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Kill The Tax Exemption For Churches & Synagogues
It's wrong that the business of religion gets to operate tax-free. Here's a link from American Atheists with some info on this. (I don't know whether their $925 estimate is right, but even $1 is too much for me to pay to support religion):

...The average family in the United States pays a minimum of $925 a year in hidden taxes to keep churches from all taxes -- on real estate, on non-related businesses, on income, and on their enormous wealth in stocks and bonds. Churches pay no sales tax, inheritance tax, income tax, personal tax, or ad valorem tax. They may own and operate businesses exempt from corporation tax.

The Wall Street Journal, CBS television, and United Press have found that the holdings of the Roman Catholic church alone exceed the total assets of the five largest American corporations (General Motors, Exxon, Ford, Mobil, and Texaco). The Protestants own nearly as much. Internal Revenue Service reports that the cash donations to churches annually are at least $49 billion (1991). This does not include profits from businesses, property, wills, stock holdings, bond holdings, retirement centers, or lease-back arrangements. The "lease back" gimmick is a particularly pernicious method that churches use to take advantage of their tax-exempt status. A church purchases a business on paper for an agreed sum like $1.00. Ownership passes with the sale; the business is exempt from property tax and corporate income tax. The church then leases the business back to the original owner for a set monthly fee. The lease payments to the new owner, the church, are tax-deductible by the business as a donation to the church. Thus government is swindled out of the tax it would have collected on the land on which the business is located, the business's income generally, and the amount deducted by the business as a contribution to a church. The church wins, the business wins -- but the government and ordinary taxpayers lose!

Every tax dollar that the church or any business avoids paying, you as an individual taxpayer must make up. If taxes are necessary to run the United States, and the church takes a percentage out of those taxes, someone must take up the slack.

The churches in the United States, on the average, own 20 percent of all the privately owned land in every state in the Union. When 20 percent of the land is removed from the tax base, the individual land or home-owner must make up the difference. If the churches paid their fair share of the property tax in your community, your tax bill would be much smaller and would not need to be raised each year to make up for the deficit. We hold that anyone has the legal right to be religious, but that the cost of religion should be borne by those who practice it.

We have the right to be free of an enormous tax burden in order to support the few people who do go to church regularly. The federal government, under various programs of assistance, is spending $50 billion a year in both direct cash grants and tax relief for religious purposes. There are about 250 million persons in the U.S., including babies, which means that we all pay, each one, at least $211 in federal taxes to assist the churches a year. How many are in your family? This does not include the money the churches receive from direct donations by individuals and corporations, which averages an additional $196 per person.

We think that the individual taxpayer who does not care to participate in organized religion and who stays away from churches should not be forced to endure an additional tax burden through any programming, planning, or legislation by members of any of the governing bodies, whether city, county, state, or national. We think that giving churches subsidy by permitting them to remain tax-exempt is an unconstitutional violation of the basic principle of separation of state and church.

Posted by aalkon at November 12, 2005 7:23 AM

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Thank you Amy.
This has been one of my primary focuses. When broached with friends like Paul Kurtz and Mike Newdow, they seem reticent to pick up the sword in this direction.
For me-I'm not really for separation of church and state, because in my mind that's like saying let's have separation of cancer and state. What separation? It's an ugly cancer that needs to be eradicated.
Taxing churches on all income is a great first step however. Other than writing articles and writing our gutless, idiotic representatives, does anybody have any other suggestions? It would seem to me that some kind of movement, national coordinated movement could and should be started in this direction. But to my knowledge there is none.

Posted by: everybody curses chris at November 12, 2005 7:26 AM

Taxing the church in America... Yeah, right after we convince everyone to give up their handguns.

Posted by: eric at November 12, 2005 9:18 AM

Frankly, I think you're being penny-wise, pound foolish. You would have to remove the tax-exemptions for all non-profit groups. Do you really want the Red Cross and American Cancer Society to be taxed too?

Also, non-profit religious institutions are currently prohibited from engaging in politics. Allowing them to throw their considerable wealth around in the political arena might end up biting you in the butt.

Chris: If you don't like the First Amendement then go move to somewhere like China where they share your view on religion because the Second Amendment says you're SOL on this one.

Posted by: nash at November 12, 2005 9:36 AM

Nash Bridges:
Why thank you for your comment.
Nash is the typical person, who ewws and awws about the constitution. If it's in the constitution it must be right? If it's in the bible it must be right? If it's in the...

What would be nice if we actually had a class of people that knew how to think for themselves instead of being mindless zombie drones that simply repeat their embedded mythology.

I don't care what any document says or any book or any bible. It's not the word of god, its not the word of infallability, its the words of people, oeople like you and me. and when they are wrongm they are wrong. Any set asides for religion in the constitution are simply WRONG, and were done to accomodate, 225 years ago, an uneducated, stupid, superstitous people who still incorporated superstition into their thinking. Actually same as today. Those provisions were included, not because they were right, but simply because as the entire country was comprised of superstitous fools, provisions had to be included to placate the superstitous fools.
Those parts of the precious constitution, living in todays society, now should be either ammended or simply erased, the same as if there were provisions protecting werewolves.
Hey, I gots yas constitution right here...
Thank you Nash, your drooling stupidity helped me emphasize one of my ongoing themes. Thinking for onesself.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at November 12, 2005 10:10 AM

If a Magic Fairy gave you one wish and wouldn't let you split the magic, which would you choose?


[X] Taxed Churches
[_] Surrendered Handguns

Posted by: Crid at November 12, 2005 11:24 AM

Okay, okay. It's been a long time since I've seen denial of this magnitude:

"Also, non-profit religious institutions are currently prohibited from engaging in politics. Allowing them to throw their considerable wealth around in the political arena might end up biting you in the butt."

HELLO. They're already throwing their weight around. The whole basis of the "right to life" movement is religious. The whole basis of the homophobic proposal to make marriage between "a man and a woman" is religious. As a matter of fact, every discriminatory law that has ever been forged has been based on religion.

Separation of church and state is a myth. It doesn't exist. Geez. Every session of Congress is opened with a prayer (ewwwwwwwwwwww).

GWB has based his whole campaign on "family values" (of which apparently hatred for anyone not WASP is the main focus). Puhleeze.

Not to be rude, Nash. But get a clue. Wake up and smell the lack of freedom from religion that exists in this country.

For crying out loud, it's still legal in 42 states to fire someone JUST BECAUSE THEY HAPPEN TO BE BORN GAY. Again, based on religion.

Can. Open. Fundys. Everywhere.

Posted by: Goddyss at November 12, 2005 11:29 AM

As an honest to gosh tax attorney, I'd just like to clarify that the $1 sale-leaseback example quoted by the author is spurious at best. Any rookie IRS examiner would be quick to disregard such a deal as a "sham transaction" and likely suspend tax-exempt status.

Furthermore, the property-tax exemption for tax-exempt organizations is (rightly) a matter of state law. California is not required to exempt a 501(c)(3) entity from property taxes. The people of California have chosen to do so.

Singling out religious organizations as somehow less worthy of tax-exempt status than the Humane Society smacks of dubious constitutionality and in no small part mean-spiritedness. Unless, of course, you don't mind lawyers making vast fortunes for the next several decades arguing over what non-profit organizations are or are not "religious" in nature.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 12, 2005 12:23 PM

Snakester, what about the Scientologists? Shouldn't they be taxed?

Posted by: reader at November 12, 2005 1:46 PM

I think this speaks to our collective mythology, why the Pilgrims left England, etc.

There's something in the back of the American psyche that loathes forcing religious organizations to finance government, the actions of which often run contrary to the religious convictions of any given congregation.

I picture Martin Luther King's congregation at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church forced to pay taxes to the state that discriminated against them, even as the water hoses and police dogs did their work, and I feel nauseated.

...I wonder how Quakers or, indeed, many American Muslims would feel at having their offerings to God transformed into interest payments on war debt.

People should be free to support their church without supporting the government.

Posted by: Ken Shultz at November 12, 2005 2:57 PM

Reader -

My point exactly. Who would you like to be the determiner of whether or not an organization/cult/church is a "religious" organization? The IRS currently recognizes the CST as a tax-exempt religion under a 1993 closing agreement. That's good enough for me. As far as I can tell, our freedom of religion only has relevance when laws are applied even-handedly to even the most distasteful of faiths. If religious organizations no longer qualified as tax-exempt entities, the next logical battleground would be whether certain secular organizations are "charitable" enough for 501(c)(3) status. I am not a black American, so should I protest the government's "subsidizing" of the NAACP?

Also, we should keep in mind that tax-exempt organizations (religious and non-religious) are held to a strict set of rules (both at the IRS and state levels) to make sure that their officers do not take advantage of the organization's favored status.

Despite the author's hyperbole, this really isn't an issue of America's faith-based organizations sitting on hordes of tax-free money.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 12, 2005 3:56 PM

This whole idea of something costing "every taxpayer" is interesting, indeed. Why? Because it's the same whiny bean-counting done for everything else. Smoke? Taxpayer burden. Get hurt and can't pay up front? Taxpayer burden.

Meanwhile slick people are getting stadiums and NASCAR tracks subsidized by the taxpayer, and New London, CT seizes property to get more tax money.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 12, 2005 4:23 PM

Just a short follow-up. The brilliant goddyss is exactly right. There is no separation to begin with. And I would simply follow up on her point with this. To the dolts that think we should lay off religion, how can we? It's not benigh nonsense, it is vicious virulent deadly business. The supernatural view of life, as opposed to the natural, scientific, underpins and guides EVERY decision the religious dolt makes. It guides his views on sex, government, gays, women, life death, stem cells, his so-called moral philosophy then guides, his choices in music, TV, film, art, everything. Religion is the starting point and underpins virtually every decision and choice the dolt makes. This is why it's important, this is why we aren't gonna let it go, and this is why I bitch slap every dumb fucking asshole that is religious. Because their nonsense intrudes into my world. There is also a secondary reason as well. I simply like it. But enough about me. I hate talking about myself.

Posted by: everybody wants to give chris their wine,a fter it passes through their kidneys first. at November 12, 2005 5:34 PM

Chris: It's not the Constitution, but the shared values they represent. You can piss on them all you want but I hope you recognize the irony that allows you to do that without getting your butt walloped.

Goddyss: I don't think homophobia has as much to do about religion as you insist. After all, homosexuality (sodomy) is/was a crime in the Soviet Union, China, and other secular societies. The same is true of all the evils you allege against religion.

Posted by: nash at November 12, 2005 5:41 PM

It really wasn't the constitution I wanted to piss on so much, it was you and your fucking idiotic nonsense. You are simply an idiot.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at November 12, 2005 5:57 PM

You may not believe in the establishment clause, but Pat Robertson does. It's the only reason we don't have prayer in public schools, and it's the only reason intelligent design isn't already in every textbook. Are Pat Robertson and the Bible Thumpers tilting at windmills?

...I don't think so.

In regards to why we should leave people free to support their churches unmolested, I think freedom from establishment and freedom of expression are mutually dependent aspects of religious freedom, and I think they tend to play out as a zero sum game in the real world.

In public schools, for now, freedom from establishment trumps freedom of expression in the form of public prayer. ...but that's an increasingly precarious balance. I have to wonder how much the failure to get prayer into public schools fired the drive to put intelligent design into the textbooks.

How much does the ability to give an abortion to the children of Evangelicals without their parents knowledge, much less consent, drive their desire to ban the procedure outright? Surely, there's some marginal inertia there. Denying the right of gay people to get married seems another easy example.

I'm not saying we shouldn't resist the Evangelical program--I think we should. ...and I'm not saying that this is the way things should be, I'm saying that's the way things are. ...I think we should remember that we're in the minority here.

...and denying religious people the ability to give to their churches without supporting the government seems such a small injustice; in fact, I don't see the injustice at all. ...and apart from your apparent desire to stick it to the theists, I don't think we have much to gain here, especially compared to what we have to lose.

Posted by: Ken Shultz at November 12, 2005 7:49 PM

Chris: God bless you.

Posted by: nash at November 13, 2005 9:58 AM

Now that Nash has summoned god to give me a blessing, presumably we've finally got the
old bastard's attention. So,

Chris to god: Hey god go fuck your ass on the nearest doorknob.
god to Chris: I was already doing that man, whaddya buggin me for?
Chris to god: Sorry...

Posted by: everybody envies chris at November 13, 2005 11:36 AM

Nash says, "I don't think homophobia has as much to do about religion as you insist..."

Okay, so you choose to live in denial. Far be it from me to wake you from your coma.

I don't claim to know what homophobia in other countries is based on, but I do know (from personal experience, by the way) that homophobia in *this* country (which is the one we are speaking about, right? Try to stay with me here) is perpetrated by religion. Most specifically, xtianity.

Chris: HA HA HA HA HA!!

Posted by: Goddyss at November 15, 2005 1:48 AM

Atheists do not care how people have sex, unless they're having it with them, in which case, the concern is for their proficiency. The anti-homosexuality stuff is straight out of church, as is the Jews killed Jesus stuff, which is how kids knew they were supposed to hate me when I was a little girl. At least I missed out on the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades, and the witch burnings, too.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 15, 2005 4:19 AM

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