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View Diary: Is the ground--at long last--finally shifting out from under the religious right's feet? (201 comments)

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  •  Tax the churches! (39+ / 0-)

    Hopefully then they would keep their noses out of political discussions.

    Separation of church and state...

    This is our moment...this is our time! President Barack Obama

    by ankae on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 07:20:18 AM PST

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    •  Churches are people, too, my friend (10+ / 0-)

      The taxation of non-profits is a complex topic.  I can't say if I'm opposed or in favor without knowing the details.  Should we eliminate charitable deductions?  Tax exemptions on church property?  What is profit and what is not for tax purposes?  I'm not disagreeing with you -- all I'm suggesting is that it's not just a simple matter of "tax the churches!"

      Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

      by winsock on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 08:30:11 AM PST

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        •  Indeed (3+ / 0-)

          we do, as well as we tax the incomes of clergy and church employees.  But there is a huge amount of lost tax revenue due to church property tax exemptions.

          Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

          by winsock on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 09:35:39 AM PST

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          •  Indeed we tax the clergy! (6+ / 0-)

            In fact, despite the fact that clergy are hired/contracted/called/posted by congregations/hospitals/senior centers/the military etc. BY LAW they are all, always considered "self-employed."
            BY LAW clergy not ONLY are required to pay the employEE FICA contribution (that most people see on their paychecks) but ALSO the employER FICA matching contribution (that most people who are NOT self-employed never see/think about/do not know.)

            Been there, done that for 22 years.

            The only exception are clergy (like many Roman Catholic clergy, but others too) who take a "vow of poverty" and file a form with the IRS to this effect. They are excused from FICA taxes from both ends....BUT they are also NOT eligible for Social Security in retirement (so that vow of poverty continues to the grave.)

            Otherwise clergy pay federal, state and local taxes like anyone else but they get a double hit on the FICA side.


            "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

            by WineRev on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 11:36:27 AM PST

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      •  Sure, tax them (17+ / 0-)

        Churches as religious entities shouldn't get tax breaks.  

        If a church group wants to set up a charitable non-profit to do charitable secular activities, then that gets the tax break.  But exempting them from paying taxes because they are doing religious stuff is wrong.


      •  A lot of churches DO charitable work (15+ / 0-)

        but they should NOT get exemptions for their buildings and assets UNLESS the building is used strictly for charity work. And there should be a CLEAR separation between the monies that fund charities and the monies that fund the ministry including outreach and missionary work. If a body BELIEVES the church work is important then that body should be willing to fund that work without the rest of the taxpayers giving them a subsidy.

        American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

        by glitterscale on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 09:44:48 AM PST

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        •  The reason the churches don't pay (12+ / 0-)

          property taxes is historical. When this country was founded, a lot of teh early settlers were fleeing religious persecution in their native countries. They were setting up places of worship from scratch, hence no taxes.

          However, if the modern Religious Right wants to keep sticking its nose in politics, it needs to pay taxes just like you and I do. Period. T and R!!

          Inner and Outer Space: the Final Frontiers.

          by orlbucfan on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 09:56:41 AM PST

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        •  Agreed (9+ / 0-)

          Where it gets tricky is how we define "charity" as a matter of public policy and for tax purposes.  Anything that occurs under the rubric of the church is not necessarily charity work.  But the same may be said of almost any non-profit organization.

          Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

          by winsock on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 09:59:14 AM PST

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        •  The FCC makes you prove it (6+ / 0-)

          If you're registered as a "non-commercial educational" broadcaster (which includes public radio, bible-bangers, college stations, etc.), the FCC wants proof that you are providing at least a little bit of programming that is of benefit to the community you serve. Admittedly, their definition of the term is a bit nebulous (given that they consider the god-botherer stations sufficiently beneficial), but I think the principle could apply here: If a church can prove that it demonstrably benefits the community--i.e. does concrete, quantifiable things like run a shelter or soup kitchen, provide assistance to shut-ins, etc.--then it can get an exemption.

          Or we could do it the German way, and only the people who are registered as members of a particular denomination will be assessed a "church tax."

          "I believe they talked of me, for they laughed consumedly."--George Farquhar

          by slapshoe on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 10:00:53 AM PST

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        •  I'm in favor of treating them identically (0+ / 0-)

          to any other non-profit charity organization.  If a charity is found funneling money to other things other than what the charity says it does, they can have their nonprofit tax-free status stripped.  Any organization OTHER than a church has to open its financial records to public scrutiny if it wants to get tax-free charitable status.  Churches, on the other hand, are automatically presumed to be a charitable tax-free organization purely by virtue of being a church and that is clearly wrong.  (And, also, ironically for a law that religious people claim is all about freedom of religion, puts the government into the position of having to dictate what is and isn't a "real" religion, which it has no choice but to do in order to resolve taxes.)  

          The lack of this need to prove where the money is going is exactly why $cientology calls itself a religion - to get tax free status while still raking in a huge profit.  Any non-religious organization raking in a profit as large as $cientology, or the 700 club, or any of that sort of ilk of garbage, would NOT get to be tax-free if not for being a church.

          When a church operates a soup kitchen, then by all means that should be tax free.  When a church wants to build nicer pews, on the other hand, no that shouldn't be tax free, or when a church wants to run an insurance company (Remember when Thrivent was called Aid Association for Lutherans?), then NO, that should be treated as a business expense because that's what it is.

    •  Taxing churches would lead to MORE meddling... (13+ / 0-) politics by religious institutions, not less.  You cannot levy taxes on an individual or an institution and then turn around and say they cannot have a voice in how their money is spent.  Remember that little American Revolution-era slogan, "No taxation without representation?"

      Far from enforcing the separation of church and state, taxing religious institutions would effectively put an end to it.  The vast majority of religious institutions (and secular non-profits, for that matter) that abide by existing law would be forced to take a more active role in politics as a matter of sheer survival, lest government at all levels be dominated by their bigger, better funded rivals.

      Another problem is that religious institutions would be entitled to government services with no strings attached.  Here's an example.  Under existing law, a church damaged or destroyed by, say, Hurricane Sandy or the tornado outbreak of April 2011 is not eligible for FEMA or any other government assistance.  It has to rely on private insurance and the generosity of its members to rebuild.  But if the congregation has been paying taxes, a portion of which have helped to fund FEMA, they have as much right to apply for assistance as the homeowner next door.

      If you're not religious, belong to another religion besides Christianity, or simply another Christian denomination, would you want the portion of your tax dollars that goes to FEMA to help them rebuild?  

      Do yo favor eliminating the tax exemption for secular non-profits?  If not, why not?  If churches have to pay taxes but the United Way doesn't, a claim that the churches' First Amendment rights under the Free Exercise Clause have been violated would likely be upheld even by a Supreme Court composed of nine liberals and no conservatives.  Remember that the First Amendment prohibits the government from favoring non-religion over religion just as surely as it may not favor religion over non-religion or one religion over another.

      "Tax the churches!" may make a great political slogan for the non-religious,  but whatever ills you hope to redress by taxing churches, they pale in comparison to the Pandora's Box of evils that would be unleashed.  The solution to church electioneering is more aggressive enforcement of existing law and vigorous action by the IRS against the specific churches that have violated those laws such as the churches that participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, not a blanket levy against all religious institutions.

      If you're not already familiar with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, I highly recommend you check them out.  They have lots of information about what religious institutions may and may not do when it comes to the intersection of religion and politics.  They also provide a link that will allow you to report a violation of the law if you know of something specific.

      •  please expand (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        offgrid, kplatv

        and diary this! very interesting and you raise many valid points that the community c/should read/discuss.

      •  Do a diary on this POV. It is VERY interesting. (0+ / 0-)

        202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

        by cany on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 06:07:01 PM PST

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      •  In the imaginary universe where churches (0+ / 0-)

        didn't already have exactly the sort of influence you are claiming they would start to have if they were taxed, I'd agree with you.  But this isn't the fantasy land of churches staying apolitical.  This is the real world, where they already are doing all the things you claim they would only start doing once they get taxed.  And don't quote me the law that says they're not supposed to do that.  I already know they're not supposed to.  But they are anyway because the IRS won't respond to the vast number of complaints about them getting away with this.  It's a law that exists on paper but isn't being enforced so it might as well not exist at all.

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