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While I share the trepidation of those who are afraid of the corrupting effect of Corporations buying our legislatures and writing our laws, a greater danger to democracy has already taken place with barely an acknowledgement.

It is the extent of church involvement in our politics – something which used to be viewed as semi-prohibited in exchange for their exemption from taxation, but which is no longer enforced and indeed seems a lost cause.

They are too politically powerful for any politician to dare challenge – and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family passed more legislation in the Arizona legislature last year than any other interest group.

While any effort to tax the churches has always been pooh-poohed in the past, in light of the churches increased political muscularity I can only hope that concerned citizens will reconsider our attitude towards these corrupt organizations that now far exceed the power, influence, and wealth of the Mafia.

How much does the privileging of these businesses cost us?

University of Tampa professor Ryan T. Cragun along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega have published a study on the Council for Secular Humanism website:

Research Report: How Secular Humanists (and Everyone Else) Subsidize Religion in the United States

While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion—to the tune of about $71 billion every year.
The report is excellent and I urge everyone to read it. One it the points it makes clearly is that we have traditionally exempted churches because we considered them to be “charities”, while in fact a very small portion of their activities are truly “charity”.
Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years.
Running tax-supported businesses like schools and hospitals is not “charity”, nor are bingo games or multi-millon dollar political campaigns

The report makes clear that providing tax exemptions for true charities does, indeed, make sense but churches have abused their status and should be required to separate out for tax exemption those actual charitable parts of their businesses for tax exemption and otherwise be treated the same way that other service or business corporations are under the law – like Disneyland for the fans of Fantasy Land.

(Cross posted at Aging Hippie Dispatch)

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  •  Tip Jar (203+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, second gen, Lefty Coaster, johnny wurster, kevinpdx, wilderness voice, ExStr8, janmtairy, cany, llellet, antirove, importer, BPARTR, Kingsmeg, jacey, Irons33, Paddy999, ZenTrainer, enhydra lutris, Illinois IRV, Davui, fiddlingnero, CT yanqui, SherwoodB, KathleenM1, albrt, on the cusp, blueoasis, Troubadour, akze29, retLT, Shelley99, Actbriniel, Yosef 52, cassidy3, Tinfoil Hat, YaNevaNo, tomephil, carpunder, Ice Blue, AnnCetera, rodentrancher, luckylizard, golem, taonow, DeminNewJ, muddy boots, letsgetreal, The Walrus, LynChi, Robobagpiper, tgrshark13, marleycat, Texdude50, Roadbed Guy, gramofsam1, fallina7, Florene, jiordan, tapestry, FrY10cK, Buckeye54, BYw, sound of progress, deviant24x, Scioto, SaintC, paulsmith8, NJpeach, Voiceless, Matt Z, bronte17, wvmom, Stripe, The Wizard, MKSinSA, devis1, kharma, ChemBob, SeaTurtle, RagingGurrl, One Pissed Off Liberal, celdd, Smoh, left rev, Habitat Vic, SneakySnu, Its a New Day, MadRuth, glitterlust, skip945, Jersey Girl, cotasm, MBNYC, elkhunter, Cronesense, spacecadet1, spunhard, jds1978, Caddis Fly, luckydog, sexgenderbody, lineatus, Scott Wooledge, GeorgeXVIII, mconvente, profewalt, Sylv, annrose, Robynhood too, Thinking Fella, sunny skies, democracy inaction, acerimusdux, MKinTN, young voter, tle, Medium Head Boy, MarciaJ720, Wreck Smurfy, SoCaliana, TexDem, rukidingme, 420 forever, My Spin, statsone, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, weck, Imhotepsings, tytalus, Little Lulu, Statusquomustgo, kevin k, Son of a Cat, DEMonrat ankle biter, skod, TechBob, barkingcat, Buckeye Nut Schell, temptxan, cybersaur, Rei, Gustogirl, JimWilson, bnasley, Avilyn, Eddie L, Akonitum, EdinStPaul, Trendar, ardyess, redlum jak, LillithMc, big annie, iphelgix, elengul, Kamakhya, entrelac, rightiswrong, prettygirlxoxoxo, this just in, tardis10, vacantlook, txcatlin, ruscle, Paul Ferguson, TX Unmuzzled, countwebb, Voodoo, sawgrass727, blueoregon, wayoutinthestix, bwintx, Pluto, FarWestGirl, DAO, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, coquiero, anodnhajo, windwardguy46, OMwordTHRUdaFOG, McWaffle, Kinak, Sprinkles, bluezen, Alice Olson, DanC, fumie, EdSF, Panacea Paola, katiekitteh, Amber6541, aliasalias, HoopJones, cpresley, Alumbrados, bearette, reflectionsv37, Chi, bfbenn, lcrp, madhaus, jayden

    If altar boys could get pregnant, contraception would be a sacrament.

    by tiponeill on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 05:33:07 PM PDT

      •  Did Disneyland suddenly become a nonprofit? (9+ / 0-)

        Maybe that'll mean they'll stop charging $15 for a Coke.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:45:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, they are. If they aren't, the IRS is failing (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            OllieGarkey, ardyess

            to do their job.

            •  so we agree. (15+ / 0-)

              As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

              by BPARTR on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:03:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not with your over-generalization, no. nt (0+ / 0-)
                •  Churches don't distribute profit to individuals as (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  blueoasis, Amber6541

                  "profit."  Some, however, do so as salaries, but that's true of a lot of non-profits.

                  The clearer question is whether they should have 501 (c) 3 status, wherein individuals get to write off their contributions.  In other words, I can contribute to a campaign through a church and write it off.  But, if I contribute directly, I cannot.

                  •  Churches can't contribute to campaigns. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Catte Nappe, Amber6541

                    Or, at least, not to partisan political campaigns.

                    If my church wrote a check to Obama for America, it would lose its tax exemption.

                    Churches can participate in and contribute to issue campaigns—but non-religious nonprofit organizations, to which contributions are also tax-exempt, can do the same thing.

                    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                    by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:41:50 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  JamesGG:If I may chime in on this lovely debate... (18+ / 0-)

                      Full disclosure up front: I am an atheist and am not particularly fond of religion. My liberal sensibilities are often pulled into tensions over the subject, as my personal value of respect for another person's culture often clashes with an honest recognition that all religions (much like capitalist markets actually) exist to grow, and the need for growth inherently lacks a respect for non-believers (before you get indignant, I am speaking in admittedly general terms and describing a more "macro" and fundamental state of the religious/non-religious binary).

                      I find the indignation and aggressive reflex to jump out and defend all that is right and proper about houses of worship or the social "value-added" of religion to be both exhausting to read and built on the need to use highly specific situations or anecdotal tales to distract from the obvious need to correct this glaring hole in the tax code. So let's start with some fundamentals:

                      1. You can't tell me that megachurches raking in millions of dollars is not a sign of profit-making. When the pastors of said churches provide voting orders, political or ideological talking points, sermons steeped with a political ideology on current issues, and promote a sense of persecution in order to drive political activism, without even mentioning the political or ideological campaign expenditures, I personally believe that you lose tax free privileges. When said pastors roll up to their multi-million dollar mansions in a Mercedes, yes...there's profit coming in. You mean to tell me that Joel Osteen and Rick Warren are not partisan in their advocacy or raking in significant profits from their churches? More importantly, your stance is that the megachurches get to dictate and aggressively advocate for significant voice in the laws under which we must live without contributing to the governance of our society? Awesome. Just...awesome.

                      2. So to this you will say, "but we give poor people soup..." Okay, fair enough. Some churches run some charities that do some great things, and I commend the people that give their time to such volunteer for such noble causes. Here's the fallacy of such an argument though: those charities are only filling in holes left by the scaling back and collapse of Great Society programs and effort that has been occurring over the past several decades. Poorly and unevenly I might add (through no fault of the churches, of course, as they lack the reach and resources of the well-funded national programs they are trying to fill in for). We could, however, tax megachurches and use the revenues to shore up the holes and deficiencies in SNAP, providing much greater resources to a program that could be more effective at feeding the poor, homeless, and hungry, and which has the national reach and administrative structures to provide more effectively than a patchwork of churches that may decide to serve the poor of the local community. Indeed, churches could then convert soup kitchens into low-cost outreach wings that help enroll the needy in such government assistance programs. You can apply this same reasoning and argument to every "good" that religions bring us, and we get the added bonus of not having the provision of those services ransomed against things like birth-control provision.

                      3. As everyone knows (or should know) distinctions can be made to prevent small, struggling churches or churches that truly dedicate all of their resources to community service or charity work that protect their exemption. The resolution doesn't have to be "TAX THEM LIKE CORPORATIONS." A couple simple solutions would be accepting a salary scale for employees (similar to that of public service workers, which pretty effectively prevents multi-million dollar mansions being owned by "non-profit" organizations) in return for exemption status, a mandated percentage allocated to charity work that must be maintained, and perhaps even a revenue or congregation-size threshold.

                      4. The same standard can and should be applied to non-religious non-profits as well. It would go a long way towards cleaning up PACs like Crossroads, for instance, in addition to ensuring non-profit fidelity to their stated reasons for existence (ostensibly, collecting donations while not full-filling stated missions is fraud, though not currently legally defined as such).

                      4. On the history of church political activity that this discussion somehow devolved to further down: irrelevant. That churches have done some good things politically in the past does not suffice for tax exemption. It does not change the fact that they wish to change the rules of governance without sharing the burden of governance. The good that churches have done does not exist in a vacuum and a case could be made that the changes would have occurred regardless (indeed, the church members that supported such movements may have supported them regardless of their religious status).

                      Anyway, I've yet to see a compelling reason not to tax churches, and JamesGG, not to pick on you and I mean nothing personal by this, but I see you as the most aggressive defender of tax exempt churches.

                      •  Excellent comment n/t (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        tytalus

                        "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

                        by just another vet on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:22:43 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  STEVE HOLT! *pumps fists* n/t (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Va1kyrie

                        "My great panacea for making society at once better and more enjoyable would be to cultivate greater sincerity." -- Frances Power Cobbe

                        by Panacea Paola on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:46:35 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  There's a lot of problematic stuff there. (0+ / 0-)
                        all religions (much like capitalist markets actually) exist to grow, and the need for growth inherently lacks a respect for non-believers
                        No more than the Coca-Cola company "inherently lacks a respect" for Pepsi drinkers or people who don't drink soda by advertising their product.
                        You can't tell me that megachurches raking in millions of dollars is not a sign of profit-making.
                        Sure I can. Profit-making is a specific thing, in which a company intentionally keeps its expenses lower than its income in order to return the excess funds to the owners, or reinvest them in order to increase the value of the company for its owners. Megachurches have obscene amounts of money, to be sure, and I strongly disapprove of the ways many of them spend that money, but they remain non-profit organizations, since they do not have owners or stockholders and thus do not exist for the sole purpose of increasing the value of the owners' or stockholders' holdings.
                        When the pastors of said churches provide voting orders, political or ideological talking points, sermons steeped with a political ideology on current issues,
                        Providing voting orders is explicitly forbidden by the tax code—and any first-year student of rhetoric or philosophy will tell you that it is impossible to give a sermon (or give a speech, or write a comment) that isn't steeped with a political ideology.
                        and promote a sense of persecution in order to drive political activism,
                        Who gets to determine what pastor is "promoting a sense of persecution in order to drive political activism"?
                        without even mentioning the political or ideological campaign expenditures, I personally believe that you lose tax free privileges.
                        I'm not sure what you mean by "without even mentioning the political or ideological campaign expenditures." Should organizations be up-front to their members about where their money is being spent? Absolutely.
                        More importantly, your stance is that the megachurches get to dictate and aggressively advocate for significant voice in the laws under which we must live without contributing to the governance of our society?
                        Is it your stance that a person's voice in the laws under which we must live should be tied to the amount they pay in taxes?

                        A religious organization is really only as strong politically as its numbers, since it can't contribute to political campaigns—so a megachurch's power is limited to the number of people (taxpayers one and all) it can activate on a particular issue.

                        We could, however, tax megachurches and use the revenues to shore up the holes and deficiencies in SNAP, providing much greater resources to a program that could be more effective at feeding the poor, homeless, and hungry, and which has the national reach and administrative structures to provide more effectively than a patchwork of churches that may decide to serve the poor of the local community.
                        How much do you really think those megachurches would provide in tax revenue, when all's said and done? You seem to think they're holding a rather large proportion of society's wealth, such that only by taxing them one can restore all of the cuts made to the Great Society.
                        As everyone knows (or should know) distinctions can be made to prevent small, struggling churches or churches that truly dedicate all of their resources to community service or charity work that protect their exemption. The resolution doesn't have to be "TAX THEM LIKE CORPORATIONS.
                        And what makes you think that the megachurches, which still can push people to the polls and which would now be free of tax-exempt status and thus free to engage in whatever political actions they wanted, wouldn't take the kind of political action to elect people who would then include them in such exemptions?
                        The same standard can and should be applied to non-religious non-profits as well. It would go a long way towards cleaning up PACs like Crossroads, for instance, in addition to ensuring non-profit fidelity to their stated reasons for existence
                        Donations to Crossroads aren't tax deductible, and any of their income that they spend on political activity is taxed.
                        It does not change the fact that they wish to change the rules of governance without sharing the burden of governance.
                        You seem to be making the argument that those who "share the burden of governance" (i.e., pay taxes) are entitled to a greater say (or even an exclusive say) in our political process; that logic would seem to lead to the conclusion that the wealthy deserve a louder voice (or, conversely, that the poor deserve to be silenced) because they "share the burden of governance" on a higher level than anyone else.

                        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                        by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:02:12 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Hm...you seem to miss many points... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          just another vet

                          I will say at the outset, from your responses that can only be taken to be a deliberate misinterpretation or misrepresentation of my points, I can see that this will only turn into a circular argument where you refuse to concede ground out of pride or ego (the public nature of forums tends to rub that most unfortunate feature of our nature in that way). Consequently, I will respond to the issues you raise this time, but this will be my last contribution.

                          No more than the Coca-Cola company "inherently lacks a respect" for Pepsi drinkers or people who don't drink soda by advertising their product.
                          Don't care and irrelevant. The comment was reflecting a personal belief/observation that you are free to disagree with. In fact, your rebuttal only restates the point I was making, so...okay.
                          Sure I can. Profit-making is a specific thing, in which a company intentionally keeps its expenses lower than its income in order to return the excess funds to the owners, or reinvest them in order to increase the value of the company for its owners. Megachurches have obscene amounts of money, to be sure, and I strongly disapprove of the ways many of them spend that money, but they remain non-profit organizations, since they do not have owners or stockholders and thus do not exist for the sole purpose of increasing the value of the owners' or stockholders' holdings.
                          You are arguing semantics and technicalities created by the lapse in the tax code. Pastors and deacons with control over church resource allocations can still take an unacceptable salary from the tax free church revenues. While the church coffers technically don't belong to anybody but the church, the church decisions are often made by a small number of people that have ownership of the church in practice. I have seen this first hand.

                          I could start a church tomorrow, collect tithes, and allocate them as I please. I could use them for "missionary" efforts (to expand my revenue stream and increase the value of the church, over which I have sole decision-making power). While technically there are no shareholders, the idea that megachurches do not exist specifically to grow or increase their value is a farce. As you are Christian (not that there's anything wrong with that), this may be unpalatable, but it makes it no less true. Perhaps referring to a church in terms used for businesses damages a deeply held understanding of the world that you hold, creating this odd need to contort the existential definition of "profits" in order to arbitrarily resurrect this distinction, but it does not change the behaviors of churches.

                          Providing voting orders is explicitly forbidden by the tax code—and any first-year student of rhetoric or philosophy will tell you that it is impossible to give a sermon (or give a speech, or write a comment) that isn't steeped with a political ideology.
                          Nice smarmy, condescending response. I  like the implication that I am somehow of lower intellect or educational attainment than a first-year undergraduate student. Anyway, all you did was take my point to it's logical conclusion: the exemption was crafted on a condition that churches abstain from the political sphere, to be proxy measured by a prohibition on direct contributions. My point was there are many forms of political activism from churches not captured by something as narrow as direct contributions to a candidate. My point was the pretense that churches are exempt in return for remaining apolitical is absurd on its face and should be reconsidered.
                          I'm not sure what you mean by "without even mentioning the political or ideological campaign expenditures." Should organizations be up-front to their members about where their money is being spent? Absolutely.
                          This prepositional phrase was part of a longer sentence that provided the context and complete thought for the phrase. Complex sentence...I apologize. I was rebutting the notion that churches are apolitical, and, in doing so, listed ways in which they are politically active beyond direct contributions or issue campaigns.
                          Is it your stance that a person's voice in the laws under which we must live should be tied to the amount they pay in taxes?

                          A religious organization is really only as strong politically as its numbers, since it can't contribute to political campaigns—so a megachurch's power is limited to the number of people (taxpayers one and all) it can activate on a particular issue.

                          Obviously that is not my position. I made no argument of proportion, whatsoever. It is my position that an organization, including churches, that collects millions of dollars from members shouldn't be able to use their organization, including churches, as a tax shelter while expending money on political issue ads. (I also don't believe possession of said millions should give anyone outsized influence in political messaging and campaigning, but that is another issue altogether.) In addition, I don't believe such tax shelters should be given to churches with millionaire pastors, who then use their millions to gain audience to push their political agendas. Again, if the exemption is given under the pretense of apolitical churches, the pretense should be questioned and the exemption eliminated or more tightly regulated (which is what my proposals entailed).
                          Who gets to determine what pastor is "promoting a sense of persecution in order to drive political activism"?
                          Another strange, seemingly intentional misinterpretation. This was presented as an example of a type of behavior churches engage in that is political in nature in order to establish the larger point that churches are not apolitical. It was not even remotely implied that such a thing should be measured or adjudicated. Of course, this was in response to the larger argument that was being made that they are tax exempt in return not making direct contributions. My point was that they engage in many other forms of politically motivated behavior beyond direct contributions. I had seen that you and others kept hiding behind the fact that churches are not allowed to make direct contributions as some kind of evidence that they are not politically active enough to warrant revocation of their tax exemption. Unsurprisingly, many of your arguments of this long rebuttal range from nit-picky distractions to misunderstandings or misrepresentations.
                          How much do you really think those megachurches would provide in tax revenue, when all's said and done? You seem to think they're holding a rather large proportion of society's wealth, such that only by taxing them one can restore all of the cuts made to the Great Society.
                          Here is a perfect example. Where did I say that taxing megachurches alone could shore up and revitalize Great Society programs? This is an immature and sophomoric point that is more annoying than substantive. My point was public services could not only replace the charitable "goods" that is so often used to justify religious tax exemption, but could do so more effectively. Obviously much greater tax reforms and revenue streams would be needed to repair our crumbling social programs; however, eliminating the tax exemption for churches would provide revenues for public services that would be more effective than charities. My point was that would be a trade I would happily make. I haven't had a chance to read the report from the post this whole conversation began under, but if the $71 billion is accurate, it would, of course, go a long way. I can tell you, if it went to SNAP alone, it would be about a 400% increase SNAP's annual budget...
                          Donations to Crossroads aren't tax deductible, and any of their income that they spend on political activity is taxed.
                          While your statement is true, and point well taken, in the quote you responded to, I was referring to more stringently regulating the proportion of activity spent on non-political, charitable activities. While regulations on this is already on the books, it is a low bar and not at all enforced.
                          You seem to be making the argument that those who "share the burden of governance" (i.e., pay taxes) are entitled to a greater say (or even an exclusive say) in our political process; that logic would seem to lead to the conclusion that the wealthy deserve a louder voice (or, conversely, that the poor deserve to be silenced) because they "share the burden of governance" on a higher level than anyone else.
                          Not at all. Saying millionaire pastors and megachurches, not limited to but particularly those that are openly active in attempting to codify their religious beliefs into law, should not be exempted from taxes. Saying that millionaires should pay their fair share does not change because they belong to some collection of other citizens that subscribe to a shared set of beliefs and rituals (although, I'm wondering if maybe some Republicans can make the case that conservatism is a religion and thereby tax exempt) and derive their salaries from the organizations in which such shared beliefs and rituals are expressed. Saying that megachurches and millionaire pastors should not be tax exempt under the pretense that they are apolitical is, of course, a far cry from saying that democratic input should be proportionate to tax contribution or that people who do not have the means to fulfill basic needs should be either taxed or silenced. Again, this is either a deliberate misrepresentation of my point or a misinterpretation of what I said.

                          Honestly, there are much better arguments to be made than what you've said here or what I've seen so far elsewhere in these comments. I thought I would hear more high-minded rebuttals about how taxing churches opens the door for legitimizing their participation and voice in politics in ways that can be more dangerous than it's worth. The unintended consequences and Pandora's Box can be severe. Of course, this philosophic and theoretical dilemma does not square with the undeniable reality that churches are a political force that are already actively involved in political agenda setting (a point I have, by now, beaten to a pulp), and their tax exemption allows for pastors to collect economic rents from a distorted marketplace and the rents then are deployed for political aims, creating a negative externality (the breach of the wall between church and state) that should be corrected via more stringent enforcement of current regulations, expansion of those regulations, and, yes, taxation.

          •  Provide a shred of evidence of that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Wee Mama, Catte Nappe

            Such as an example of a church paying dividends to share holders.

            If they are for-profit enterprises, who collects the profits?

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:06:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  A visit to Vatican City (31+ / 0-)

              would be illustrative in answering that question.  The money flows to the top of the church hierarchy and subsidizes their lifestyle.  I don't have the figures here, but do you know how much tax free real estate is church owned in this country?  Besides, obviously, the urban real estate where the churches are located, there is a huge amount of church owned real estate in non-urban areas...forests, mountains, country retreats  many in outdoor recreational resort locations.

              Assets.

              Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

              by Keith930 on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:29:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  OK, you've got nothing (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                misslegalbeagle

                Thanks for playing.

                In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

                by blue aardvark on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:32:23 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  In fact, in a concession to the Italian (24+ / 0-)

                government, the Vatican is going to start paying taxes for businesses that it runs, such as hotels, and some of its properties that are not strictly used for religious purposes.

                It's about time.  Probably about 40% of the properties in Rome are owned by the Holy See.

              •  Ownership of real estate or assets is not profit. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                Many nonprofit organizations that aren't churches also own real estate or assets.

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:34:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Owning real estate... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Amber6541, Chi

                  ...one still has to pay property taxes; do churches pay property taxes?

                  •  No, that was an issue for my UU Fellowship (6+ / 0-)

                    in Anchorage. Early on they had decided that since they did need fire, police, roads, water and sewer, they should pay that share. One of the bean counters had figured out how to calculate the percent, and every year the church voluntarily sent the check to the municipality.

                    Frequently they promoted the idea and the church by presenting it to a public municiple board meeting for some local press.  ;)

                    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

                    by Ginny in CO on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:35:29 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Yes indeed (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Alice Olson

                and as this story illustrates the money doesn't so much flow in the opposite direction.

                Even when it really, really should.

                •  So you don't approve of the way... (0+ / 0-)

                  ...they spend their money.

                  I concur with your disapproval.

                  However, the opinion we share about the way they spend their money does not make them a for-profit business.

                  "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                  by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:36:51 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Maybe not a business per se (2+ / 0-)

                    so "profit" isn't the correct word to use.

                    But still, for all intents and purposes that's their reason for being - to accumulate wealth.

                    which seems to be a rather universal (i.e., not just Christian) theme for religions

                    •  If you want to make that point about the Roman (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      JamesGG, Amber6541

                      Catholic Church, then there is an argument to be made that wealth does accumulate to the top.  But I pastor a small Protestant church for $20,000 per year, plus major medical and pension. They get about a third back in tithe for my husband's income and mine.  Our budget this year includes a  $23,000 deficit.  That does not look to me like accumulating wealth.

                      This is not unusual for small churches, by the way.  We are there to show forth the kingdom of God to the world. And we do it every day.

                      Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

                      by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:40:06 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I think your anecdotal evidence (0+ / 0-)

                        proves my point.

                        And sadly (for you!) you're at the bottom.  Like I said, the wealth is accumulating at the other pole (overall, that goes just as much for protestant denominations as for the RCC).

                        •  ummmm... (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Catte Nappe, Amber6541
                          Like I said, the wealth is accumulating at the other pole (overall, that goes just as much for protestant denominations as for the RCC).
                          For most Protestant denominational structures in the US, that's not at all the case; from my extensive experiences within multiple Protestant denominations, I can say that almost all the money that comes into a church is spent at the local level and doesn't get even to the next stage of the "hierarchy" (to the extent that there is a hierarchy, and there really isn't much of one for most American Protestant denominations).

                          And that's assuming that a church is part of a denominational structure—which many aren't.

                          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:45:45 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Then let me add to the anecdote (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Catte Nappe, Amber6541

                          Our church sends precisely $5500 per year to the three levels of hierarchy above us.  The PC(USA) has restructured several times in the last few decades, and everytime, fewer and fewer people work there.  The national office is in a building in downtown Louisville which fits into the surrounding community.  But the office space itself has none of the luxuries one would expect in, say, a bank.  Instead, it looks more like every other non-profit I've ever worked for.  A member of my church is a regional officer going to the annual meeting of our General Assembly.  It is in Pittsburgh.  She will be in the conference hotel (as were most who went there to Netroots Nation recently), but she is sharing a room to cut costs.  Nobody is getting rich here.  Nobody.

                          Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

                          by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:59:40 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  Again, you're proving my point! (0+ / 0-)
                            Nobody is getting rich here.  Nobody.
                            You're on the wrong end of the food chain!

                            this is what you need to strive for

                          •  Clearly you don't get the point (0+ / 0-)

                            The point of being in ministry is not to make money, it is to do the will of God.  I moved across two states to take this call because I know that it is God's will.  That you can point to a few people out of tens of thousands who have made a lot of money does not mean that the rest of us are missing the mark.  We are not. I have no desire to be Bennie Hinn. I am very excited to be where I am doing what I do--a large part of which is pointing out, every day, that money is not the measure of a person's worth.

                            Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

                            by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 12:50:56 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Maybe that's why you're in it (0+ / 0-)

                            that's not why others are in "the ministry"

                            And while you are bemoaning the limited resources your parishioners are throwing your way, you shouldn't be so shy about stepping up your marketing efforts.

                            I know plenty of people like them (heck, that's the majority of my extended family)  - they're constantly buying/donating all kinds of $$s beyond their local church - almost certainly enriching the Bennie Hinn's of the world at your expense.

                            So again, don't be shy about more agressively reaching out for some of these $$s - 'cuz if you don't get them, some other "minister" will!  Just saying, it might as well be you!!

                          •  look...when the Scots-Irish immigrated to America (0+ / 0-)

                            They came here from Northern Ireland.  They had been transpalanted there by James!, and they were Presbyterians.

                            As Presbyterians living in Catholic Ireland, sent there by Anglican England, they found out two things.

                            The Anglican pastors derived the lion's share of their income from forced tithes upon everyone, non-Anglicans included.  The Crown didn't care..They were stuck between rentiers who jacked the rents up, and a corrupt religious class of pastors who, in modern times, would be standing on a busy intersection with a cardboard sign reading "will save your soul for 10% of your income."  Except that in the Anglican case, they didn't need a cardboard sign...they had the force of law behind them.

                            The Church and State has never, truly, been separated.  Like sharks, they proffer to each other professional courtesy.  They prey upon the same flock, and realize that one cannot overgraze and expect a long term income.  

                            The Cots-Irish came to this country with a deep seated hatred of the Catholic Church...and a deep seated mistrust of government.  Because they had witnessed, for at least 300 years, how the two work hand in hand.  

                            In the 1700's, the typical Anglican pastor in Ireland earned the lion's share of his income from enforced tithes upon people who may or may not have belonged to the Anglican Church.  Pastors have not changed that much in the intervening years...they still live upon the coin they extract from the flock.  They are freeloaders.  The closest thing today to Reagan's wellfare Moms.

                            Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

                            by Keith930 on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:40:08 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Come follow me around for a week (0+ / 0-)

                            Sit with people who are dying. Struggle to figure how to help people escape in a positive way from the greed-oriented culture in which they live.  Work at bringing together words and music that will give them a greater reason for living, that will show them how to love the least and the lost.  Listen to those least and lost tell you how much society has driven them down.  Visit a jail and listen to a man facing ten years for an hour's foolishness.  Then have an online community that is permitted prejudice against one group and one group only, the group to which you have given your life.

                            Do all that, and then you will have the right to call me a freeloader.  Until then, please don't talk about that which you do not know.

                            Of course, the worst of what I just described is legally (both civil and ecclesiastical) confidential.  So I guess you're off the hook.  Bankers are freeloaders. Hedgefund managers are freeloaders.  Oil speculators are freeloaders. I'd prefer not to be any of the above.

                            And, for the record, I have never complained, here or elsewhere, about my pay.  I am quite happy with what I am doing.  I was merely stating a fact, hoping that it might pry open obviously closed minds.

                            Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

                            by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:51:15 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Any tax-free housing allowance? (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Amber6541

                        Probably the best single benefit of most pastors.

                        If you don't get one, you're in the minority.

                        •  Yes. Although to be clear (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Catte Nappe, Amber6541

                          it is free only of income tax.  I pay Social Security taxes on it and, of course, all those other taxes everybody pays, like sales tax and property tax.  And because my house has a mortgage and I pay property tax, most of that housing allowance would be deducted on my income tax anyway.  Also because pastors are considered self-employed for Social Security purposes (so that the government isn't taxing the church) many of us pay the employer's portion of our Social Security tax as well.  (My employer, and many others, pays this as part of my compensation.)  And, of course, churches can use the housing allowance as a way of feeling less guilty about how little they pay their pastors.

                          It's a great benefit, absolutely.  But like most things granted to the 99 per cent, not as great as it looks at first blush.

                          Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

                          by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:07:28 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

              •  Just be careful, OK? What you want is liable to b (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ozsea1

                selectively enforced against liberal and progressive churches/denominations while the much richer conservative churches walk off scott-free.  Be aware of how this line of reasoning could be employed by people who do not wish you or the American people well.

                Being ignored is the difference between being a one percenter and an American.--sweeper

                by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:15:43 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  In the US, a non-profit is a 501(c). (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kinak

              A 501(c) loses its status (and thus becomes for-profit) if any of the following happen:

              * It engages in political activitity with the aim of influencing elections.
              * It does more than a de minimis amount of lobbying compared to their net income.
              * Compensation of individuals associated with the 501(c) exceed fair-market value for an individual performing said services, where reasonableness is based on duties, responsibilities, training, and industry position of the individuals.

              Care to tell me why many if not most modern American churches should at all pass this test?

              •  Mine does (0+ / 0-)

                Every church I've ever belonged to did.

                So far as I know, no church I've ever belonged to lobbied at all, engaged in political activity with the aim of influencing elections, or over paid the staff.

                So I'm afraid I find your point to be utterly specious. Your entire problem, so far as I can tell, is with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church and the hierarchy of the Latter-Day Saints, and some of the mega-churches.

                In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

                by blue aardvark on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:52:37 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  IIRC, churches do not file an IRS Form 990 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Amber6541

                The IRS Form 990 is filed by 501 c(3) organizations to justify their tax-free status. This form goes to the IRS and is available to be examined by the public for a certain period each year. Churches, to my knowledge, do not have this transparency. Any CPAs out there to confirm or deny this?

            •  The dividend is implicit (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              HoopJones

              contributors get to go to heaven.

              Play harps, virgins, a planet, etc .... its all promised - and you can always get a refund if you don't get everything you want when you die.

              Kind of a no risk policy .... and, so far as I know, no one has asked for their money back, so it must be a good deal.

              "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry" - Frank Zappa

              by Da Rock on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 12:25:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  They aren't? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blue aardvark

            Then please do tell me who owns the Episcopal Church, and when I can buy out their share.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:35:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  tiponeill - there is no legal or historical basis (8+ / 0-)

        for your statement

        "It is the extent of church involvement in our politics – something which used to be viewed as semi-prohibited in exchange for their exemption from taxation, but which is no longer enforced and indeed seems a lost cause."

        Churches have always played a very big role in state, local and national politics in the United States. This role has never been "semi-prohibited" and has no legal relationship to their exemption from taxation, other than the one restriction that churches cannot endorse candidates by name. Churches have led some of the most dramatic political causes in the history of the US, such as opposing slavery, and favoring civil rights.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:34:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  opposining slavery? (17+ / 0-)

          The anti slavery fight was originally led by Boston area atheists with the bible thumpers quoting religious verse to justify human bondage.

          James Madison, who was the architect of the Constitution and in whose handwriting it appears also wrote. . .

          "Religion and government will BOTH exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together"

          •  A bit of revisionism there. (5+ / 0-)

            The "Boston area atheists" you cite were whom? Names, please. Because it's easy to claim something that vague, but it doesn't mesh with the history I know.

            The really notable Boston area abolitionists were folks like Theodore Parker (Unitarian minister) and several members of his congregation who have been identified as the secret group that funded John Brown. Or WIlliam Lloyd Garrison, who operated The Liberator, who was a Christian devoted to the notion of the millennium.... Robert Ingersoll was "The Great Agnostic."

            "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

            by ogre on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 12:47:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There is a chapter (5+ / 0-)

              . . .in Christopher Hitchenhs wonderful book, "God is not great", which is a highly recommended read.

              •  A book by Hitchens? (4+ / 0-)

                You could not find a more biased source if you tried.

                Anyone trying to discount the influence of, e.g., the Quakers in the abolitionist movement is full of so much shit they qualify as an EPA Superfund site.

                In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

                by blue aardvark on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:09:02 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  okay whoa (7+ / 0-)

                  Let's not bash Hitchens either.  Biased yes, but Hitchens does back up his assertions with facts.

                  However, your comments about the Quakers should be underscored in this "conversation", though that term implies a level of civility not readily apparent here at the moment.  If people are seriously overlooking Quakers as Abolitionists then they are either being willfully ignorant or are woefully unread.

                  The Quakers of Pennsylvania had an official Anti-Slavery organization founded before Jefferson ever penned the Declaration of Independence.  They proposed the first outright BAN on Slavery in Pennsylvania in 1696..only a mere 164 years before the Civil War.

                  Also... no one should be overlooking Presbyterian minister John Rankin either.  

                  Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

                  by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:59:44 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Much of the Underground Railroad... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Amber6541

                    had religious folk who were the station keepers.

                    Quakers.

                    Universalists.

                    And Parker, who I referred to earlier, was known to keep a loaded gun on the desk he wrote his sermons at, so that he could -- if necessary -- go to the defense of those he was sheltering.

                    I'm not hostile to atheists. I am, however, devoted to truth, and if there's a list of notable abolitionists who led the movement and were so responsible for it... I want to know who they were.

                    "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

                    by ogre on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:57:22 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  There are athiest abolitionists (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      aliasalias, Amber6541

                      John Stuart Mill

                      Ralph Waldo Emerson

                      Jeremy Bentham

                      William Lloyd Garrison was a vocal critic of the church and denounced a lot of the hierarchy and structure, but overall, I suppose I'd still say he was a Christian.

                      Early American thought was greatly influenced by France, and we considered each other to be brothers in liberty having both waged successful revolutions against Monarchy.... and the French were VIOLENTLY atheistic and yet abolished slavery as law.

                      Thomas Paine was a Deist at best.

                      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

                      by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:53:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Thanks, but... off the rails. (0+ / 0-)

                        Mill isn't part of the Boston Abolitionists. Nor is Bentham. I wasn't suggesting there were no Atheists opposed to slavery. I was objecting to the claim that they were the heavy lifters out of the Boston area. Not so.

                        Emerson, an atheist? Emerson was a Unitarian, and a minister. He stepped down from his pulpit and had some very testy things to say about some of the people in pulpits... -- and went off to the public speaking circuit (which was much more profitable in the day) -- but he never repudiated his status as a minister, and he continued to provide 'pulpit supply' (preaching) in various Unitarian churches, when asked, for the rest of his life. He was a Transcendentalist, and a Unitarian. (Unitarian Universalism now includes many atheists, including atheist ministers--but not in Emerson's day.)

                        "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

                        by ogre on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:01:13 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  I'll repeat. (0+ / 0-)

                NAMES, please.

                SOP on DKos; it's not my job to go look up and find stuff to support a vague assertion about an important fact.

                Particularly after I list some of the most notable figures of the Boston area abolitionist community, observing that they weren't atheists.

                "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

                by ogre on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:53:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I've read it (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Amber6541, ogre

                I'm an atheist.

                Hitchens' point was that not all of the abolitionists were religious, not that none of them were. He thought Quakers et al got far too much credit for abolition, but didn't think they should get none.

                Hitchens is correct in that not all of the abolitionists were religious, but even he would admit that a whole lot of them were.

                "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

                by ChurchofBruce on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:38:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Why not just say it is a book.... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ogre

                I read this book, and it was not great! In my opinion, Hitchens generalizes far too broadly to be considered seriously on the subject.

            •  William Wiberforce became a huge influence (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Fickle, ogre

              in the anti-slave trade movement, after converting religiously.

          •  And the anti-slavery fight was also led... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, Fickle

            ...by evangelicals, who quoted religious verse to justify ending the practice of human bondage.

            No honest view of the history of that time period can deny the prominent leadership role played by the evangelical movement in abolition. Your implication that it was somehow "atheists and agnostics were the real abolitionists while Christians supported it" is, to put it quite simply, blatantly ahistorical.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:04:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I thought it was led by Quakers. (0+ / 0-)

            Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

            by anastasia p on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:00:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Really? A rather selective interpretation of (13+ / 0-)

          American history.

          “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
          ― James Madison

          Further, bear witness as the republican party attempts to legislate control over womens' vaginas while hiding behind the figleaf of religious doctrine.

          C'mon, you know better than this.

          Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

          by ozsea1 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:29:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's a great quote. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Clem Yeobright

            Unfortunately, like the great "sacrifice liberty for safety" quote attributed to Ben Franklin, it may be apocryphal.

            I can find citations for neither.

            Reaganomics is the belief that: 1) Unregulated capitalism can produce unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources; 2) We can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

            by FrY10cK on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:34:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Really? (9+ / 0-)
              "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
              is on page 289 of "An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania, From Its Origin"  

              That is a Franklin quote but you are correct that the Madison is supposedly contained in a letter, but not officially sourced.

              There is this one though from his letter to Livingston:

              Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together .

              Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

              by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:32:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  That doesn't make it right, though! (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw, Smoh, Imhotepsings, Amber6541, jayden

          anymore than when colored people counted as 3/5ths of a person, women weren't allowed to vote or drive a car, or when it was OK to drink sugared beverages greater than 16 ounces in size.

          Some day we'll look back in horror at the religious domination of America the same way that we regard the abovementioned atrocities today.

        •  No historical basis? How about LBJ? (7+ / 0-)

          From the IRS:

          In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
          And your statement.
          This role has never been "semi-prohibited" and has no legal relationship to their exemption from taxation, other than the one restriction that churches cannot endorse candidates by name.
          "from engaging in any political campaign activity" sounds pretty clear to me.

          I can agree with those who argue that the rule is an attack on free speech.  My solution is to do as the diarist has proposed.  Separate church and state, remove any consideration of religion from the tax code, and tax the churches.

          I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

          by tle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:12:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The relationship to taxation is explicit (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, blueoasis, Pluto, Amber6541, jayden

          It's the rules governing all non-profit organizations, that is, 503(c)s.

          It's just that churches tend to get a free pass on it, just like the diarist said.

    •  And... (0+ / 0-)

      Not all charities are churches.  To quote:

      Running tax-supported businesses like schools and hospitals is not “charity”, nor are bingo games or multi-millon dollar political campaigns
      This is true of almost any extra-curricular activity in schools.  It is basically a business that the booster organizations have to set up.  My point is - don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

      'Osama Bin Ladien is still dead and GM is still alive' - Joe Biden "Dems kill terrorist. The GOP keeps them around as a boogeyman - so they can continue to steel."

      by RichM on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:00:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Correct, However (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EdinStPaul, ardyess

      "churches" which obviously are political should not be getting the tax break under the current law.

      "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

      by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:26:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I could see some sort of test to differentiate (0+ / 0-)

      between non-profit, genuinely protected activites and political activities.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:01:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  nothing to do with charity. (19+ / 0-)
    One it the points it makes clearly is that we have traditionally exempted churches because we considered them to be “charities”, while in fact a very small portion of their activities are truly “charity”.
    not so.  their exemption has always derived from their religious character, and has had nothing to do with whether they're charitable or not.
    •  you are right about this (25+ / 0-)

      No charity would retain it's deduction if it gave as little back to the community as most churches.

      By the same token, no "separated" institution should remain "separated" when they engage in blatant political maneuvering.

      As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

      by BPARTR on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:21:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So Amnesty International should pay taxes too? (4+ / 0-)

        What about the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force?

        Each of those organizations is also a tax-exempt nonprofit, and each of them does engage in action within the political sphere. This notion that only charities receive tax deductions is, to put it quite plainly, blatantly erroneous.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:47:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, according to the law, there are (30+ / 0-)

          restrictions upon the political activism that charitable entities can engage in. That is why the Sierra Club, for example, is not taxd exempt.

          Amnesty, BTW, doesn't meddle in elections, supporting or opposing candidates, etc., and I don't recall the NG&LTF openly doing so either.

          That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

          by enhydra lutris on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:40:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, there are restrictions. (0+ / 0-)

            Those are restrictions that limit religious organizations as well. Religious organizations aren't allowed to support or oppose candidates, or engage in partisan political activity.

            They are, however, allowed to advocate on issues—a fact that makes me happy, since my church's participation in an interfaith coalition working for affordable housing has, in the past, helped preserve funds for such housing in the city budget. Were we not allowed to advocate on issues, more District residents might be homeless than currently (and shamefully) are.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:43:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It makes you soooo happy that others are (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EdinStPaul, Pluto

              forced to pay for your activism? If chuirches wish to pretend to be charitable and to do good works, they should not demand that others foot the bill, they should be willing to pay themselves.

              That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

              by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:23:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Are you also complaining... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                misslegalbeagle

                ...about being "forced to pay for the activism" of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, or Amnesty International?

                Not one penny more comes out of your pocket for my church's work in the community, as would come out of your pocket were my church replaced with a nonprofit organization doing exactly the same advocacy work without a religious angle; please do direct me to what I'm sure are your numerous comments complaining about being "forced to pay for the activism" of non-religious organizations that advocate for the homeless or working people.

                Additionally, the fact that you think we're "pretending to be charitable," as if it's some kind of farce we're putting on to cover up our real agenda, is rather insulting to me—as you are directly suggesting that I, personally, in my work with my church on these issues, am somehow only "pretending" to care about them in service of my real agenda. Would you care to clarify your remarks, or do you stand by your insult?

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:32:32 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If churches weren't explicitly written into the (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  enhydra lutris, blueoasis, Pluto

                  tax law as exempt (like real charitable organizations), even if they weren't politically active, there's no way they'd qualify.  And that's the issue here beyond the issues of violating even the law that they're explicitly written into.

                  The law requires that the organization be operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, to foster national or international amateur sports competition, to promote the arts, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.  Take "religious" out of that list, and how exactly do churches fit?

                  "Religious" was lumped in with a bunch of actual charitable tasks.  "Religion" is only charitable if you actually believe in the tenets of said religion and that by doing their religious activities they're saving souls or whatnot.

                •  Read internal revenue code sections (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Pluto

                  170, 500, 501 and the related regulations, especially as to the difference between 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) etc. organizations and the differences under section 170 between chuirches and charitible organizations.

                  Churches get a free ride regardless of whether they do any charitable work or not.

                  If a guy spots a homeless person and gives them $5 bucks out of empathy, that is charity. If a church collects 10 cents from each member in order to give that person 5 bucks, because that is what Jesus said they must do in order to get into heaven, that is, imho, tainted. Caritas isn't an act, but a feeling. When there is a quid-pro-quo it is pretty hard to tell from the outside if any caritas is present or not, all one can say is that they are acting as if, but also with a known incentive.

                  That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                  by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:01:48 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This is precisely wrong. (0+ / 0-)

                    Love, especially agape, which is the Greek most often presented in scripture, is not a feeling. It is an action. Love is presented in its highest formulation as laying down our lives for one another. Not because we feel good about it, but precisely because it is the highest expression of love.

                    •  Unless the motive is to attain heaven and (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Pluto

                      avoid hell. Church rhetoric is one thng, human motives are another. Something about widow's mites passing through camels and needle exchanges, or something.

                      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                      by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:52:23 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, BTW, you are correct, I should have (0+ / 0-)

                  said "act as if" and not "pretend", because the latter carries connotations that it is fakery, whilst the former does not. I apologize for the implication that it is certainly fakery, though not for the fact that nobody can tell, since there is a standing quid-pro-quo.

                  That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

                  by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:11:45 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Taxes (0+ / 0-)

                My Income taxes go to pay for others activism - my Governments which spends the money in all too many places that I disagree.

                You don't have a say and never will.

                The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

                by ctexrep on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:54:58 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, everybody should pay taxes (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BPARTR, EdinStPaul, Pluto, jayden

          with possible exemptions for income devoted to bona fide charitable activities.  

          (the key word is "possible" - I'm not sure really why I should subsize others' pet projects).

          •  And who gets to define those activities? (0+ / 0-)

            What exactly would count as a "bona fide charitable activity"?

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:40:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  is that a serious question...? (0+ / 0-)
              •  Yes, it is. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy

                Because there are a lot of gray areas.

                One of the things my church does is participate in an interfaith coalition advocating at the city level for more budgets for city services for the homeless and working poor, for affordable housing, for a living wage. Is that charitable activity?

                What about renting out space at below-market rates to nonprofit organizations that do community outreach, mentoring, and the arts? Is that charitable activity?

                Is a theatre group that goes to city elementary schools and performs, or that runs an after-school program to get kids involved in plays, a charitable organization?

                Who gets to decide what is charitable, and what isn't?

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:36:22 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  well, go ahead and answer your question yourself.. (0+ / 0-)

                  ...how are those decisions currently made, and by who?

                  However, if you're just gonna keep fielding a series of rhetorical questions, I'll trade ya...

                  You seem to focus on your church's engagement in advocacy - is that advocacy particularly effective? does your advocacy extend to implementation?

                  Why does your church rent space to non-profits, rather than provide space for free?

                  And, of course, why are you so focused on "charity"? Are you not aware that many beneficiaries see the labeling of services as "charity" as in a way demeaning?

                  Meant friendly, and all...

                  Cheers.

                   

                  •  Those decisions are currently made... (0+ / 0-)

                    ...by making virtually all non-profit organizations, aside from those whose purpose is chiefly political, tax-free—thus removing the IRS from a position of micro-managing the question.

                    And the word "charity" was the one used in the parent comment to which I was replying; we don't use the word "charity" in our own advocacy. We refer to it as "justice."

                    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                    by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:04:37 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Good answers, tho' the IRS's role in regulating... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...and ameliorating the misuses of non-profit status would seem to be better phrased as "appropriate regulation" rather than "micro-management".

                      Afterall, in the relatively rare circumstances that the IRS actually does step-in, the misuses of non-profit status tend to be fairly egregious. And "micro-management" is at best an over-blown characterization of the process.

                      And as the diary points out, there are potentially many misuses of non-profit status that seem to continue unabated. Achieving some appropriate regulation on that issue would seem to be a desirable outcome, and a position that many/most non-profits would be interested in supporting.

                      Cheers.

          •  I have been calling for a flat tax for years... (0+ / 0-)

            I believe there should be a Federal flat tax of 30% on ALL income regardless of how it is received (capital gains, inheritance, lottery, gift, etc...) to replace current progresive income tax, Social security and Medicare.  The only exemption would be the federal minimum wage times 2,080 for each adult and 1/3 of that for each child (or the federal determined poverty level).  The should be no other deductions.

            It seems like every day, we learn about another charity that was set up as a tax shelter which raises millions of dollars and gives practically nothing to the object of their supposed charter.  Churches are often the same in that they proclaim to be using money for feeding the poor or hospitals only to find out they are paying the ministers (especially TV evangelicals) 6 and 7 figure salaries and all of their living expenses.  Simplify the tax code, make evryone pay the same above a the basic resources to survive.  Charities, who are worthy, will still get enough money to survive because they are serving a higher purpose.

            "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

            by Buckeye Nut Schell on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:09:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  If any tax exempt non profit (6+ / 0-)

          is found to be using its funds to buy off pedophiles I believe it should lose its tax exempt status.

          If the Republicans ever find out that Barack Obama favors respiration, we'll be a one-party system inside two minutes. - Alan Lewis

          by MadRuth on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:52:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Quite true, and IRC 170 makes it clear (9+ / 0-)

      by providing a deduction for contributions to churches separately from contributions to charities.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:35:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "The Power To Tax Is The Power To Destroy" (10+ / 0-)

    From Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970):

    The exemption creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state and far less than taxation of churches. It restricts the fiscal relationship between church and state, and tends to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other.

    Separation in this context cannot mean absence of all contact; the complexities of modern life inevitably produce some contact and the fire and police protection received by houses of religious worship are no more than incidental benefits accorded all persons or institutions within a State's boundaries, along with many other exempt organizations. The appellant has not established even an arguable quantitative correlation between the payment of an ad valorem property tax and the receipt of these municipal benefits.

    All of the 50 States provide for tax exemption of places of worship, most of them doing so by constitutional guarantees. For so long as federal income taxes have had any potential impact on churches-over 75 years- religious organizations have been expressly exempt from the tax. Such treatment is an 'aid' to churches no more and no less in principle than the real estate tax exemption granted by States. Few concepts are more deeply embedded in the fabric of our national life, beginning with pre-Revolutionary colonial times, than for the government to exercise at the very least this kind of benevolent neutrality toward churches and religious exercise [397 U.S. 664 , 677] generally so long as none was favored over others and none suffered interference.

    From the concurring opinion by Justice William Brennan (one of the Supreme Court's most noted liberal members):
    The existence from the beginning of the Nation's life of a practice, such as tax exemptions for religious organizations, is not conclusive of its constitutionality. But such practice is a fact of considerable import in the interpretation of abstract constitutional language...

    Government has two basic secular purposes for granting real property tax exemptions to religious organizations. First, these organizations are exempted because they, among a range of other private, nonprofit organizations contribute to the well-being of the community in a variety of nonreligious ways, and thereby bear burdens that would otherwise either have to be met by general taxation, or be left undone, to the detriment of the community... Second, government grants exemptions to religious organizations because they uniquely contribute to the pluralism of American society by their religious activities. Government may properly include religious institutions among the variety of private, nonprofit groups that receive tax exemptions, for each group contributes to the diversity of association, viewpoint, and enterprise essential to a vigorous, pluralistic society.

    [...]Against the background of this survey of the history, purpose, and operation of religious tax exemptions, I must conclude that the exemptions do not 'serve the essentially religious activities of religious institutions.' Their principal effect is to carry out secular purposes-the encouragement of public service activities and of a pluralistic society. During their ordinary operations, most churches engage in activities of a secular nature [397 U.S. 664 , 693]   that benefit the community; and all churches by their existence contribute to the diversity of association, viewpoint, and enterprise so highly valued by all of us.

    •  Needs to be revisited, or they should be (9+ / 0-)

      treated like (c)4 organizations. The cost is enormous, both the money cost and the social cost, and the benefits are non-existent.

      That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

      by enhydra lutris on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:44:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's no separation if they're taxed. (5+ / 0-)

      And not just in the pseudo-way that some do, now. For me this is an issue of too-long, too-light enforcement of the behavior rules for certain churches and pastors by the IRS.

    •  Brennan's logic no longer holds (if it ever did) (5+ / 0-)

      I think a good argument can be made that Churches today:

      1. Do not contribute to the well-being of the commuity
      2. Do not contribute to pluralism and diversity

      It seems to me that there are many religious organizations which have the opposite effect.   Thus, the argument for a broad religious exemption on these grounds seems weak.  Why not instead exempt only the specific actual activities which we can agree clearly contribute to the well being of the community?  

       

      •  There is no "solution"... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that doesn't create more problems than it solves.

        I think a good argument can be made that Churches today:

        2. Do not contribute to pluralism and diversity

        But by their very existence, they do contribute to that pluralism and diversity; it's impossible to deny that if you take into consideration all of the religious organizations in this country, there is an extraordinary diversity.
        Why not instead exempt only the specific actual activities which we can agree clearly contribute to the well being of the community?  
        Because then you're putting a person or group in charge of deciding what activities "clearly contribute to the well being of the community," and giving them the power to enforce their opinion by taxing all organizations that don't fall under what they see as "the well being of the community" out of existence.

        Do you think for one second that that particular committee wouldn't become the right-wing's #1 priority for controlling—so that they would be legally empowered to tax out of existence any and all nonprofit organizations with even the slightest hint of liberalism?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:51:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What irritates me the most (54+ / 0-)

    about church tax exemption is that I end up paying for the churches- and I do not belong or believe.

    Leaving aside the incredible riches of the Catholic church, or the fact that the LDS "charities" are directed for the most part to their own members- or the child rapes, the history of the inquisition and on and on, I have a very simple economic gripe:

     The churches scream foul when they are a"forced" to pay for something with which they don't agree (eg. women's health care)- even if they are not forced to do so.

    But who screams when I have to pay for behaviour by the churches with which I do not agree?

    I pay for the churches in 3 ways-

    Churches ( cults which have sufficient numbers of followers to no longer be called cults) do not pay property taxes- so I pay for their roads, their police protection, their fire protection, and the army which kills them over there so they don't kill us over here.  They get a free ride- That is not separation, it is a free ride.

    Churches do not pay taxes on the money they collect.

    The faithful who give tithes to the church get to deduct the "charity" from their taxes.  So I have to pay more in my taxes to make up for the deduction they get.  But they get to decide who gets whatever portion of the money the church decides to give away.

    We do not separate church and state- we subsidize the churches.

    As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

    by BPARTR on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:17:48 PM PDT

    •  You get the same benefit on your taxes giving (0+ / 0-)

      To the charity of your choice that church goers get.

      Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

      by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:25:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But giving to real charities produces some public (12+ / 0-)

        benefits. As noted by commentors earlier in this thread, churches are not producing charity, therefore no public good is being derived from tax-deductible contributions to them.

        I won't believe corporations are people until Texas executes one. Leo Gerard.

        by tgrshark13 on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:51:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  According to you. (0+ / 0-)

          You are starting with the biased premise that the church itself is not a public good. Now certainly you are entitled to that opinion but I am quite certain that there are plenty of non church charitable organizations which you don't agree with and therefore you may not see as performing a "public good" which never the less qualify as tax exempt.

          Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

          by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:00:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  no public good is derived from churches? at all? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fickle

          churches are not producing charity?  at all?

          "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
          DEMAND CREATES JOBS

          by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:32:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  You are so wrong (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoregon

          Here is a link to one:

          St Vincent DePaul

          This is run by the Catholic Church they run thrift stores, soup kitchens etc.

          I'm not Catholic and am disgusted by some of the actions / inactions of the CHurch however, Churchs do some wonderful work in communities.

          During Katrina, when the Fed, the STate and Government in general totally failed the people - it was the churches in Baton Rouge who were taking in people - it's where my check went.

          I can't understand how this thinking that all religion is bad and not charitable, if releated to race would get someone banned yet the same thinking with religion is acceptable.

          The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

          by ctexrep on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:08:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  But you don't pay three (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sunny skies

        times for the charity of my choice- and the charity of my choice does not get to set national agenda- eg healthcare for women while you pay for it.

        Face it, the property taxes alone on the enormous land holdings of the various churches would be immense.  Most charities have an office somewhere, not cathedrals, sacristries, school buildings, ...

        As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

        by BPARTR on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:55:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're right, it would be. (4+ / 0-)
          Face it, the property taxes alone on the enormous land holdings of the various churches would be immense.
          It would be immense.

          The church I attend, for example, sits on a prime corner of real estate in a rapidly-gentrifying DC neighborhood.

          We run a kitchen out of our basement that serves the homeless and hungry on weekends, when the city's kitchens aren't operating. We are part of an interfaith coalition advocating at the city level for affordable housing, more services for the poor, and a living wage for working people. We march proudly in the Pride parade every year with our church's banner.

          Would our neighborhood and our city be better served if our church were replaced with another high-rise mixed-use condo complex for yuppies? Because that's exactly what would happen if we had to pay property taxes on the extremely-valuable land we're sitting on—as there's no way our church, whose members aren't all that wealthy, could afford them.

          However, the churches that do serve the wealthy—and cater to their interests and their desires—would be able to afford the extra tax and stay open.

          So you'd tilt religion even more towards the interests of the 1%, by enacting a law that would essentially shut down any church that couldn't cultivate a sufficiently-wealthy membership to afford the additional burden of taxes.

          The truly prophetic voice of religion—the voice that tells the wealthy that they should forgo their wealth and work to serve the poor—would be all but destroyed, leaving in its wake a religious system that caters to those who want to accumulate more wealth and power.

          That seems like the opposite of what we would want. What do you propose to counteract this effect?

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:13:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  All that can be managed much, much better (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aliasalias

            ...in a social democracy, where there are no homeless or hungry people.

            Pay your taxes or refile as a non-profit charity.


            "Let the Dragon sleep, for when China awakes, she will shake the world." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

            by Pluto on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:48:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  No actually many charities do play prominent roles (0+ / 0-)

          in advocating to the government regarding issues that are important to them, from gay rights to money for cancer research.

          Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

          by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:44:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Cult: a small, unpopular religion. (23+ / 0-)

      Religion: a large, popular cult.

      Reaganomics is the belief that: 1) Unregulated capitalism can produce unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources; 2) We can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

      by FrY10cK on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:38:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Even more angering (7+ / 0-)

      is that some of these Catholic institutions — including those now suing the Obama administration for infringing on their "religious freedom" — receive OUR tax dollars for their activities. Sure, they'll say it's not for religious activities, but since they vehemently support the "money is fungible" idea when it comes to abortion, they need to admit it applies here too. They are free to give up their tax dollars.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:02:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why should the bad behavior of a few taint all? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, blueoregon

      It's true that some churches (individually or corporately) have been bad actors in the eyes of some of us.  The Roman Catholic church's fighting against requirements to cover birth control might be an example.  On the other hand, the very progressive All Saints' Episcopal was investigated (and cleared) by the IRS for violating prohibitions against political advocacy (for allegedly criticizing a Republican president). Meanwhile, hundreds of conservative churches engage in blatant political advocacy with impunity.

      The rationale for giving churches tax exemptions comes from the assumption that they have historically provided a social good, whether that has been feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, providing shelter to the homeless, etc., etc.  

      It is easy to paint all churches with the same broad brush that one would use to characterize the hateful God Hates Fags church in Topeka, Kansas.  Only there are plenty of churches that DO provide a social good.  Think of all the 12-step groups that meet in churches, for instance.  Now imagine you had to charge those same groups rental rates that would prevent their being able to meet in an affordable place.

      Punish the churches that are in violation of tax laws, not all of them.

      The fastest way to turn America into a third-world country is to vote Republican.

      by PDX Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:46:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Because supporting ballot initiatives... (3+ / 0-)

      ...isn't considered partisan political action.

      And I'm glad they didn't lose their tax exemption—because that also has meant that my church hasn't lost our tax exemption as we've fought for affordable housing and more city services for the needy, and as our members marched with our church banner in the Pride parade.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:49:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Church tax exemptions (17+ / 0-)

        How can there be a separation of church and state if the state effectively supports the churches by not taxing them.  ALL of them.  If a church does do charitable work then separate that activity from the religion.  I'll support a charity but not a religious organization.

        The better I know people, the better I like my dog.

        by FTL BILLY on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:55:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How can you have separation between church (0+ / 0-)

          and state if you tax them? You want to see ultra-political churches and a permanent GOP majority? Then push punishing religious institutions through taxation and you will see a flood of moderate And left leaning church goers move over to the GOP.

          Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

          by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:45:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mostly silent co-conspirators. (0+ / 0-)

            Your so moderate churches. And the left leaning churches would probably be in the front of the push for taxing the political churches.

            WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

            by IARXPHD on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:13:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As a member... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Spirit of Fighting Bob

              ...of one of those "left-leaning churches," I think you're dead wrong about where "left-leaning churches" would be on the issue of taxing "the political churches."

              Who do you think (shudder) President Romney's IRS would target as "the political churches" to be taxed?

              It sure as hell wouldn't be the Mormons, the Roman Catholics, or the right-wing megachurches. It would be those very "left-leaning churches"—churches like All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA, which received a nastygram from the IRS after the 2004 election because the rector had preached a sermon against the positions of both John Kerry and George W. Bush on war.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:19:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  No, you won't (4+ / 0-)

            You might see a lot of things, but you won't see liberal churchgoers moving to today's GOP, which violently opposes all of their deepest beliefs. I attend such a church and that will never happen.

            Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

            by anastasia p on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:04:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You will see moderate and apolitical church goers (0+ / 0-)

              Moving in mass.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:48:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I'll say right now.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Fickle, Old Iowa Liberal

              ...that I will not support or vote for, and in fact will vehemently oppose, any political candidate or party who calls for the tax exemption of churches to be revoked—whether they're Democrats or Republicans.

              I'd leave the Democratic Party over this issue, if they were to put that in their platform—not only because the Democratic Party would, by doing that, be telling much of its base to sod off, but also because it would demonstrate that the Democratic Party was made up of political imbeciles who had no interest in actually gaining a majority.

              I wouldn't become a Republican, though; I'd gladly take part in organizing and building a third party to supplant the Democratic Party from the left. And, if the Democratic Party were dumb enough to support taxing virtually every urban church out of existence, I doubt I'd be wanting for allies in that.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:23:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  LOL!!!! Teh Fear (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1, blueoasis, blueoregon, aliasalias
            Then push punishing religious institutions through taxation and you will see a flood of moderate And left leaning church goers move over to the GOP.
            Again with the ever present FEAR.

            I'm betting one could find numerous Catholic/ex Catholics who readily agree the church ought to be taxed. After all the Catholic church can afford multiple millions to protect/pay off victims of their long running sexual abuse scandal.

            The notion the Catholic church "can't afford to pay taxes" is totally absurd.

            "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

            by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:37:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  not fear. it's the truth. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ShoshannaD, Old Iowa Liberal

              and let me add. I will be one of them.  I have been a life long Democrat.  I started working for state level Democrats at the age of 16.  And this would end my work for the Democratic party.

              You want to shrink the base and become the anti-religous party. go ahead. That's not the way to win elections.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:02:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  so punishing the rest of us to subsidize religion (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, aliasalias

            is ok with you?

            To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

            by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:23:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I support the tax exempt status of religous and (0+ / 0-)

              non-religious charities.  And if you want to start up a charity or non-profit based on atheism or agnosticism you are welcome to do so.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:11:57 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, but people can and do engage in (12+ / 0-)

        such activism without being tax exempt. Churches want all of us to fund their activism, but do not want to fund our activism or even  basic rudimentary public services. There is no justification for that.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:51:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And a lot of people engage in activism (0+ / 0-)

          while also being exempt.

          •  So? Do you have a point? If I say that (0+ / 0-)

            group 'x' should stop killing puppies for entertainment, will you say that group 'y' does likewise.

            I get a blissful buzz out of bowling, should all church goers have to fund that by allowing me to deduct my payments to bowling alleys and granting bowling alleys income and property tax exemptions?

            Several of us work to try to bring about certain legislation and regulations. Should that be enough to give us tax free status?

            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

            by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:30:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Very very good on your church... (9+ / 0-)

        but I see a very big difference between what your church did especially with affordable housing and city services. That seems like true charity to me.

        But trying to say that suppressing gay people is not partisan?  Really!!!

        It just doesn't seem right to me...

        •  Maybe partisan, but not political as a (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fickle

          matter of tax law, where "political activity" = supporting a candidate.  Non-profs are allowed to engage in a certain amount of lobbying for and against specific laws and ballot measures.

          •  That's part of the problem- (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sunny skies, ozsea1, blueoasis

            I'm no tax expert and I've only skimmed the IRS regulations, but as I recall they are quite vague about what constitutes "a certain amount" of lobbying. Churches may not devote a substantial amount of time/resources to political efforts, but if there's a clear definition of "substantial", I didn't see it.

            •  So, the church itself reported (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              blueoasis

              $180,000 in "in-kind" donations.  "The contributions included tens of thousands of dollars for expenses such as airline tickets, hotel and restaurant bills and car-rental bills for top church officials such as L. Whitney Clayton, along with $96,849.31 worth of “compensated staff time” for church employees." (from the LA times).

              Additionally, individual Mormons, donated an estimated 20 million.  Which is their right as individuals.  But I wonder how much of that would have been donated had this not been spearheaded by the church.  Who knows.

              I just don't think this activity should be tax exempt.  Won't get anywhere in this climate, but I don't see why taxpayers should be supporting this...

        •  Seems like the only "difference"... (0+ / 0-)

          ...is that you agree with what we did, and you disagree with what they did.

          Both my church and the churches that supported Prop 8 were taking a position on an issue of policy, and organizing within the church to support our position.

          The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, whether formally or informally, is likely to be part of the effort organizing to defend marriage equality in the state of Maryland when it comes up on the ballot this fall. Do you think that's acceptable?

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:48:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Neither should be considered exempt. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aliasalias

            http://www.irs.gov/...

            In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).  A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

            Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.  It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

            Many groups set up separate non-exempt entirties specifically for lobbying.  Unions often do this.  Others, like the Sierra Club for example, are simply not tax-expempt.  

            If Churches are going to attempt to influence legislation, that activity should not be considered exempt.

            •  A "substantial part" is what's at issue there. (0+ / 0-)

              If the lobbying activities aren't a "substantial part" of the church's activities—which, to my understanding, is usually determined in terms of the proportion of the church's budget spent on such activities—then they are tax-exempt.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:32:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Too vague (0+ / 0-)

                The problem there is the "substantial part" test is too vague and subjective.  If Churches qualified for the expenditure test under 501 (h) though, total lobbying expenditures would still be capped at $1M, and grassroots lobbying (urging members of the general public to take political action in some way) would be limited to $250k, regardless of the size of the organization.

                Really though, I think the requirment should be that all lobbying is not exempt, and if any amount of lobbying is going to be done, beyond a very minimal amount, that should be done by establishing a separate non-exempt entitiy.  

          •  I would disagree James (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tommy Jones the Band, aliasalias

            I see a genuine social welfare/charitable issue in supporting affordable housing and city services.  As to marching in a parade...very cool...and nobody was raising funds. I also imagine affordable housing and the other services are available to anyone, regardless of their religious or sexual orientation.  

            Prop 8, on the other hand, victimizes a specific group of people that is condemned by the LDS church.  This is not something that benefits the populace as a whole, but rather greatly harms the lgbt community.  I do not see anything charitable in this at all.

            And, as I said, nothing will happen in the current overwrought climate.  I just do not see why the taxpayers should be on the hook for a belief many of do not share.

          •  and you know James I didn't really (0+ / 0-)

            answer all of your question, my apologies.  I am glad the Diocese is defending this... and truthfully I don't know how I feel about this.

            have to think about it.  

      •  Hmmmm (0+ / 0-)

        How is advocating for the poor, minorities, etc., a political act?

        Are you/your church publicly announcing your advocacy to your local town/city: "Hey, we're such and such church on Main St., we want to help poor people rent affordable housing, and we're democrats!"

        ???

        I doubt you are doing that, but perhaps the clarification is needed.

        "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

        by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:33:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's definitely a political act. (0+ / 0-)

          We are taking a position on an issue that is coming before the government of those who represent the public.

          The questions involved—such as whether or not to subsidize affordable housing, or to require a certain proportion of any new housing development to consist of affordable housing, or to speed the permit process for organizations setting up affordable housing—are all political questions, in that they concern the polis.

          And such political action is just as legal for religious organizations as it is for other non-profit organizations—so long as such action doesn't comprise a "substantial part" of the religious or non-religious nonprofit organization's activity.

          The "...and we're Democrats" part you are describing there would make it partisan political activity, and that would be the place where such activity would cross the line.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:37:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I Don't Agree (0+ / 0-)

            How does the city/town where you live know which political party you belong to?

            How does the city/town know which church you belong to? Are you using church stationery for your written correspondence regarding public housing?

            Yes, public housing funded by public money is a political issue-- I just don't get how your faith/church gets attached to your advocacy, unless you are somehow publishing this information.

            are you?

            "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

            by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:52:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Political" and "partisan"... (0+ / 0-)

              ...are two different things.

              Our church is an official part of an interfaith network that advocates for things like affordable housing, and we regularly allow our church's main contact person with that network to speak during our congregational announcement time, as well as space in our church's bulletin next to all the other official events of the church, about how to get involved.

              The only way our church could take more of an official position on the matter would be to take a vote of the vestry—and we've had official resolutions on behalf of the vestry on other issues like this one in the past.

              Marriage equality and LGBT rights are also political issues, and our church (as well as the national Episcopal Church) has taken official positions on both issues, in addition to our church's members marching under our official church banner at Pride.

              All of the things I write about above are permitted political activities for a nonprofit religious organization like the church I attend, as long as they're not a "substantial part" of the church's activities—which they aren't, at least not as far as the budget is concerned.

              The two things that can get a religious organization's nonprofit status removed are:
              partisan political activity (i.e., explicitly endorsing a certain party or candidate for office)
              —nonpartisan political activity making up a "substantial part" of the organization's activity

              Nonpartisan, limited political activity is completely permissible for nonprofit religious organizations like churches, while retaining tax-exempt status.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:07:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  this (0+ / 0-)

        "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
        DEMAND CREATES JOBS

        by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:33:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is misguided on three levels (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fickle, jds1978

    1. Some churches spend money to influence politics, some do not. Some churches do great things for their communities, some do not. And so on. Saying churches do X is like saying blacks do X or Mexicans do X.

    2. There are certainly many examples of non-profits that abuse their status, just as there are churches that abuse their status. How many CEOs of non-profits are making huge amounts of money? Non-profits exert huge political influence. Take the NRA for example. If you made churches abide by the rules that non-profits must follow it wouldn't really make any difference. The worst churches would have no problem classifying huge salaries and their political activities as "legitimate" non-profit activities.

    3. Even if every dollar a church took in was considered table  gross income, the vast majority of individual churches would not pay a penny in corporate or income tax. Why? The vast majority of churches are barely, if at all, economically viable. No, it is not because they are spending so much money on mansions or politics. It is because they money they take in barely, if even that, pays for the the building and the modest staff salaries.

    This doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement and that abuses can't be curbed, but sweeping generalizations aren't going to help.

    •  Plus the tax exemption helps not hurts the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GoGoGoEverton

      Seperation between church and state. The churches would be even more involved in politics if taxing churches was on the table.

      Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

      by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:28:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  but they would be paying for the services (7+ / 0-)

      they use ( fire/police/armed forces...) instead of us providing them to the churches for free.  If the church couldn't make it fanacially, then they would have to go under, or get their adnherents to pay for the privilege of attending a fancy cathedral- let them meet in a park or rent a hall- why should we subsidize their frivolity?

      As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

      by BPARTR on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:10:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  meant to say paying with their property taxes. (0+ / 0-)

        As my father used to say,"We have the best government money can buy."

        by BPARTR on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:10:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  So you want religion to cater to the wealthy... (0+ / 0-)

        ...and serve their interests?

        Religion is a "frivolity," a luxury only for the rich—and must, therefore, cater to their interests and desires, rather than advocating for the needs of the poor?

        What makes you think that will make religion a more positive force in our society?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:24:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it's not so much a frivolity as it is a scam (0+ / 0-)

          To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

          by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:53:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Your opinion, or anyone else's, about religion... (0+ / 0-)

            ...is irrelevant to the question of whether or not they should remain tax-exempt.

            If you're suggesting otherwise—that your opinion about religion should factor into the way the law deals with it—what makes you any better than the religious people who want to enact their views on religion into law?

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:30:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  wrong (0+ / 0-)

              since it is a scam (my lack of belief is not relevant to this fact), it should not receive tax exemption

              did that clear it up for you?

              To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

              by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:06:28 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Your opinion is that it's a scam. (0+ / 0-)

                "Religion is a scam" is your opinion about religion; it is not, in any way, an established legal fact.

                So you're placed in a position where either (a) you want government to enact your opinion about religion into law, or (b) you want government to take your opinion about religion and establish it as a fact, and then operate on the basis of that established legal fact.

                Neither of those options gets you out of the conundrum you're in—that you want your opinion about the nature of religion, which is currently equally as irrelevant to the law's treatment of religious organizations as anyone else's opinion about the nature of religion, to have legal force.

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:38:32 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  you redefined fact as opinion and based your whole (0+ / 0-)

                  case on that

                  so you started from a false premise to build your straw man upon

                  nice trick

                  To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

                  by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:31:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  just tax their real estate holdings (6+ / 0-)

      not the land where their main church is, but any other real estate holding should be taxed.  There is nothing unfair or persecutory about that.

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:33:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sweeping generalizations.... (3+ / 0-)

      The tax exemption IS a sweeping generalization.  And it isn't helping.

      There's no reason to have the church exemption unless one believes the sweeping generalization that churches in general produce some kind of public good.  If SOME churches do good, why not instead provide exemptions only for those specific activities (most likley already covered by other existing charitable exemptions).

      •  the same canbe said for ALL tax exempt charities (0+ / 0-)

        Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

        by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:49:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And it is (0+ / 0-)

          All tax exempt charities are tax exempt because there is a general agreement that charity is good.  Would you disagree with the sweeping generalization that charity accomplished a public good?  

          When churches set up tax exempt charitable organizations, they get the same protection as non-religious tax exempt charitable organizations.  I fail to see though why religion itself should qualify as a tax exempt activity.

    •  well said (0+ / 0-)

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      DEMAND CREATES JOBS

      by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:34:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's the difference? (0+ / 0-)

    They're both largely corrupt, Republican-affiliated organizations that produce nothing and promote social decay.

    "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

    by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:25:34 PM PDT

  •  you lose all credibility when you begin by (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wisper

    Comparing. Churches to the mafia. It's clear from there on that your goal is to punish through taxation those who have different religious and political views than you, rather than promoting a more equitable tax structure.

    Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

    by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:22:44 AM PDT

  •  I am not sure if I agree with (24+ / 0-)

    taxing the churches but a start would be completely eliminating the Office of Faith-Based Iniatives.

    That's basically pork for a certain type of preacher, as Bush designed it to be no matter what they say. The type that basically lives high on the hog while their parishioners starve. Like all those morons who give their money to a man named CREFLO DOLLAR. It's a shame Pres. Obama didn't end this office.

    (Also, I firmly think religion is one of the worst inventions humanity has ever come up with. But that's just me.)

    I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

    by terrypinder on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:49:44 AM PDT

  •  All religions (11+ / 0-)

    "All religions are man made. Ethics and morality are not dependant on religions nor are they derived from them. All religions because of their claims of divine exemption are both immoral and amoral."  Christopher Hitchens

  •  For some reason Athiests are bashing religion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fickle, Wisper, sviscusi

    in this commentary as if that's at all relevant to the diary or the counter-view. I suppose Athiests should not be generalized because of the behavior of some assholes here, though.

  •  Wal Mart has more revenues (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fickle

    than all the churches in the US put together ... $331B / year.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:05:42 AM PDT

  •  Yes, tax the churches. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1

    But how? Like a business?

    Let's say we agree that churches/religion offers a service to the members. We don't charge a specific amount for it, but it is understood that the members will support it financially.

    IANABusiness owner, but aren't businesses taxed based upon profit? Business receive deductions for equipment, facilities, staffing, etc, correct? And they are allowed to take deductions for charitable donations as well, correct?

    I don't think that the average church, or perhaps even the vast majority of churches, will have much of a taxable income when all is said and done. Unless you tax by DENOMINATION rather than by individual churches, which would include juggling overseas assets, etc.....

    I dunno, but I don't think it will wind up being much of a money maker for the government. On the other hand, it is quite right that churches are subsidized to a great extent by the communities they are in, so property taxes, etc. might be of help to local communities.

    Personally, I think it would be a healthy thing, from a faith and praxis perspective, for the churches themselves, if we were not the recipients of financial and social privilege. I am, however, very much in the minority even in my own denomination.

    Nobody is normal because everyone is different- my eight year old daughter

    by left rev on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:27:38 AM PDT

  •  FUCK YES! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IARXPHD, ardyess, aliasalias

      Sunday, my mouth dropped open as I saw two cops, one parked in his car, directing traffic after Sunday services at a Michigan mega church.

       Who the fuck pays for that?

       TAX THESE LEECHES!

    •  You do know (0+ / 0-)

      That many organizations pay off-duty officers to assist with traffic direction. I would highly suspect that the churches are paying for that.

      •  And I thank them for it (0+ / 0-)

        As an Atheist that lives very close to a MASSIVE church in downtown DC, I benefit directly from having some "uniformed assistance" to help manage 2100+ people coming to my neighborhood twice every weekend.

        If my tax dollars are being used to help make my life, and everyone else's in a 12 block radius, a little easier than I am all in favor.

        ...and that is 2100(x2) people that are apparently benefiting and enjoying this center of their community.  Who the hell am I to start lamenting that I'm not getting my fair share?  

        ....just seems ignorantly selfish.

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:09:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I see it all the time by the mega church (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias

      Cops directing traffic in and out of one of these facilities. I'd rather see these mega churches fund traffic lights for the intersections they create when they build these monstrosities. If someone builds a huge store or theater, I think most municipalities expect some financial restitution for the impact on the public  roads, right? If you can afford to build a facility that spans many acres of land containing hundreds of  thousands of square feet in non taxable structures, you can certainly pop a few bucks for a traffic light. Why hire cops?

      I also strongly agree with the policy of not allowing the military to preach in uniform because of the overt symbolism. Having cops manage part of the public business of some church makes just as uncomfortable.

  •  Huge problems, little reward (3+ / 0-)

    First any attempt to make churches taxable means the government gets involved in poking around in their finances and organization -- a First Amendment issue -- which is a good enough reason to avoid it. It also forces churches, no matter how small, to hire professional accounting and tax assistance -- many churches do not, for example, track depreciation of either buildings or tangible property.

    More to the point, every church I know is not "making a profit." In a good year, income is barely enough to cover expenses, with maybe a little extra to put into reserves in case the roof leaks. If they recognized depreciation (as businesses do), virtually all would show a large loss. So I seriously question anyone who thinks there's a huge reservoir of untaxed NET / TAXABLE income out there.

    What IS appropriate is policing the line about lobbying, and evenhandedly enforcing reasonable limits -- so that an organization that claims to be a church but is actually as much of a lobbying group as the US Chamber of Commerce gets treated like one, just like Newt Gingrich's "charity" should be. At the very least that would force some 501(c)(3)s to reorganize as (c)(4)s or one of the other provisions, which have tighter rules and less protection.

    At the local level, it's a different question, because property taxes don't depend on whether you're bankrupt or rolling in cash. IMO there are good reasons for exempting churches (and schools and other charities) from property taxes, but it's not as clear as the income tax is.

  •  I am avowed Athiest (7+ / 0-)

    and this is a bad idea.  Fortunately, ignorant Faith-bashing drivel of some comments here notwithstanding, this has no hope of happening anyway.

    The SCOTUS has so regularly protected this separation you would have a better chance of bringing Prohibition back then carving into Church protections.  ...and for the "But we shouldnt pay for their Jesus!" people, note that it was the greatest LIBERAL justices that reinforced this exemption and made if judicially iron-clad.  The orginal laws go back to 1777; I doubt there is a more settled law in this country aside from "We should hold elections every so often."  

    And to the people that actually tried to dismiss the work that religious activists have done in the name of faith throughout our history regarding slavery, civil rights, suffrage, war-protesting, poverty, education, etc.   ...seriously, shame on you.  I agree with every counter-point you raise of some self-righteous bigot using his bible as justification for something despicable, but to paint over centuries of good work with that broad of a brush is nothing short of shameful.

    You should know better; and if you don't than you need to spend less time posting nonsense and more time reading history.

    If there is a religious organization that is crossing the line and leveraging their exempt status too much, than go after them.  Target that abuse and seek ways to fix it.  No need to go after people benefiting from these laws exactly as intended.
     

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:48:14 AM PDT

    •  Well played sir or madame. (3+ / 0-)

      And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

      by MrJersey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:53:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I totally agree that individual believers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      profewalt, blueoregon

      Should not be "attacked".  My complaint has always been against hierarchies who feel themselves above the law.  Catholic church not reporting abuse and acting in a manner sure to continue the abuse.  Refusing documents when charged or questioned.  Personally, I would lose my license if I failed to report the slightest suspicion of abuse.  The catholic church has been particularly aggregious in their disdain for both humans and the law.  They have done a great disservice to all other Christian religions.

      Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

      by Smoh on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:10:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seems to be a separate issue (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoregon, Old Iowa Liberal

        What you describe are criminal actions, not some regulatory status related to exemption.

        I dont think you'll find many people here that would disagree with you on your condemnation of the Catholic Church's actions regarding the sex abuse scandal.   And I agree that there should be criminal actions against individuals identified in those investigations.

        But even stipulating that the Catholic Church committed systemic violations of many laws, as strongly as I would support prosecuting them on those grounds, I would oppose eliminating their status as a non-profit religious entity for purposes of taxation.

        The Catholic Church does a lot of good things in this country, I applaud them for it.  They also have many people within their clergy that should be facing multiple felony counts related to child sex abuse laws, I hope they go to jail.

        These are not mutually exclusive views.

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:16:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, they are not mutually exclusive. Eom (0+ / 0-)

          Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

          by Smoh on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:29:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I do, however, question that their (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HoopJones

          "doing many good things" is equal to "the many bad things" they do.

          Women's choice in almost everything, attacking their own excellent nuns who actually do "good works", controlling priests and parishioners through threats of excommunication if they don't follow socially detrimental policies, excluding from their "love and benevolence" those who live lifestyles they don't like.

          Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

          by Smoh on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:35:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  believers should not be attacked (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoopJones

        but helping to educate them out of religion is not an attack, but an act of grace

        To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

        by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:30:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes. It's separation of church and state. (0+ / 0-)

      That's why there's so many churches... and since 1970 (the SCOTUS ruling), an explosion of large-scale moneymaking churches.

      It would be impossible to get legislation passed to change this situation.

      On the other hand, religious debate is always entertaining.

  •  Tax them all and include synagogues and mosques. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    I agree that we need to end the class of "non-profit" in its entirety because it is being abused.

    However I'm not sure if the term "tax the churches" was meant to be only directed at Christianity or if it was all inclusive to all "religions".     It seems too often that there is open season on criticizing Christianity as a religion,  while others are given hands off...or at least it appears that way.     I personally am not a practicing anything,  but I do view my childhood religion as forming a function in my cultural and value base.          

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:49:45 AM PDT

    •  I completely understand your feeling that (4+ / 0-)

      Christianity alone is being criticized. I think, offhand, that there are two major reasons for this:
      They are by far the largest contingent of religions and they the ones most egregiously stamping on the rights of those who disagree with them.

      Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

      by Smoh on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:15:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Christianity is the only religion with a problem? (0+ / 0-)

        With all due respect,  what does the largest contingency of anything have to do with a basis for criticism?    Does it mean "most represented" is a legitimate basis for criticism on its own right?  

        This sounds like an attempt to justify a double standard and hopefully liberals are a little smarter and less gullible than that.  All of us should have a problem when people are conditioned to believe in the acceptability of double standards, because the acceptability of such becomes the root of bigotry and racism.     Are the USA people now being hoodwinked that certain religions are bad and others untouchable?    

        There are bad Christians, bad Jews as well as bad Muslims etc obviously.    When it comes to Muslims it is a given that the US media and Hollywood have been portraying Muslims as the evil ones for decades,  apparently to condition us to despise them.    

        Truth is I had older relatives and friends travel throughout the Holy Lands in the 1940s and early 50s,  before all the turmoil with Israel,  and they loved those people as being honest, friendly and trustworthy.   Is there any doubt we have been conditioned otherwise? Now apparently we're being conditioned that Christians are the evil ones, but the others are good.    

        When it comes to egregiously stamping on rights,  I'm not familiar of any major media case where an individual who offhandedly offended Christianity was ever ostracized or lost their job.

        Too many liberals have been force fed Kool Aid on insignificant issues while they and the masses are being led to slaughter in foolish wars, loss of rights, wealth and country.    

        Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

        by dailykozzer on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:52:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, but there aren't many Zoroastrians around. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HoopJones

          I mean, the reason people focus on Christianity is because it's what constitutes the bulk of religious belief in the United States. If there were a huge number of tax-exempt Ziggurats around, we'd be talking about them instead of churches.

          "I wish you luck on not hating your parents for mixing up such an unthinkable person." --The frickin´ HP--

          by McWaffle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:56:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Frankly, I don't feel the need to justify anything (0+ / 0-)

          Do you?

          Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

          by Smoh on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:13:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  oh brother! (0+ / 0-)

          "When it comes to egregiously stamping on rights,  I'm not familiar of any major media case where an individual who offhandedly offended Christianity was ever ostracized or lost their job."

          You've gotta be kidding me!

  •  I am as Atheist as the next guy, but any effort to (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wisper, Fickle, Smoh, mconvente, dirkster42

    extend taxation to religious organizations is a complete non-starter and is not worth wasting your energy or electrons on.  The concept of tax exemption for religion is as fully ingrained in the American psyche as if it were written in the Constitution, and as much as I despise what some religions do with their religious freedom to promote hate, bigotry, and racism, the call for taxing them, unless they officially and overtly support a particular candidate or party is just nonsense.  

    When Mitt Romney becomes the Republican candidate, who do we think the overwhelming majority of LDS church members will support, just like many, many Catholic voters supported JFK back in the early 60's, but the official church has no overt opinion in the matter.

    I don't know of any candidate for any Federal office who would lend their name to a measure calling for taxing religious institutions, so it may be a nice topic to rant about, but it has about as much chance of passage as I have becoming POTUS.  

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:51:39 AM PDT

  •  they either pay taxes or get out of government (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IARXPHD, Tommy Jones the Band

    and let's face it - big religion is after direct access to tax revenues.  like they say when dealing with organized crime:  

    follow the money
  •  Question is that $71 billion simply the lost taxes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ardyess

    Or is that the actual cost to communities for police fire etc?

    Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

    by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:11:35 AM PDT

    •  How many of you commentors actually read (3+ / 0-)

      the original article before your knee jerk response to appease your rapacious "creator"? There, ha, how do you like my knee jerk reaction? Rolls eyes.

      The premise is to tax the non-charitable income, big whoop, funnel more $$ into actual charity beyond the ministers Lexus, have less taxable income. And yes, I know that most ministers drive a Chevy, etc. The majority of churches run on a shoe string, I know every UU congregation I've been a member of has. But why not donate because you truly believe in your religion and not because you need a tax return? Call me crazy, but I've never deducted anything I've given to UU because most went for congregational functioning, not charitable works.

      How about everyone who really really objects to property taxes on church property voluntarily give up homestead exemptions and every other similar tax dodge to make up the lost income?

      Most peoples religious convictions are like balsa wood, light, airy, easy broken and quickly discarded.

      WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

      by IARXPHD on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:22:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why are people capitalizing "atheism"/"atheist"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tommy Jones the Band, ardyess

    It is not a proper noun, nor is it a belief system. Theism/theist and deism/deist are also not capitalized.

    Here's a nice explanation: http://atheism.about.com/...

  •  Another aspect to this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tommy Jones the Band, HoopJones

    the "non-profit" and "tax exempt church affiliated hospitals compete unfairly against private for profit hospitals.  The church affiliated hospitals can therefore promote themselves more, buy more and newer equipment, and hide money.

    For instance, a Nun probably gets only $20K in annual salary, bennies, etc.; but the church affiliated hospital can write her off at $70K.  Multiply this and you get the idea.

    Plus, these church affiliated hospitals refuse to provide life saving procedures such as ABORTIONS, even to save the life of the mother.

    They either play fair, or they should be taxed immediately.

    Abortion Clinics OnLine, the world's first and largest source for online abortion clinic information. Join my DK Abortion Group.

    by annrose on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:30:19 AM PDT

  •  Churches should be fined for false advertising (0+ / 0-)

    To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

    by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:31:48 AM PDT

  •  Figures don't lie, but (4+ / 0-)

    liars can figure.  I was raised on that maxim.  

    The study you quote compares Wal-Mart to the United Methodist Church.  Really?  Did they call the UMC in my small town and count the dollars they spend on our joint meal for the hungry?  Did they count the fair market value of the rent on their building so we can house this meal? (I would assume that Wal-Mart would count as giving anything they possibly can--like mileage on the trucks that take food somewhere.)  If they were looking at the Presbyterian Church (USA), would they have counted the money provided through the deacon's fund I administer which gives small amounts of food nearly every week?

    The amount of money that a parent organization gives is not the same as what the church gives.  Even if they count money in individual church budgets (which I cannot imagine individual churches being consistently organized enough to give), they don't count the donations inspired by the church.  I'm quite certain that the three boxes of macaroni and cheese I added to the food pantry won't ever be counted anywhere, because I have no intention of reporting them anywhere. But I did it to help my church aid the hungry.

    While I understand your frustration, talk of taking away the church's tax exempt status will only entrench the position that liberals are anti-church.  That does not help us.  The solution to bad theology is, as Jim Wallis of Sojourners says, good theology.  I and many others are working every day to bring good theology to the fore.  We are not helped by, for example, the Roman Catholic Church saying that the "correct" position on abortion is more important than the "correct" position on economic justices.  But we are also not helped by liberals who do not understand the history of the church and think that the way it now is is the way it has always been and will always be.

    Up until the last thirty years, the church was much more often a voice for social good than for injustice.  Read the prophets, or read Jesus actual words (start with Matthew 25:31-46, where Christ says that anytime with feed the hungry or clothe the naked, we do the same to him, and we will enter the kingdom.)  Look at the history of social movements in the church doing all the things Christ calls us to do.

    As long as the liberal movement appears to be anti-Christian, the opportunity to remind Christians of the basics of our faith will be overpowered.  But once we proclaim that we are the ones in line with Christ's teaching, we begin to put the lies to the teachings of folks like James Dobson. Go after him and his ilk if you must, but do it theologically, not with the conviction that you know he is the representative of Christ.  He is not.

    Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

    by Tenn Wisc Dem on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:33:45 AM PDT

  •  I agree completely (3+ / 0-)

    Religions, from my point of view, are social clubs: part of the entertainment industry. Just like secular social organizations, religious organizations frequently perform charitable programs, sometimes very important ones; these programs should receive the same kinds of tax benefits whether they are run by the Methodists or the Kiwanis. But when it comes to “saving souls” and “preaching the gospel” and all of their various rites and rituals, I don't see why they should be free from taxes. Those things have no charitable purpose, they are pure entertainment, like Netflix or a rock band.

    Furthermore, I think that the special tax exemption for religions is flat-out unconstitutional, since it is a law respecting the establishment of a religion. Instead of a blanket rule that religious organizations can be tax free, the extent to which a certain group is tax-free should be considered on a case by case basis, determined by the extent to which they perform an educational, medical, or charitable function, just as is done for secular organizations who seek nonprofit status.

  •  This is fatuous. (3+ / 0-)

    The idea that the churches somehow work together for a single political goal is laughable.

    For example, the United Methodist Church, one of the largest mainline churches in the country, is a significant donor to planned parenthood. That's because of the healthcare planned parenthood provides to poor and minority women, and because most of their services don't fund abortion.

    Taxing churches will hurt social justice, because the vast majority of the UMC's work is social justice work. That's true for a great many other churches. And yes, they have to do things like keep the lights on.

    There are other churches have spent millions of dollars attacking the UMC for funding planned parenthood and doing social justice work.

    Comparing the UMC to Walmart is laughable. The UMC is tiny compared to Walmart. If the UMC had the kind of income Walmart has, it'd be building free hospitals in every poor neighborhood on the planet.

    So of course the UMC donated less than Walmart. They don't have anywhere NEAR the funding Walmart does.

    The article this diary is based on is totally spurious, and it's sad to see this kind of disinformation in a reality based community like DailyKos.

    Just taking some information from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, we have the following member organizations which support a woman's right to choose:

    Conservative Judaism
    Rabbinical Assembly
    United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
    Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

    Episcopal Church

    Ethical Culture
    American Ethical Union National Service Conference

    Humanist Judaism
    Society for Humanistic Judaism

    Presbyterian Church (USA)

    Reconstructionist Judaism
    Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
    Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

    Reform Judaism
    Central Conference of American Rabbis
    North American Federation of Temple Youth
    Union for Reform Judaism
    Women of Reform Judaism, The Federation of Temple Sisterhoods
    Women’s Rabbinic Network of Central Conference of American Rabbis

    United Church of Christ

    United Methodist Church
    General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
    General Board of Global Ministries, Women’s Division, United Methodist Church

    Unitarian Universalist
    Unitarian Universalist Association
    Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
    Young Religious Unitarian Universalists
    Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network

    Caucuses/Organizations
    American Jewish Committee
    American Jewish Congress
    Anti-Defamation League
    Catholics for Choice
    Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT)
    Church of the Brethren Womaen’s Caucus
    Disciples for Choice
    Episcopal Urban Caucus
    Episcopal Women’s Caucus
    Hadassah, WZOA
    Jewish Women International
    Lutheran Women’s Caucus
    Methodist Federation for Social Action
    NA’AMAT USA
    National Council of Jewish Women
    Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO)
    Women’s American ORT
    YWCA of the USA

    Stop misinforming people with the idea that churches are a right-wing bloc.

    An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

    by OllieGarkey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:55:15 AM PDT

  •  tipped/rec'd for the discussion /nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  What do you propse to tax? (0+ / 0-)

    Income, via the IRS?
    Property tax, which is a local matter?
    Something else?

    BTW, property tax determiniation on religious property vary, as you can see from one recent case.

    The city didn't violate state law or the Constitution when it began taxing a Pentecostal church after officials determined parts of the church's sprawling building on Mountain Road weren't being used for a religious purpose, the state's high court ruled yesterday.

    The unanimous Supreme Court decision affirmed an earlier ruling by the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals that a 2008 tax bill sent to Liberty Assembly of God - renamed Destiny Christian Church in 2010 - was legitimate.

    http://www.concordmonitor.com/...

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:05:20 AM PDT

  •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tommy Jones the Band, aliasalias

    churches no longer are charitable organizations. They have become big business feeding off the poor and ignorant to build bigger churches and gym floors.
    If Churches need money they need to ask God to grow a money tree because God can do all things.

  •  Be careful-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoregon

    this sort of thing is very likely to be selectively enforced, so that people like Unitarian anti-poverty workers and Quaker peace activists get slammed while Dobson and his ilk walk away whistling.

    Being ignored is the difference between being a one percenter and an American.--sweeper

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:13:34 AM PDT

  •  Its a business (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ardyess, Tommy Jones the Band

    like any other. They are 'selling' salvation. They should have to pay taxes like any other. Don't see why this is a controversial idea.  

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:50:06 AM PDT

    •  and, since what they are selling is bullshit (0+ / 0-)

      they should be charged with false advertising

      To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

      by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:33:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's controversial... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias

      ...because the one thing that pretty much every Christian ever wants is to feel like they're special-of-God.  They want the feeling of exclusion-of-others that being Christian gives them, and taxes is just yet another way that they are privledged over others, thus proving that God loves them more than other people.  They're special.

    •  Think I'll just reply to myself (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias

      I get that there are people with very deep and real feelings about their faith/church. I don't want to bash anyone's belief's. All I am saying is that a church sits on property, sells a product and if they do it well they get people to give them money. This is exactly what businesses do.

      As to their charity work, great. If that is what they want to do with the money people give them, then good for them. But if they want access to the police, fire department, or any other other tax funded service then they need to pay up.

      I live in a town full of big box churches. Sometimes it seems like there is one on every corner. I tried to figure out how much land they cover from the city website but was as yet unsuccessful. Maybe I'll give it another try tonight.

      "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

      by just another vet on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 12:44:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Don't Necessarly Disagree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoregon, Old Iowa Liberal, jayden

    I'm no fan of religion, an atheist myself. But I work at a small church that belongs to a progressive branch of Christianity.

    In my (anecdotal, I know) experience, I think taxation would fall hardest on the more progressive/liberal churches (synagogues, etc). In the five years I've worked at this church, I've seen the already small membership declining, a trend that seems to be affecting other progressive congregations as well.

    My feeling is that, in general, more progressive or left-leaning religious folks don't require structured worship, while authoritarian right-wing Christian do. So they aren't as inclined to go to church regularly anyway. As the schism between Right and Left has grown wider, the big mega-churches, with their hate mongering and shinier, louder worship services, have lured in the majority of the regular church-going public.

    In the long run, the big right-wing churches would simply use the taxation as a means of fleecing their sheep. Smaller, more liberal churches--which do quite a bit of genuine charitable works--already struggling, would fail altogether.

    I'm no cheerleader for religion, but at this point, I think a better approach would be to demand that the IRS actually enforce existing regulations on how much lobbying a religious group can do.

    Shiny, let's be bad guys. -Jayne, Serenity

    by adobedragon on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:22:41 AM PDT

  •  I agree with this. And I am an ordained minister. (5+ / 0-)

    Blanket non-profits of systemic proportions, churches that are sometimes larger than big corporations, should not have blanket non-taxable status. The way many megachurches operate now, the Sunday "church" is really just a huge Broadway feel-good production. Tax those proceeds as regular revenue.

    By the way, I take no deductions as a minister.

  •  I'm a pagan. I've stood in soup lines (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Iowa Liberal

    at churches and secular buildings. I've never been asked what my beliefs are, or told to get out of line because i don't belong to that church. While finding the electioneering being done by some RW churches is odious to me, losing many much-needed poverty programs would be disastrous for this country. The IRS should go after the churches who are telling parishoners who to vote for, but unfortunately, i'm starting to wonder if losing tax-exempt status would just punish the "honest" churches while allowing the obnoxious ones to find some other way of inflicting their agenda.

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:27:06 PM PDT

  •  religion is a business. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Iowa Liberal

    it provides a service, tho some would claim it's also a drug, so take your pick: service or product-related, it's still a business.  obscenely successful or just scraping by, it's still a business.

    businesses should be taxed. if a business wants to conduct charitable work, good for them, but they shouldn't be tax exempt just b/c they do, besides, isn't doing charitable work the main function of christian-based religions???

    let's stop playing semantic games & call it for what it is: a business.

    •  REC was not intended...however, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluezen

      yeah, I have thought about the benefits to my church of abandoning our building and meeting in member's  homes, and many ways it could be a good thing for us. Probably not so good for the  non-profit preschool that uses a good chunk of our facility every week day without being charged any rent. Or perhaps not for the 12-step and similar other groups that meet in our facility rent free. But as a small congregation in a church much larger than we need, it might be better for us to meet in our homes or rent space. Would you still want to tax us then?

      We  currently I believe, pay a local tax for water treatment based on the size of our parking lot, and we agree that this is a good thing.

      •  short answer: yes. you & i can argue about (0+ / 0-)

        the merits (or lack of) associated w/religion, but it comes down to simple connotation -- i view religion as an entity that provides a service, & you see it as something much more mystical & essential to human existence (at least, i'm assuming you do, but please feel free to correct me if i am wrong).

        i do not associate religion any differently than any other business, good or evil -- & see its primary function as making money.  while it's true that some religions put the welfare of their members, & even those less-fortunate members of the public community, above generating income, i doubt many religions would exist for long w/o money, & therein lies the difference between our perceptions of it.

        i see any entity that exists to make money as a business, & you apparently do not.  oh, & for good measure, i rec'd you.

        •  If we took in no money, .... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bluezen

          we could still exist as a faith community. We could meet in member's homes, we could read and study and pray and sing without asking anyone for money. Not certain what we would do about the minister; in the past lots of ministers were not paid. It was probably difficult for their  families, and today they would have to work at a paying job.

          It would be difficult for us not to want to collect and send money to people who have been hard hit by disaster, and we would want to collect and contribute money to our local food bank, and non-profit service  agencies that help people in need, but surely that would not be taxable income.  We would still be the church and we would not be requiring any financial support, as far as I can see, from others in the community. This model would be more like the early Christian church, and might in many ways be very good.

          •  & under those circumstances, i would not (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Iowa Liberal

            consider such an arrangement as a business, & certainly not subject to taxation -- & i couldn't agree more that it would be exactly what christ had in mind & what he wanted his followers to do.

            it's a real shame when a good idea gets perverted.

  •  If your church is awesome... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias

    It probably qualifies as a 501(c)3 on it's own merits. Others might have to form as partnerships or LLCs, which still wouldn't have to pay corporate taxes.

    The only real difference for those churches that chose to remain tax-exempt would be added transparency.

    Meanwhile, those churches that pay their leaders exorbitantly or get involved in politics would no longer be counted as charities for tax purposes.

    Our tax code already has a system in place to handle charities. Would it really be so bad to hold your church to the same standards as other organizations that help their communities directly?

  •   You have over-generalized and conflated issues (0+ / 0-)

    I will agree that churches that engage in political activity such as endorsing a candidate should be stripped of their tax-exempt status. Democratic administrations have been afraid to do so out of fear of being labeled anti-Christian, and GOP administrations haven't for obvious reasons. But I have many issues with the rest of the diary. Your one example, Rick Warren, never made an exorbitant salary: his money has come from outside publishing. And for every megachurch, there are a thousand churches who struggle to survive year to year. (Mega-churches are actually not immune to financial pressure, either.) Church-related schools and hospitals would simply not be able to survive without tax-free status. In under-served areas, that would mean thousands and thousands would go without healthcare, and children lose their shot at getting out from under their circumstance. If an organization is for-profit, they are already taxed (i.e. Church bookstores, publishing arms).

    There is a reason that tax exemption was granted to these institutions. I suggest you watch the session from the Congressional Black Caucus' Faith Leaders Summit session on tax exempt status and regulations. Rather than taxing those who devote their lives to helping the less fortunate and serving their fellow humankind, maybe we could just enforce what's already on the books. Oh, and eliminate loopholes that allow those who add to the misery in this country to pay no taxes.

    "Mitt Romney isn't a vulture capitalist: vultures only eat things that are dead." -S. Colbert

    by newinfluence on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:53:37 PM PDT

  •  Fine with me bit won't happen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:07:42 PM PDT

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