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Do Churches Deserve Tax Breaks?

 
 
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 01:51 pm
Churches don't pay taxes. They don't even have to file income tax returns. They don't pay for the services they receive from government. The citizens pay for those services in addition to paying for their own services.

Why do we exempt the churches? Mostly, we wish to avoid the appearance of overstepping the constitutionally-required boundary between government and church. Also, we assume that sll churches provide valuable services to the community, including the charitable services already generally exempt.

The exemption is conditional. The constitutional boundary also applies to the churches. They are barred from engaging in excessive political lobbying and any political campaigning. And, religious organizations are supposed to pay taxes on business activities unrelated to their ministry.

So, how does all that register with you? Is it all a good idea? Is it all working the way it's supposed to? What, if anything about it, bothers you?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,051 • Replies: 58
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Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 02:20 pm
@Dewey phil,
Oi! Hadn't thought on this one in a while.

At first blush, I'd have to say I'm torn; Tax exempt status for purely fellowship based organizations, that sustain themselves only, seems to make sense.

On the other hand...

... some religious organizations are huge, sprawling complexes with a hundreds or thousands of branches branches sounds and million-dollar incomes (billions? trillions?). Such as these seem so much more like a business to me (albeit with a distinctly-different commodity).

That's a tough one. But if you put a gun to my head, I'd have to say: No, I think tax-exempt status - except in rare cases - should remain intact.

I'd look forward to others' views on this though.

Thanks, nice idea for a thread :a-ok:
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Oct, 2008 04:12 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
At first blush, I'd have to say I'm torn; Tax exempt status for purely fellowship based organizations, that sustain themselves only, seems to make sense.


Question: Some churches, such as the evangelicals and the Watchtower folks, expend a large part of their resources on proselytization. Is that a self-sustaining activity and therefore properly exempt from tax?
Deftil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 03:20 am
@Dewey phil,
I don't know as much about this topic as I'd like to. (tax laws in general really)

If a church engages in political lobbying and such, do they lose their tax exempt status? Are there are any (other) ways for them to lose their status? What does an organization have to do to legally be considered a church? Can I call my house a church and become tax exempt? Do secular charitable organizations receive tax exempt status?

I don't think churches should be tax exempt just on principle of being religious organizations, but based on how much charitable work they do, and even then, only if the same benefit can be extended to secular charitable groups. There should be some burden of proof on the churches to show that they actually do charitable work or they should lose their TE status. I can only speculate that some churches reap the benefits of being TE while they spend most of their time, energy, and money proselytizing, but doing little to otherwise help in their communities. On the other hand, I know there are some churches that do amazing charitable work and deserve any benefit that the government can possibly give them.
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 02:39 pm
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
I don't think churches should be tax exempt just on principle of being religious organizations, but based on how much charitable work they do, and even then, only if the same benefit can be extended to secular charitable groups.


Hi Deftil:

That same exemption benefit is, in fact, generally extended to secular charitable groups.

Question: What if we decide to tax church properties and income except with respect to their charitable work? Some might say that to do so would violate the First Amendment concern to prevent government involvement with religion. Others might say that not to do so would allow the government to continue its financial subsidization of churches and thus continue to violate the First Amendment.

What do you think we should do about this dilemma?
Justin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 04:52 pm
@Dewey phil,
No! My opinion is that Churches may as well get into laundering money because that's sort of what it is.
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 06:30 pm
@Justin,
Hi Justin: Please identify just what is sort of like money laundering and explain the connection.
0 Replies
 
Justin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 08:53 pm
@Dewey phil,
Well, maybe no necessarily laundering but taking money and not paying taxes doesn't seem right. This would mean that I, as a member of the church could give a charitable contribution to the church and they receive it without taxation. Then the church could return the money in other ways to the original contributor thus certain members within a church are avoiding taxation.

There's corruption in churches all over the world when it comes to $$.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 09:43 pm
@Dewey phil,
Dewey wrote:
Churches don't pay taxes. They don't even have to file income tax returns. They don't pay for the services they receive from government. The citizens pay for those services in addition to paying for their own services.

Why do we exempt the churches? Mostly, we wish to avoid the appearance of overstepping the constitutionally-required boundary between government and church. Also, we assume that sll churches provide valuable services to the community, including the charitable services already generally exempt.

The exemption is conditional. The constitutional boundary also applies to the churches. They are barred from engaging in excessive political lobbying and any political campaigning. And, religious organizations are supposed to pay taxes on business activities unrelated to their ministry.

So, how does all that register with you? Is it all a good idea? Is it all working the way it's supposed to? What, if anything about it, bothers you?

To answer your question... No! People pay for their rights with a common sacrifce, and those church people get a cut rate to belong to a community they reject, and whose rules they do not accept. They want things their own way. Who doesn't. They want every body to act as they believe without troubling to make the moral argument. It is because they hold non believers in contempt, which makes the thought of driving them to belief seem acceptible. It is not. If you want your say; fine. Accept first the equality of all people, the rights of all people, and pay your fair share. Don't expect to have your piece of democracy on the cheap.
0 Replies
 
AtheistDeity
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 06:36 am
@Dewey phil,
I don't personally think the public tax dollars should be going to fund private religious organizations at all. Especially not ones that don't even have to pay their oun taxes.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 01:52 pm
@AtheistDeity,
Sure churches should be exempt from taxation.

But churches should also be compelled to publicly publish all of their financial records and also be compelled to run as not-for-profits with all surplus of income contributed to charitable causes and efforts; they might maintain a homeless shelter with surplus, or donate food to some starving part of the world.

These mega-churches raking in millions of dollars should be demolished. Many pastors deserve jail time.
0 Replies
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 02:55 pm
@AtheistDeity,
Giving churches tax breaks violates the separation of church and state.

In my opinion there are no just "religious rights", rather all of these rights are simply guaranteed by other basic rights.

Churches should be treated as any other organization without consideration for its religious affiliation.

With that said, I consider taxation theft (there's a thread you won't get me out of), and believe that all persons and organizations (not stealing from others through government subsidy) deserve tax breaks.
ariciunervos
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 03:08 pm
@Mr Fight the Power,
I don't know about other countries but here priests bless new cars, new apartments, new buildings, etc with `holy' water in exchange for cash. They sell grave sites at huge prices, and at weddings, burials, christenings, etc you gotta pay the dudes officiating and it's pretty expensive. Once a year they walk from door to door throwing holy water in every room of the house and some people give them money for this ...
I don't know about it ... It's kinda strange, I mean these guys are regular guys like you and me, they wear jeans and boots under the black priest robes, they got sport cars, etc. I say tax the motherfookers. :letme-at-em:
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 06:18 pm
@ariciunervos,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Sure churches should be exempt from taxation.


Hi Didymos Thomas. Your positiveness suggests you completely agree with the common belief that churches are entitled to the exemptions because they provide valuable extra-governmental services to the community. Please confirm whether that is so. It might also be helpfuI to find out where you stand on the issue of political activities by the churches. Thanks!

Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
In my opinion there are no just "religious rights", rather all of these rights are simply guaranteed by other basic rights.


Hi Mr. Fight the Power:

Do you think the other basic rights would bar the government from establishing a single state church? If so, please explain. Thanks!
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Oct, 2008 06:33 pm
@Dewey phil,
Quote:
Hi Didymos Thomas. Your positiveness suggests you completely agree with the common belief that churches are entitled to the exemptions because they provide valuable extra-governmental services to the community. Please confirm whether that is so. It might also be helpfuI to find out where you stand on the issue of political activities by the churches. Thanks!


You bet, thanks for the question!

I do think that some churches do, and more importantly that churches can, provide valuable extra-governmental services. Most essentially, I think that Jefferson's "wall of separation" argument is convincing, and I also think that at least most people have spiritual needs, and the majority of those with spiritual needs prefer organized congregation to the lack thereof.

As for churches and political activism, I am honestly torn. I have never felt comfortable with political endorsements from the pulpit, even when I agree with the endorsement. However, I also think that spiritual leaders have a responsibility to address relevant social conditions; for example, I cannot imagine criticizing ML King Jr.'s political activism.

But I can rest easily with any sort of political activism from a church or similar spiritual institution so long as that institution does not have a financial influence in politics, or the financial resources to influence politics. Instead of using church institutions as political action committees, spiritual leaders should form separate action organizations to collect and handle money for said organization. Most basically: The church, temple, ect should be financially impotent in all matters outside of non-partisan charity.
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2008 03:26 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Instead of using church institutions as political action committees, spiritual leaders should form separate action organizations to collect and handle money for said organization.


Hi again, Didymos Thomas:

At the outset of this discussion I said churches "are barred from engaging in excessive political lobbying and any political campaigning." Thanks to you, I see I was mistaken. It seems to me like the churches can eat their cake and have it too. Through their PAC conduits they can campaign and lobby pretty much all they want and keep their tax exemptions.

Can you really "rest easily" with that sort of activism? Surely you would not expect the PACs to acr independent of the pastors' wishes. Don't you think that Justin may have been on track when he said: "Churches may as well get into laundering money because that's sort of what it is."
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Oct, 2008 03:36 pm
@Dewey phil,
For some reason, this issue keeps popping back into my head since I posted my response a few days ago. But the more I think about it, the more I'm conflicted.

  1. As a small, altruistic "club" - so to speak - your local community church helps folks in a way that's no different than if we were all to gather and start handing out food. I think about such quaint setups, whose only function is community support and say, "Let them keep their tax-exemption! This is good stuff"
  2. Then I look at the multi billion-dollar religious organizations; the various grotesqueries - bloated and corrupt (exaggeration) and say, "Heck no! Make these leaches pay like the rest of us".
  3. And of course the atheist in me says, "uh... no free lunch man, especially for spreading that kind of thing".

So I'm gonna take it all back and say "I just don't know". Hopefully some of your responses will help me clarify my position.

Thanks
:a-thought:
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 07:37 am
@AtheistDeity,
There is no reason not to tax both church property and income designed to perpetuate itself; a reasonable view of exemptions for funds devoted to charitable works, but taxing all other funds as income seems better.
Many churches have fleets of cars or buses, huge buildings seating thousands of people, media studios, and a large staff that seems to fit the business model more than it does a picture of a wooden church with a pipe organ and a hundred members or so joined in prayer or for an ice-cream social in the evening.
0 Replies
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2008 06:41 am
@Dewey phil,
Dewey wrote:
Hi Mr. Fight the Power:

Do you think the other basic rights would bar the government from establishing a single state church? If so, please explain. Thanks!


It depends very much on how it goes about doing it. If this government church pays for itself and no one is compelled by the government or other entity to belong to this church then I see no issue.

Once we get into that realm, however, we are beginning to lose the qualities that make the government what it is.
0 Replies
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2008 06:47 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:


  1. As a small, altruistic "club" - so to speak - your local community church helps folks in a way that's no different than if we were all to gather and start handing out food. I think about such quaint setups, whose only function is community support and say, "Let them keep their tax-exemption! This is good stuff"
  2. Then I look at the multi billion-dollar religious organizations; the various grotesqueries - bloated and corrupt (exaggeration) and say, "Heck no! Make these leaches pay like the rest of us".




These certainly display why you are confused. You are concentrating on the "religion" issue, when, for both of your scenarios, religion matters nothing to your justification.

Confusion will always arise when you attempt to add value to a variable that simply isn't in the equation.
 

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