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There's a simple way to raise $71 billion in revenue every year.

We're subsidizing the churches, just like Walmart. IRS regulations clearly state that tax-exempt organizations may not engage in politics:

The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

Below the fold, various turbulent priests obnoxiously flout the law.

Pastor openly challenges IRS, flaunts regulations

“The IRS is not going to be the sermon content manager for this pulpit,” the Rev. Dr. Kevin Baird, pastor of Legacy Church in West Ashley, told about 150 members, who responded with a round of applause.

In fact, Baird plans to mail the IRS a copy of his sermon. He hopes the tax agency will threaten to remove his tax-exempt status, so he can take the agency to court. He said the 1954 amendment to the tax code that’s used to regulate religious speech is unconstitutional and hinders pastors from their mission of telling the truth as they see it.

“Religion and politics are inexorably intertwined in our nation’s history,” he said during his sermon. “Whatever the Bible touches — and it touches every aspect of life — I have an obligation to teach i

Pastors urged to bring politics to pulpit
Jeffress urged the capacity crowd at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa to use their pulpit time this Sunday to stress the importance of voting for the candidate who supports the "biblical values" of the sanctity of marriage, sanctity of life and religious freedom.
Pastor defiantly flouts IRS
Pastor Ronnie Spriggs of Hager Hill Freewill Baptist Church said during a May 13 sermon that he wants Obama voted out of office because of the president's support of gay marriage.

Obama "said that he believes that gays ought to have the right to marry in the United States. That's the president of the United States who said that," Spriggs told his flock during the sermon. "I don't know about you folks, but I'm going on record and I don't care who knows it. I want the guy out."

Catholic Church tells parishioners to vote against Obama
"I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country," the notice said, according to Americans United. "Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends."
The El Paso diocese later issued a retraction. Meh.

Catholic priest calls vote for Obama a "mortal sin."

I could go on, and on, and on, but Project Fairplay collected a bunch. You get the picture. The funny thing is that when I googled "Priest tells people to vote for Obama," NOTHING came up except articles about voting AGAINST Obama. So, yes, this diary, of necessity, has no counterpoint.

Fed up? Here's a petition that hasn't gotten a lot of attention

Originally posted to Something Fishy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

Poll

Should churches be taxed?

73%121 votes
4%8 votes
21%36 votes

| 165 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  So because a few pastors get political... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    campionrules, lgmcp, Neuroptimalian, FG

    ...your solution isn't to demand that the IRS actually enforce the guidelines for political activity that already exist, but rather to demand the removal of the tax exemption for all religious nonprofit organizations?

    A few problems emerge here: First, this seems like a rather obvious case of collective punishment, in which you seek to punish all religious organizations—including those that have never taken any political stance whatsoever—because of the actions of a few.

    Second, you make no mention of eliminating the tax exemption for nonreligious nonprofit organizations, including those that are set up to engage in specific (albeit nonpolitical in the eyes of the law) advocacy efforts; thus, you seem to be calling for religious nonprofit organizations to be actively discriminated against by law. How is that not a rather plain violation of the First Amendment?

    "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 10:22:59 AM PST

    •  The IRS does NOT enforce the guidelines, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NonnyO, gooderservice

      as it should. And I didn't mention nonreligious nonprofit organizations at all. The Red Cross, for example. 92.1% of their revenue goes to actually helping people. They don't, as far as I know, ever engage in politics.

      This diary specifically suggests taxing churches. There isn't any side line. Why should nonreligious nonprofits that don't engage in politics be stripped of their status? The point is that churches are deliberately flouting the law, with impunity. As noted in the study referenced in the diary, not very much of the money collected by the churches actually goes to charity, which is the JOB of the churches, anyway. I'm sure the original idea behind the tax-exempt status was to allow the churches to spend their revenue helping the poor. That was, of course, before televangelicals in mansions with Bentleys.

      Why should the Westboro Baptist Church be tax-exempt? Do they feed the poor and clothe the naked? Don't think so.

      And there is an option in the poll that mentions taxing only churches that DO engage in politics, which presupposes that the IRS should enforce its own regulations.

      "...Males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.” —Newt Gingrich in 1995

      by BadKitties on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:35:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, not really (3+ / 0-)

        The history and language of Code Section 501c3 does not require the alleviation of poverty as a requirement of exempt status.  Religious activity, apart from charitable activity, is sufficient grounds for tax exempt status.   Thus, a church is not required to feed the poor or clothe the naked to be exempt, and it has never been so.  

        That is not to say that there are not significant issues with private inurement and excess benefit (read: Bentleys) as well as electioneering (read: Pulpit Sunday) with churches.  These issues arise with non-churches as well.  If I recall correctly, the last PACI report issued by the IRS indicated that the actionable cases of electioneering split down the middle between church and non-church groups.  You are right, however, that the IRS is loathe to enforce these requirements strictly (they will send firmly worded letters but will not revoke an exemption) for PR and not good tax policy readings.

        Now, the churches are pushing the fight in a way that others are not because they believe that the First Amendment entitles them to something different.  So far, they've lost on that.  And they should continue to lose on that because tax-exemption is a matter of legislative grace and not of right.  Churches have the right to say whatever they want; they don't have a right to a public subsidy for it.

        So after I typed all of this I think I responded to the wrong post.. this should be a response to BadKitties.  Sorry for being Kos-challenged

         

      •  You seem to misunderstand nonprofits. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nextstep
        And I didn't mention nonreligious nonprofit organizations at all. The Red Cross, for example. 92.1% of their revenue goes to actually helping people. They don't, as far as I know, ever engage in politics.
        What about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization whose purpose is to advocate for LGBT rights? Should they lose their tax exemption as well?
        This diary specifically suggests taxing churches. There isn't any side line. Why should nonreligious nonprofits that don't engage in politics be stripped of their status? The point is that churches are deliberately flouting the law, with impunity.
        Why should religious nonprofits that don't engage in politics be stripped of their status? You are arguing as if the few examples you provide are evidence that all churches are engaging in politics, but those examples are insufficient to support that argument. Unless you've got solid evidence that all churches are engaging in politics—and if you do, I'd sure like to see it—then I don't see how arguing that nonpolitical nonreligious nonprofits should be tax-exempt, while nonpolitical religious nonprofits shouldn't, isn't calling for state discrimination against religious organizations.
        As noted in the study referenced in the diary, not very much of the money collected by the churches actually goes to charity, which is the JOB of the churches, anyway. I'm sure the original idea behind the tax-exempt status was to allow the churches to spend their revenue helping the poor.
        "You're sure" of that, are you? Care to provide evidence to that effect, or is your entire argument here based purely on your speculation as to what the motivations of those behind tax-exemption laws must have really intended had they been thinking like you do?

        "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 11:06:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  All legal entities should be taxed irrespective of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gooderservice, nextstep

      their missions, affiliations or charter language.  It would eliminate the need for specialized tax enforcement, would generate needed revenue, and would reduce the level of tax gamesmanship going on in all areas, say, as in political groups chartering themselves as educational, and individuals forming livingroom churches and home church offices to game the system.  If religion is bound up in politics as suggested by one of the pastors, then government has an ongoing stake in the churches paying to play on the political stage just as individuals and businesses must.
       Oh, and that endless Middle Eastern destabilization thing, perhaps the embeddedness of religion and politics there is the perpetual catalyst for war and human strife.
        Religion used to focus on man's relationship with God which as perfected would lead to better relationships with his fellow man.  This notion has been turned on its head by the churches themselves who increasingly insist on obsessing over the affairs of man.  So many of them seem to be extensions of the media.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:49:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Taxed on what? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice, Neuroptimalian, FG
        All legal entities should be taxed irrespective of their missions, affiliations or charter language.
        Okay, taxed on what?

        Businesses are taxed on their profits—that is, revenues minus expenses—not on their revenue alone.

        So in the case of a nonprofit organization that doesn't make profits for its shareholders—since it doesn't have any—but rather returns all revenues back into the operation of the organization itself, how would you tax it?

        "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 11:18:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Simple, Tax Revenue minus Expenses (0+ / 0-)

          on the same basis that businesses are that don't pay dividends.

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:58:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  So many churches (0+ / 0-)

          own businesses that are tax exempt because they are sheltered under the tax exemption of the churches:

          Churches own banks, health care, commercial printing, sugar processing companies, hotels, newspapers, broadcast stations, investment companies, insurance companies, service stations, restaurants, thrift stores, office buildings, apartment and condo buildings, parking garages, commercial farms, and more,  Churches are serious financial players in America and make a great deal of profit off of activities that aren't related to improving man's relationship with their god.

          These business endeavors should be taxed as any other business is.

          All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

          by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:07:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree that for-profit operations... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FG

            ...should be taxed as such—but only insofar as they're operated for profit.

            If my church ran a thrift store, for example, but charged no more than it had to in order to cover the operating expenses of the store (the employees, lighting, heat, etc.), then why should my church be taxed for that, when a nonreligious nonprofit organization running the same thrift store wouldn't be?

            And where do you draw the line at "for-profit" here? If my church has a bake sale, we're obviously taking in far more than the bake sale has cost—in that if it's like any other bake sale, all the baked goods were donated, thus enabling the church to add all the money coming in as revenue.

            Is that a "for-profit" endeavor if it's done by a church, but not by any other nonprofit organization—or are you going to tax all bake sales? Because the one thing you're not allowed to do under the Constitution is tax only church bake sales while leaving the local PTA's bake sale alone.

            "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:17:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't, but obviously you do. (0+ / 0-)

              The First Amendment and the Constitution do not guarantee tax exemption to any endeavor.

              That's for the IRS to do, and tax codes change.

              Our state taxes bake sales. I don't have a problem with it.  Why do you?

              All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

              by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:24:12 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The Constitution doesn't permit... (0+ / 0-)

                ...state discrimination against religion.

                The First Amendment and the Constitution do not guarantee tax exemption to any endeavor.
                No, but they do guarantee that the state won't establish a religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof.

                If the state doesn't tax nonreligious nonprofit organizations for doing certain things, and then does tax religious nonprofit organizations for doing the exact same things but with religious content added, that's a de facto establishment of irreligion—and a strong state incentive against the free exercise of religion, as not practicing religion organizationally confers tax benefits.

                If you really think that the state should discourage or penalize the practice of religion, then go ahead and suggest that—but don't pretend that the First Amendment supports your view.

                "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:31:57 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Taxation does not prohibit (0+ / 0-)

                  "the free exercise thereof".  Religions are more than welcome to exist and say what they want and how they want.

                  Taxing an organization does not discourage or penalize it for existing, does not restrict it from existing. If that were the case, there would be no organizations at all in the US.

                  A tax is not a punishment, it's a reward for being an integral and supporting part of society.

                  All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

                  by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:57:31 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Taxation can be used to penalize or reward. (0+ / 0-)
                    Taxing an organization does not discourage or penalize it for existing, does not restrict it from existing. If that were the case, there would be no organizations at all in the US.
                    If taxation is used in a discriminatory way, such that two organizations, both doing the same thing, are taxed differently according to the nature of their religious views, then taxation is a significant penalty for having an organization with religious views.

                    If the federal government decided to tax nonreligious advocacy organizations that called for higher taxes and the expansion of Medicare and Social Security, while granting a tax exemption to nonreligious advocacy organizations that called for lower taxes and cuts to Medicare and Social Security, you would likely agree with me that the federal government's tax power was being used to promote one viewpoint and penalize another.

                    Why shouldn't a similar line of reasoning hold for religious and nonreligious nonprofit organizations?

                    "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 02:54:36 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  If you've bothered to read my comments (0+ / 0-)

                      you'd know I have no issues with ANY organization being taxed.  

                      You seem to be the one who wants to penalize society by allowing some parts of it to shirk their share of taxes that provide the infrastructure they so enjoy using.

                      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

                      by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 06:53:54 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

          •  Um.. they do (0+ / 0-)

            I don't know why you think that if a church runs a hotel, it doesn't pay tax on it.  Google Unrelated Business Income Tax and see Internal Revenue Code 511 through 514

    •  Your first point is irrelevant... (0+ / 0-)

      because it implies churches deserve tax exempt status in the first place.  I see no reason that they do, so it would not really be a punishment, but treating them like any other business.

      As for your second point, it could be argued that because the primary function of a church is the inculcation of religious belief, providing tax exempt status violates the establishment clause.  I would also assume that since churches are given preferential tax treatment over secular non-profits, you consider this to be a plain violation of the First Amendment.

      •  Churches aren't "like any other business." (0+ / 0-)
        I see no reason that they do, so it would not really be a punishment, but treating them like any other business.
        Okay, if you think churches are "like any other business," then where do the profits go? Who are the shareholders in a church whose share value is increased, or who receive dividend checks, directly resulting from the church's revenues exceeding its expenses?
        As for your second point, it could be argued that because the primary function of a church is the inculcation of religious belief, providing tax exempt status violates the establishment clause.
        Only insofar as tax exempt status isn't also provided to organizations whose purpose is to inculcate other opinions, viewpoints, beliefs, or educational goals. If organizations that promote nonreligious viewpoints (whether secular or simply agnostic about the whole thing) or engage in nonreligious education receive tax exemptions, then to suggest that an organization engaging in religious viewpoints or education should be taxed is to suggest that the state actively discriminate against religious organizations.

        "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 11:11:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We don't necessarily know... (0+ / 0-)

          where church profits go because unlike businesses and secular non-profits, churches are not required to file financial disclosure statements.  I would expect church profits probably go into things like improvements, investments, bonuses, political advocacy, etc., just like other businesses.

          It is not me, but the First Amendment, which singles out religion.  That is why it is permissible to have speakers in the public school which promote anti-drug or anti-littering messages, but not speakers who promote religion.

          •  You seem to misunderstand "profit." (0+ / 0-)
            We don't necessarily know where church profits go because unlike businesses and secular non-profits, churches are not required to file financial disclosure statements.
            That's not my point; my point is that in a for-profit business, when revenues exceed expenses, those profits are either given to the business's owners in the form of a dividend or reinvested in the business in order to increase the value of the owners' stock in the business. The profits of a for-profit business go to its owners.

            Churches don't have stockholders seeking to increase their stock value from the church, but rather exist in and of themselves as entities. That makes them unlike for-profit businesses, and more like other nonprofit organizations.

            I would expect church profits probably go into things like improvements, investments, bonuses, political advocacy, etc., just like other businesses.
            In my 33+ years in churches of all denominations, I've never seen a church actually turn a "profit"; every church budgeting process I've been involved in has aimed for a net zero balance, where income and expenses come out even. On the occasions that more income comes in than budgeted, that's tended to go into rainy-day savings (for the years when we have less income than budgeted) or be spent on a worthy cause that we really wanted to fund but couldn't in the budget.

            "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 Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 05:56:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I suspect that taxing churches for getting (0+ / 0-)

      political would not survive a First Amendment challenge.  

      Exercising first amendment rights or not should not impact taxes due.

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:47:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It has survived so far. (0+ / 0-)
        •  Every law struck down survived until it didn't (0+ / 0-)

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:32:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Has it actually been challenged in court? (n/t) (0+ / 0-)

          "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:34:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sort of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JamesGG

            It's clear that the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) apply to churches, even if those requirements violate sincerely held religious beliefs.  Thus Bob Jones University loses its tax exempt status for racially discrimintory policies, even if those racially discriminatory policies are religious beliefs that are otherwise protected under the First Amendment, because a Section 501(c)(3) organization may not violate established public policy as a requirement of exemption.

            There are some other cases that specifically say that church exemption is not a matter of right, but of legislative grace.

    •  I wouldn't at all mind seeing (0+ / 0-)

      all religions taxed as the businesses they really are.

      The First Amendment doesn't guarantee religions (or other non-profits) tax exemption, therefore taxing them is not a violation of the First Amendment.

      It is simply a change in the tax codes.

      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

      by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:53:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why limit to churches, why not all non-profits? (0+ / 0-)

        Tax the Catholic Church and Planned Parenthood the same as Walmart.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:01:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So, you selectively read my comment? (0+ / 0-)

          Please read it again:

          The First Amendment doesn't guarantee religions (or other non-profits) tax exemption, therefore taxing them is not a violation of the First Amendment.
          Thank you.

          All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

          by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:13:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You did not advocate taxing all non-profits (0+ / 0-)

            You only wrote that it was constitutional to tax non-profits including.  

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:31:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I didn't? Really? (0+ / 0-)

              I have no problem with all business endeavors, whether they claim  to be non-profit or not, religious or not, being taxed or having their tax status regulated, changed, and enforced by the IRS, as Congress determines what is and isn't tax exempt. Including bake sales.

              As Congress is composed of our elected employees, it is the job of Congress to determine what we, their employers, want them to do and then to write legislation to accomplish that goal.

              If that means that one formerly tax exempt organization needs to explain why they should continue to receive tax exemption, or if it involves rewriting the tax codes so that an entire class of organizations is no longer tax exempt, or if it involves rewriting the tax codes so all tax exempt organizations report their taxes/tax exemptions in exactly the same way, then that's the way society changes, evolves, and grows.  

              The Constitution does not protect any person or organization or company from being taxed.

              Is that clear enough for you?

              All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

              by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:51:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Taxing all nonprofits the same way... (0+ / 0-)

        ...would probably not be a violation of the First Amendment—though I don't think we would improve anything about the nation by taxing all nonprofit organizations.

        What would be a violation of the First Amendment would be a policy to tax religious organizations while not taxing other nonprofit organizations.

        "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:36:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't think so (0+ / 0-)

          That's a matter of Congress and the IRS tax codes. Dragging the Constitution into a tax discussion is a red herring.

          It diminished my respect for you.

          All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

          by Noddy on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 02:01:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You don't think there would be... (0+ / 0-)

            ...a constitutional problem if religious organizations were taxed for doing exactly the same things that nonreligious nonprofits aren't taxed for doing, simply because they are religious organizations?

            You really don't think that the government discriminating against religious organizations by means of the tax code wouldn't be a pretty clear violation of the First Amendment?

            On what legal reasoning do you base that opinion?

            "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 02:45:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Way past time. (5+ / 0-)

    Though I would begin by enforcing the existing laws. I think that would eliminate much of the problem.

    The other thing I would do is prevent churches from engaging in for-profit business, period. They should adhere to the same rules for charitable fundraising as any other nonprofit.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:27:53 AM PST

  •  Dumb idea, pisses lots of folks off (0+ / 0-)

    & makes it harder for Dems to win elections.  

  •  only some religions are tax exempt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, NonnyO, gooderservice, Noddy

    As a citizen who does not participate in any "organized religion" (State sanctioned cult), I question why ANY religious organization should be exempt from taxes. The 1st Amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, I take that to read that a a secular nation NO religion should receive ANY special privilege from the government, especially tax exemptions. And in light of the active government suppression of the indigenous religious and spiritual traditions of this continent, supported by many of the tax exempt churches, these special privileges are offensive.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:38:18 AM PST

  •  Are you also prepared to tax the Sierra Club (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, litoralis, FG

    and Moveon.org, and the League of Women Voters, and the Rotary Club?

    Because the tax laws governing non-profits that engage in issues advocacy of any flavor, are really VERY similar to the tax laws governing churches.  http://www.irs.gov/...

    Lots of disturbing things do go on, and we could use certainly use better enforcement of IRS rules.  But be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:43:12 AM PST

  •  If church & state are separate (4+ / 0-)

    then I should not have to support churches by allowing tax exemptions and tax deductible donations.  If the church does other works, those should be set up separately and allow exemption and tax deduction.  My taxes are effectively higher because of tax exemptions and deductions whether I like it or not.

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

    by FTL BILLY on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:48:02 AM PST

    •  You're arguing from the wrong direction. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp
      If church & state are separate then I should not have to support churches by allowing tax exemptions and tax deductible donations.  If the church does other works, those should be set up separately and allow exemption and tax deduction.
      And yet, other nonpolitical nonprofits aren't taxed, and can accept tax-deductible donations—so you're suggesting that religious organizations specifically be discriminated against by tax policy, in having to pay taxes that other nonprofit organizations don't have to pay.

      That would seem to me to violate the separation of church and state.

      "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 11:21:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

        I am only suggesting that religious organizations that provide no other service than their religion not be tax-exempt.  Reread my previous statement.  If a church does other works, then put that in a separate organization that would be treated like other not for profits.  The religious part should not receive benefits from the state.

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

        by FTL BILLY on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 12:49:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why should religious services... (0+ / 0-)

          ...be treated any differently from any other service delivered on a not-for-profit basis?

          In other words, what do you suggest specifically distinguishes religious services from other activities for which the ability to engage in them by nonprofit organizations isn't being questioned—like theatrical or musical performance, counseling, meditation/prayer, education, etc.?

          In essence, a religious ceremony is a sequence of musical activities, staged readings, a speech, guided meditation, and theatrical performance; the nature or substance of the content communicated within that sequence of events cannot be consequential in the eyes of the law. And yet, I doubt you would question the tax-exempt status of a community theatre organization, for example, or an organization that provided free counseling to people, or an educational nonprofit.

          So you're essentially arguing that if I start a nonprofit orchestra and choir that performs Bach cantatas open for free to the public, that's all well and good and tax-exempt— but the second I hang a crucifix, don vestments, and call that very same performance a religious service, despite having made exactly the same nonexistent profit and not changed what my organization is doing in the slightest, my organization should be taxed.

          Again—how is that not calling for the state to actively discriminate against religion, by taxing religious organizations for doing the very same things that nonreligious nonprofits aren't taxed for doing?

          "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:08:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Restricting the speech of members of (0+ / 0-)

    establishments of religion strikes me as inappropriate. However, excluding properties owned by persons who claim to be religious from contributing to the public expenditures, strikes me as a privileged status which is detrimental to others not so favored. Exclusive practices are ipso facto segregationist and it doesn't make much difference whether the primary motive is to benefit or injure.
    Moreover, it seems that the designation of an establishment of religion is largely self-directed and seems to provide a fruitful venue for scams.
    Take the
    Life's Answer Church on St. Simons Island in Georgia.
    http://businessprofiles.com/...

    Mr and Mrs. C. Conrad Mershon have now put their house up for sale for $1.6 million, perhaps because one of our Senators moved in next door and made the whole neighborhood more valuable.

    In Brunswick, on the main land, it seems like half the vacant commercial properties have suddenly turned into churches. Church halls have, of course, long been the poor man's country club. Who knows to what extent churches make up the underground economy?
    Georgia is a socialist state. Letting establishments of religion act as middlemen to dole out benefits does not change that.The problem with it is that conditioning personal survival on being subservient to a deity is only marginally better than conditioning it on subservience to the state. Access to the necessities of life should be unconditional.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:51:14 AM PST

  •  Most organized religion today is nothing more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    than a money machine for the pastors and parent organizations.   I'm guessing it would be rare to find a church where even 5% of the intake goes to charitable causes.  Taxpayers are being forced to subsidize churches.  

    The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

    by Persiflage on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 11:11:14 AM PST

    •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)
      Most organized religion today is nothing more than a money machine for the pastors and parent organizations.
      I'm guessing you haven't been looking at a lot of churches' budgets recently, because as someone who has spent quite a bit of time looking at them, I can tell you that most pastors aren't exactly rolling in the dough—and except in a few cases (like perhaps the Roman Church) the "parent organizations" aren't seeing a lot of the average religious organization's revenues either.
      I'm guessing it would be rare to find a church where even 5% of the intake goes to charitable causes.
      Please define "charitable causes" here, and then please indicate to me where our tax code indicates that all nonprofit organizations must be devoted to "charitable causes."

      "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 11:24:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Code Sec 501 (c)(3) (0+ / 0-)

        Deals with not for profit organizations that are eligible for tax deduction for donations made to the charity.  Churches are automatically included in this section.  Other organizations must apply for exempt status and explain their reason for exemption and provide financial statements.  Not for profit organizations must file an informational tax return each year (Form 990) that is open for public inspection.  Churches file nothing.  Repeat Churches file nothing.  No open records, nothing.

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

        by FTL BILLY on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:04:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Half right (0+ / 0-)

          Section 501c3 deals with the exemption from income tax for organizations that are charitable, educational, religious, etc.   Section 170 deals with the income tax deduction for donations made to charity.  The two sections overlap signficantly but they are not the same.

          Churches are included in religious, although not all religious organizations are churches.   Churches, specifically, are entitled to special filing exemptions from the application for exemption (Form 1023) and the annual report (Form 990) so that is true.  It is, however, a reporting exception - nothing excepts churches from the standard substantive requirements for exemption.

      •  Well...in my protestant church with a budget of (0+ / 0-)

        @$600K (general Fund), 47% goes to the salary of the co-pastors and as an apportionment to support the hierarchy.  It's rare to find someone in the organizational hierarchy being paid less than $100K. After lights, power, insurance, admin staff, etc they have previously allocated $3000 to "missions" that actually provide some charitable benefit.   "Special" collections are periodically taken to support a few other charitable causes.

        The pastors are paid /compensated at a rate over 4X the median income for a family of four in my state.  

        To me, "charity" would be helping feed the homeless,  supporting an orphanage...helping unfortunates with a little financial aid if appropriate, providing a scholarship, etc.

        Franklin Graham is paid about 600-800K a year for fleecing people with his particular brand of BS.    His org doesn't pay tax.  I could go on and on.

        Even if at a reduced rate, churches should help pay for the community infrastructure they use...water, sewer,..police, fire..ie, property taxes.

        And you're correct, I don't look at a lot of church budgets.  It's not my job.  And I know of some churches that certainly can't and don't pay big money.  But, on balance, full time pastors earn significant money AND get a lot of non taxable benefits.  

        The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

        by Persiflage on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:48:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have to ask ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billybush

    ... am I the only one hearing this diary's title to the tune of the opening line of the Muppet Show theme?

  •  Yes, tax churches (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BadKitties, Noddy, Fishtroller01

    ADDITIONALLY:

    Repeal, or get Obama to fill out a countermanding Executive Order, to close down and eliminate the government-funded 'office of faith-based initiatives' created by Dumbya.  Even Dumbya wasn't stupid enough to try to get that office approved by Congress, so to repay his reichwingnuttia supporters who want laws to conform to their religious & misogynistic & anti-choice beliefs, he created the office to be run out of the president's office.

    As near as I can tell, it violates the separation of church and state.

    Continuing the office makes sure religion has one foot in the door and could very easily promote a government-mandated religion.  Whose religion would be up for grabs in the future....  Do we change religions every four to eight years?  Do we have one government-mandated religion sponsored by one religion that mimics the Catholic church and has an equivalent title and power like the pope's and have that religion supplant all others?  Therein lies the path to religious wars like England had in the 17th century.

    Haven't enough people suffered, been tortured, and died and/or been burned at the stake for the sake of religion through the centuries?  Does history need to repeat itself?

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 11:16:28 AM PST

  •  a related issue is tax deductibility of (0+ / 0-)

    contributions.  Such are not deductible for political contributions and this rule should be applied for contributions to churches that break IRS regulations for political advocacy.  As regards penalties applied to churches I say these rules should be enforced strictly.

  •  The tax exempt status of churches (0+ / 0-)

    goes far beyond any exemptions given for any other non-profit. The New York Times (Diana B. Henriques) did an article that said there are over 200 exemptions for churches, so many that there are lawyers who do nothing but advise churches on how to pay no taxes.

    Churches pastors are allowed to totally write off their houses down to the toilet paper. No other heads of non-profits get that privledge. In fact, the heads of the non-profit Freedom From Religion Foundation are suing the IRS (they've been granted status to sue by one court already) for favoring religion on this tax issue.

    Churches are claiming janitors as "essential personnel" to get them written off (choir directors, organ players, etc.)

    Churches pay no property taxes and yet have fire service, police service and other community services, which means the rest of us pay more to make up the difference. The average citizen in the US pays $900 more in taxes to make up for the loss from religious tax exemptions.  

    I could go on and on, but here is a basic fact as to why the granting of tax exemption for churches should be abolished.  When a church applies for this status with the IRS, it is the IRS that decides whether that church qualifies as a religion. So we essentially have the government deciding what is and isn't a religion.... a clear violation of the First Amendment!

  •  The tax loss is at least $35billion off (0+ / 0-)
    In order to calculate the government subsidy resulting from tax-exempt donations, we assumed that religions would be taxed at the maximum federal corporate tax rate, given their revenue (for example, the United Methodist Church parent organization falls into the highest corporate tax bracket, as would most local congregations). Using this assumption, the subsidy to religions in the form of lost corporate tax revenue to the federal government is about $35.3 billion annually
    That's a bad assumption.  Gifts aren't taxable income under the code, whether or not churches are tax exempt.  That's not a subsidy, it's just how the tax code works.
  •  Why should Church property and revenue be (0+ / 0-)

    exempt?  Most of them are ponzi schemes anyway despite the fact that they may do some good.  I never understood this exemption. If they can afford $4.5 M to build an oceanfront taj mahal, why don't they pay taxes on the infrastructure that supports their buildings?  Sewers, roads, etc.

    •  [citation needed] (0+ / 0-)
      Most of them are ponzi schemes anyway
      How exactly are "most" churches ponzi schemes?

      "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 01:48:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Let's take those that "tithe" to begin. They take (0+ / 0-)

        10% of congregation $$ and then take those tax free revenues to give back to the congregation and skim some off the top for private planes, fancy homes, jewelry, etc.  If it went to the poor or sick,  I would have no problem. But that is not the story of most mega churches, certainly not the story of Vatican or the Church of England.

        •  I reiterate: [citation needed] (0+ / 0-)
          Let's take those that "tithe" to begin. They take 10% of congregation $$ and then take those tax free revenues to give back to the congregation and skim some off the top for private planes, fancy homes, jewelry, etc.
          Odd... I've never seen my priest in a private plane, and his home is no more fancy than mine. I've never been "given back" even a penny of the tax-free "revenue" my church takes in, and each of us gives to the church as we feel led to.

          And in my 33+ years in the church, in virtually every Christian denomination there is, that has been the norm for the churches I've attended—not the exception.

          You seem to be painting with a pretty broad brush on what "they," the churches, do. Can you provide a citation to support your claim that the picture you're painting is somehow representative of the vast majority of churches, rather than a small and abusive minority?

          "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 02:43:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is a timely diary up just today on LA (0+ / 0-)

            diocese.
            http://www.dailykos.com/...

            Then there is Crystal Cathedral whose finances became public in a lawsuit.  Gucci shoes on Catholic bishops and all the gold in the Vatican?  The cardinals did not get those things through dowries when they entered religious life.  Trinity Broadcast, and on and on.

            •  And yet, you didn't just claim... (0+ / 0-)

              ...that a few religious organizations were using their congregations for financial gain; you claimed that "most of them are ponzi schemes anyway."

              You can't clear that bar by adding more anecdotes, unless the total number of those anecdotes exceeds 50% of all religious organizations in the country.

              "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 Feb 11, 2013 at 02:57:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think the Catholic Church represents a large (0+ / 0-)

                portion of congregations.  The mega churches, with some notable exceptions, fit the mold.  The Mormon church?  I think there is sufficient suspicion that the tax exemption should be discussed.

                •  You think that's the case? (0+ / 0-)

                  You made a strong claim about most churches; even if I grant for the sake of argument that the Roman Church and LDS Church are "Ponzi schemes," you still need to present more evidence that those churches make up a majority of all churches than that "you think" that's the case.

                  Let's see some data.

                  "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 Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 06:05:43 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  How are churches different from other non-profits? (0+ / 0-)

    Or you want to tax all non-profits?

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