When the tax code is written so some income is not taxed, you are creating a subsidy. Oil money is subsidized in the hopes it will reduce the cost of oil production (whether this works is debatable, and I am not the person to ask on this). Some of the income isn't taxed, and the amount of money you forego bringing in as a tax is the cost of the subsidy.
Subsidies aren't necessarily a bad thing. They can be used to encourage things in the economy that everyone wants. One way to encourage green energy growth is to provide the industry with lucrative subsidies until they can be more profitable and mainstream. When people have a child, they get a break on taxes to make it easier to raise their young.
This is basic language for what a subsidy is, but I just want to make this clear. Subsidies exist for all sorts of things, good and bad. The consequence of subsidies is that they lower the tax revenue, and so, we have a national interest in ensuring that our subsidies go towards things which are in the national interest, and efficient (since we'll receive less revenue to spend on other things).
But there's one thing that is subsidized that is an absolute disgrace. Hate speech is subsidized.
Hate speech. Subsidized by the taxpayer. Subsidized by you.
Let me explain. Religious institutions are not taxed. In fact, if one gives to a religious organization, one is entitled to a tax exemption. This allows people to redirect some of their money away from the government revenue pools to religious groups. Sometimes, religious groups respond to this endorsement by providing charity and positive social work for society. The whole point of redirecting money to such groups is that they (theoretically) serve the public good the government would otherwise have to provide, but do so under private management.
Often they do not. There are many religious groups posing as charitable organizations. Hate groups recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center are given money tax free, and when they are, it means their political activity, their hate, their damage is being endorsed by the US government.
The American Family Association received nearly $18 million in 2010. Apparently, they are also listed in the Combined Federal Campaign. What a hate group is doing in a government charity sponsorship program, well, that's the whole point of this diary. Also, as the AFA will tell you, their religion justifies bullying.
The Family Research Council received about $12 million dollars in 2010 to fund their campaign of hate against gays, transgendered people, and the children of gay parents. Like all other hate groups, they repeatedly engage in clearly defined hateful behavior.
These two groups, alone, got $30 million dollars tax free in 2010. Subsidized hate speech. Not only this, there are other 'charity' groups with an interest in undermining church-state separation. There are religious groups which think that their political speech deserves to be subsidized by the US government and have no shame endorsing political candidates. They also want to make schools a battleground for religious warfare (this link is worth a watch, if you have a spare hour, and I plan to expand on its contents in a later diary).
Politics is the name for how we interact with one another in large groups. When someone speaks about society and community, it is a political speech. Unfortunately, the religious right understands this and is using their 'freedom of religion' as an excuse to become more and more blatant in their political activity, endorsing candidates or as reported earlier, threatening people inclined to vote a certain way. Many of the mega-rich religious leaders are theocrats who wish to legislate their political agendas, while growing their wealth and power behind a claim to religious freedom. Oh, and many of them (and their children) take advantage of something called the parsonage exemption on their real estate, another topic worth its own diary, all on its own (any takers? To entice you, Mitt Romney has probably benefited from this immensely).
Leave the charitable exemptions to those groups which actually perform services which benefit the community at large, and can demonstrate their tax-exempt funding serves the public interest, not endorses hate speech in politics. I would propose to treat religions like a business, and tax them like a business. But just like a business, leave the tax deductions to those groups which actually promote the public welfare. Everyone pays taxes in the interest of the public good, but one thing that should not be promoted by our tax laws is hate.
Charities don't undermine the social contract. Charities don't persecute minorities, spread lies and endorse specific political candidates or parties. Charities don't divide communities and encourage divisiveness and hatred of their neighbors. Charities don't spread anti-science mythology. Charities help people. And that's not an abstract thing. That's an easily demonstrable thing. Let's leave charity tax exemption to the organizations who actually provide charity.
P.S. To those who may have issues with taxing churches, I understand that it is not necessarily the best solution. But charities which do work for the public good that are not associated with religion have reporting requirements that religious institutions do not. This is discriminatory to non-religious groups which aspire to do the same positive social work that many churches do. Beyond that, churches which perform public services should be entitled to tax breaks that their non-religious counterparts receive as well. I hope this clarifies why I advocate for this particular solution, but as always, the community exists so we can hopefully find the most equitable solution to this problem.
My main concern is that I want to convince you that hate groups benefit from a tax subsidy. How this is solved is relatively unimportant. But it won't ever be addressed if nobody is seriously talking or thinking about it. Until then, let's consider ending the hate subsidy.