be tax like any other business.

  • Bree

    Except they arent a business because they dont sell a product

    • evodevo

      Of course they do – it’s called “pie in the sky”!

    • SimbaLover

      Sure they do…they sell redemption

  • ebbyinflorida

    It is becoming a bigger problem than most realize. Religious groups and individuals have gotten around the separation of church and state by becoming not only state and federal politicians, but lawyers, tax accountants, school board members, local county commissioners, etc. They also set up and hide behind small “corporations” that look like Ponzi schemes, and not-for-profit groups that are increasingly focused on foster care and adoption (where they abuse and proselytize children).

    It is a very well-organized machine that knows what it is doing. Take a step back folks, and see the big picture. It is not pretty. This country’s love affair with all things religious is creating a nation that preys on its own citizens.

  • Mike

    Lets stop the tax exemption and give the money raised to NASA.

  • pbr90

    History of church donations often reveal patterns of undue influence exhibited by churches, and their above the law trustees, and boards.

  • VALENTINO

    WE ARE ALL SLAVES OF A FEW NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO TRULY CONTROL THE NECESSITY TO SUSTAIN LIFE ON PLANET EARTH…

    LIVING IN A WORLD THAT IS TRULY CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT,IF THE GOVERNMENT IS TRULY FOR THE PEOPLE THEN WHY DOES IT TAKE AWAY FREEDOM FROM ITS PEOPLE?
    WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT MAKE DEBTS FROM THE WORLD BANK AND HAVE PEOPLE FROM ITS OWN COUNTRY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEBTS WICH THEY DID NOT MAKE(THROUGH TAX)?
    WHAT IS THE USE OF THE LAW IF YOU CANNOT REWRITE IT?
    HOW CAN WE SAY WE ARE FREE WHEN WE ARE FORCED TO PAY FOR DEBTS WICH WE OURSELVES DID NOT MAKE(TAX)?

  • Sheldon Duderstadt

    There is a reason why we don’t tax churches. It’s called the first amendment, specifically, the part that begins with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. Of course, it seems extremely unfair, but, non-profits are exempt from income taxation. Since churches are non-profits, we are limited to only a couple of remedies: 1) Revoke the tax-exempt status of all non-profits, otherwise, to single out churches for taxation specifically violates the 1st amendment. If you’re not willing to revoke the tax-exempt status of your favorite non-profit, whether that is the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, etc. (Note: Any for-profit business owned by a church – for example, the Mormon church’s Deseret Industries – is not tax-exempt from Federal taxation), then this goes nowhere. 2) We could repeal Establishment Clause within the 1st amendment, but that would leave us with a huge dilemma. Churches could blatantly interfere in politics and government and we would be powerless to do anything about it because we revoked the separation of church and state. 3) We could realize that this is settled law and work to ensure that the IRS has the resources, tools and political will to revoke the tax-exempt status of any church that violates the separation of church and state. It would also make sense to recognize there are many progressives who are also religious and cease attempts to shoot ourselves in the foot by driving a wedge between ourselves and potential allies by pushing this silly meme.

    • TCC

      It’s not as simple as “because the First Amendment.” First, taxation of churches would not be a law respecting an establishment of religion; it would actually be leveling the playing field (and so removing preferential treatment for religion), as religious organizations automatically get tax-exempt status while secular orgs have to apply for it and do all the reporting that religious organizations don’t have to do. If religious organizations want non-profit status, then they should be subject to all the rules and restrictions of ordinary non-profits. Right now, they want to have their cake and eat it, too, and that simply cannot stand.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      The reason churches are tax exempt has nothing to do with the establishment clause. And although other non-profits are indeed tax exempt, there are significant differences in the rules. A specific example is ‘the parsonage housing allowance’. Another is the reporting rules. Non-religious non-profits have to make all of their books public. Churches don’t have to account for much of anything.

  • litesp33d

    I have been investigating this and the $71 billion you refer to only applies to the US population. However it is common practice throughout the first world (very few people pay taxes in the third world). If we assume 2 billion people, religions are missing out on paying almost half a trillion dollars in taxes that the non-religious have to pay to make up their failure. The really annoying thing about this is that despite what they say about ‘helping’ the poor the vast majority of this money is used to promote religion as a charitable benefit.

  • disqus_DQwCeasIJP

    Churches should only be tax exempt on actual churches, convents and monestaries…..that’s it! Their schools should be taxed and so should any other property they own!!
    Look at st Johns here in nyc, they charge 25000/semester/ person ……all tax free!! These churches are full of crap and they should pay!!

  • Alden Smith

    The U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, upheld the tax exemption of churches in Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970). Walz, a self-described Christian who did not belong to any church and owned real estate in Richmond County, N.Y., sued the tax committee over property tax exemption for churches. Walz claimed he and other taxpayers were forced to indirectly subsidize churches.

    The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Burger, held that the tax exempt status granted to all houses of worship is the same privilege given to other nonprofit organizations:

    “The legislative purpose of a property tax exemption is neither the advancement nor the inhibition of religion; it is neither sponsorship nor hostility. New York, in common with the other States, has determined that certain entities that exist in a harmonious relationship to the community at large, and that foster its ‘moral or mental improvement,’ should not be inhibited in their activities by property taxation or the hazard of loss of those properties for nonpayment of taxes. It [397 U.S. 664 , 673] has not singled out one particular church or religious group or even churches as such; rather, it has granted exemption to all houses of religious worship within a broad class of property owned by nonprofit, quasi-public corporations which include hospitals, libraries, playgrounds, scientific, professional, historical, and patriotic groups. The State has an affirmative policy that considers these groups as beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life and finds this classification useful, desirable, and in the public interest. Qualification for tax exemption is not perpetual or immutable; some tax-exempt groups lose that status when their activities take them outside the classification and new entities can come into being and qualify for exemption.” Basically Churches tax exemption is law and any attempt to tax a church is a violation of Federal Law. Doesn’t matter what your opinion is its law get over it.


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