Taxing the church

DrB-

 

There’s a budget problem going on in the European Union, and some enterprising officials in Spain have come up with what must, in retrospect, seem like an obvious idea.

Cash-strapped officials in Europe are looking for a way to ease their financial burden by upending centuries of tradition and seeking to tap one of the last untouched sources of wealth: the Catholic Church.

 

There ya go!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/financially-troubled-cities-in-spain-consider-taxing-church-properties/2012/09/13/3b62c736-f842-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story_2.html

Churches and religious institutions have been getting away with reaping the benefits of services paid for with taxes, but not chipping in on their own. Given the amount of churches and religious institutions that have little to do with actual religous use, Spain’s officials think this cozy relationship needs to get updated.

…effort to impose a tax on all church property used for non-religious purposes. The financial impact on the Catholic Church could be devastating. As one of the largest landowners in Spain — with holdings that include schools, homes, parks, sports fields and restaurants — the church could owe up to 3 billion euros in taxes each year.

Parks, sports fields, restaurants, all tax free.

  ….the government has slashed in half the grants it gives poor families for first Communions. More than half the city councils in Britain have eliminated state subsidies for transportation to faith-based schools, leading to a precipitous drop in enrollment.

You get a grant for a first communion? Seriously? Does a worshiper of Cthulhu get a grant when they have their first pig sacrifice & madness meetup? Does the devout Pastafarian get a grant for his first spaghetti dinner? Does the atheist get a discount on their bar tab? Subsidizing religious practice with tax money is absurd, and the EU is waking up to that fact.

What does the Catholic church have to say in its defense? Their ministers have such eloquent arguments as to why they should continue to pilfer the public coffers:

(bishops)..have declined to comment further except to emphasize that current norms recognize the “social value” of church activities…..
(prime minister)…he said, deserves the exemptions because it serves a “very important social function.”
…saying he doesn’t think this is the right moment for such a step. “It is in times of economic hardship that we need the church the most and need to support it” 

 

The church’s argument is basically “we’re important! people like us!” They didn’t offer any specifics, though the article does list some of the more relevant things the church has been doing with its money lately,

…accused of using shady bank accounts and hiding suspect transactions….clergy abuse scandal cost the church hundreds of millions in settlement costs…Vatican, which this year reported its worst deficit of $19 million……Vatican bank has been embroiled in scandal for two decades, from the recent ousting of its president to accusations of money laundering….ties to the mafia…..possible murder and the disappearance of $1 billion in a bank….

 

Officials in the EU aren’t impressed with the church’s resistance,

Fuertes said that he is unfazed and that he is preparing to take the issue as far as the Supreme Court until the taxes are paid. “We need to force the church to answer why it should continue to have these benefits while the rest of us suffer,” he said.

 

Looks like the future is looking a bit more fair for the residents of the EU. One can only hope the US takes note.

 


 

You can find me on twitter, @DrDavidBurger

I recruit in Kansas City, http://www.kcatheists.org/
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  • iknklast

    The main problem I have with this proposal is that it still leaves untaxed that land used for religious purposes. There is no good justification for that. I say, tax anything the church owns that is not specifically used for charity. There isn’t any justification that can be made, IMHO, for property used for religious purposes.

    In the US, churches are supposed to pay tax on any property not used for religious purposes, but I don’t think the IRS looks too closely at church-owned properties unless someone specifically complains. It becomes too easy to skirt the requirements as long as there is an exemption. I think churches should pay taxes, period. Except on the soup kitchen, or similar charitable property – and those should be examined as closely as any other charity gets examined to make sure they’re actually doing charity.

    • Lyfa

      Pretty much this. They’re getting a good start, but they really should go all the way, or it’ll lead to all sorts of weaseling, by claiming all the facilities are used for religious purposes…

  • cag

    Why should the mafia’s church’s enforcement office recruitment/collection office be exempt from taxes? Are they providing services for the community or only the club? I have no quibble with paying taxes for secular schools as the students will be the ones we depend on to provide the future of the only world we have. I have major issues with paying taxes that are spent supporting ludicrous superstitions. Even worse than non-members paying property tax supporting secular services to churches is the tax exemption for “charitable” donations. The people going to church are paying for a service, a service that is partaken of voluntarily and in the judgment of many, totally useless. There is no reason other than prejudice and obsolete tradition that I should be forced to support this mind imprisonment with my dollars.

    I look forward to the day that all religion becomes homeopathic, diluted to the point of disappearing. I look forward to a day when I do not have to read articles such as this one, a time when there is no issue. Not holding my breath.

  • smrnda

    In the US, doesn’t the Mormon church own tax-exempt malls in Utah? I heard they weren’t going well financially but it seems that once a ‘non-profit’ starts opening up what are normally for-profit businesses to raise funds, somebody really ought to revoke their tax-exempt privileges.

    The other thing is that I don’t think indoctrination is a community service. If the argument is that churches provide emotional support or direction, my friends provide that to me and we don’t get to lump ourselves together and get a tax break.

    What I never get is the ‘don’t tax us to pay for social programs’ line from the church. Tax revenues can be used to help needy people wherever they happen to be, and a local church will, at best, only help some people in their own community – you’d think that giving the money to the government would make sure it gets where it needs to go far better.


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