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US would gain $90-billion a year if it taxed ‘spiritual entertainment’

US would gain $90-billion a year if it taxed ‘spiritual entertainment’ September 11, 2021

IN an article written for CentralMaine.com, atheist Tom Waddell, above – President of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) – revealed that the US government is losing around $90-billion a year by not taxing churches.

He pointed out that in 2012 both the Center for Inquiry and the authors of How Secular Humanists (and Everyone Else) Subsidize Religion in the U.S. calculated America lost over $71 billion in tax revenue by not taxing religious institutions.

The authors, Ryan T Cragun, Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, also found the parsonage exemption cost the nation over $1.2 billion.

In 2018, a University of Tampa study found the US budget was denied $83.5 billion in lost tax revenue from tax-exempt religious organisations. That’s an increase of over $12 billion in six years or a rate of over $2 billion per year. By 2024, six years after the 2018 estimate, religion will have added over $445 billion to the national debt.

Said Waddell:

Cragun, Yeager and Vega concluded what religion has to offer is nothing more than spiritual entertainment

Image via Wikipedia CC

He also pointed out that Susan Jacoby, above, a journalist and author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism and The Age of American Unreason wrote:

The question is not whether the United States is a Christian nation. Instead, it is whether church authorities adhering to a deeply conservative brand of Christianity get to use taxpayer money to further their parochial (and political) agenda.

Waddell explained:

To meet the requirements of tax-exempt nonprofits, churches and secular 501(c)(3) charitable organizations ‘may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates.’ Yet, according to the Freedom Forum Institute, it is common for religious organizations, primarily Christian, to endorse candidates and influence legislation by continuously lobbying Congress.

Because of conservative Christian lobbying, every session of the House and Senate is subjected to a prayer, predominately Christian. The Congressional Prayer Caucus, a conservative Christian group and an official caucus of the U.S. Congress, meets each week Congress is in session to pray that the bills they sponsor become law.

The Senate Prayer Breakfast meets weekly, and the National Prayer Breakfast meets annually. The Christian Nationalist agenda is represented in our secular laws, yet churches pay no taxes. In effect, Christians have a PAC funded by the taxpayer.

Wadell, who began his piece by saying “churches want to turn American democracy upside down by advocating for representation without taxation”, concluded by writing:

We spend about $90 billion a year now, with an annual increase of $2 billion.

Given that the the federal government “will be swimming in $3 trillion of red ink by the end of fiscal 2021” it is an outrage that “spiritual entertainment” should should  enjoy tax exemptions while shamelessly meddling in matters of state.

Waddell provides some examples of the “Christian Nationalist agenda”:

Because of conservative Christian lobbying, every session of the House and Senate is subjected to a prayer, predominately Christian. The Congressional Prayer Caucus, a conservative Christian group and an official caucus of the U.S. Congress, meets each week Congress is in session to pray that the bills they sponsor become law. The Senate Prayer Breakfast meets weekly, and the National Prayer Breakfast meets annually.

Waddell’s piece raises the question of what would happen if the UK were to tax the Church of England. In 2014 The Huff Post reported:

If the Church of England were a taxable business it would be bankrupt. Despite its investment portfolio, its deficit still stands in the millions.

By contrast, the amount of profit made by the Catholic Church in the US rivals some of the largest corporations in the world. The exact amount is unknown, largely because the Catholic Church does not disclose its annual figures and there are no sanctions holding it to account.

It has the money of a corporation without the imposed financial control and its finances are notoriously messy and impossible to measure accurately … several top global publications have attempted to discover the exact amount of the church’s wealth and failed.

According to the FFRF, Waddell is a lifelong “Out of the Closet” atheist. He fought and won to have the US Army change his dog tags to read “Atheist” before being deployed to Vietnam (he told the Army he was an atheist but they put “No Preference” there instead).

He has campaigned for same-sex marriage and gave the first secular invocation ever given to the Maine House.

Please report any typos/errors to barry@freethinker.co.uk

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