It was the fervent
hope of the founders
of our great nation that its government would
not tresspass on the province of religion, and that religion
would find neither refuge nor condemnation from a secular government.
The founders' committment to this idea was unequivocal. The very first
words of the
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
you interpret that statement as an originalist, papist,
feminist, or any other -ist, exempting
religious organizations from paying taxes is a clear case of our government "respecting
an establishment of religion," precisely what the framers
intended to prohibit.
is not to suggest
that you abandon your church or your faith. For one thing, any
religious organization that lives up to its commitments to its congregation
and community would have nothing to fear from filing a tax return,
just like every
other non-profit. For another, when these
pay taxes like every other non-profit,
each citizen's tax burden is significantly lessened and consequently
he or she maybetter endow a worthy institution
with individual support.
the flip side of the same coin:
as your right to practice a religion must be respected
by government, it may not support churches
by tax subsidies or any other means.
it's unconstitutional. It
will be obvious to rational people that exempting religious organizations
from paying any taxes is a clear case of government "respecting
an establishment of religion." But throughout history
we have seen many otherwise-lucid thinkers insist otherwise,
including Supreme Court justices who uphold biblical views when
jobs explicitly require them to uphold the Constitution of the
United States of America.
religious organizations are not accountable to the citizens who
subsidize them. If
churches engage in charitable work that benefits the community,
do all citizens have an interest in supporting such endeavors
with, say, various tax exemptions? Of course. This
is the sound basis for tax exemptions for non-profit
organizations, whose activities and finances are subject
to IRS audit and public scrutiny. In the case
of religious organizations, however, the books are closed.
groups receiving tax exemptions must annually file a detailed 990
where the money has gone. The IRS automatically
waives the 990 requirement for churches.
if churches do not engage
in charitable work? Or do so far less efficiently, effectively
- or charitably - than the many non-profits or government programs
we do not subsidize in this way? Religious organizations
can and do take great advantage of their tax-free status. Many
great wealth and vast media empires - all of it off
the tax rolls. The point is that religious organizations can and
doctrines of intolerance and hatred, filter funds to foreign
enemies, and cause far more harm than good in their communities.
nevertheless entirely tax-exempt, their finances never scrutinized,
because they qualify as "religious
status is a privilege - not a right - and churches should be held
to the same standards
- if not higher standards.
it is easily and routinely abused. Consider
the proliferation of phony churches as a tax dodge. An IRS attorney
cites a brothel "church," where sisterly love is offered
to male parishioners in exchange for donations. In Hardenburgh, New
York several years ago, 235 of the 239 property owners in that town
were granted religious tax exemption because the properties of the
owners were made branches of the mail-order "Universal Life
Church." In Wisconsin, hotels, pay parking lots, farms, and
communion wafer bakeries are among the church holdings that are tax
exempt. Overall, at least $4.2 billion in tax-exempt religious property
now exists in that state alone. And the monumental moral corruption
of the Catholic Church as evidenced by the many sexual abuse scandals
is particularly galling when one contemplates the vast (and covert)
wealth of that particular enterprise.
a racket, and it costs taxpayers even more money to monitor, uncover
and fight the abuse it invites - none of which would be necessary
if such unenforceable loopholes in our tax code never existed.
it costs you and me billions. We
are not talking chump change here. Consider that for every
tax dollar a religious organization does not pay, you and I
pay it on its behalf. Many are among the wealthiest organizations
in the world: by 1971, the amount of real and personal property
owned by U.S. churches was approx. $110 billion. In New
York City alone, the amount was $3 billion in 1989. A 1986
estimate showed religious income in that year of approx. $100
about five times the income of the five largest corporations
in the U.S. All tax free.
the founders got it right. These
thoughtful men were conscentious students of history,
many of them witnessing firsthand the bloody devastation
wrought wherever religion
entangled itself with government on foreign shores - and our
own. The founders saw that without a strict separation between
religion and government,
the same tragedy would inevitably be replayed here.
purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever
from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil
in blood for centuries." -James Madison
it is fundamentally unjust. Not
all religious organizations enjoys tax breaks, only those
our government deems legitimate. Is government
in the business of deciding what is or is not a legitimate religion?
every instance where government makes such a determination
an establishment of religion?" Should the taxes of non-religious
citizens be higher to subsidize every church, synagogue,
and mosque in town? Should working women pay taxes to subsidize clergy
and other employees' paychecks, when such positions
are overwhelmingly - and legally - restricted to men?
current scheme is unfair and unnecessary. Churches can
like everybody else.
our country is not supposed to be a theocracy. It
not a new idea: tax exemption for religious organizations has been
debated since the birth of our great nation. istorically, far from
the accepted status
quo, the subsidy of religious organizations via carte
blanche tax exemptions has troubled patriots and conscientious
religious citizens alike. Since our Consititution was written
our nation has witnessed an overall upsurge in the deliberate mingling
of government with
point that the two institutions at times have appeared nearly indistinguishable.
Perhaps emboldened by the cowardice and arrogance displayed by our nation's
highest court and the apathy of so many citizens, religious
zealots now hold our highest offices and have infiltrated every single
views when their taxpayer-funded jobs explicitly require them to
uphold the Constitution of the United States instead.
it makes no sense. To
deny that tax exemption is a meaningful public subsidy is to
put forth an absurd proposition: just consider what your personal
financial picture would look like if you never paid any taxes.
Yet it is exactly this type of ludicrous logic on which religious
tax exemptions have been upheld time and again by our courts
and congresses. See LAW for more.
among the nations, America recognized the source of our character
as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal. We
have no king but Jesus."
Attorney General John Ashcroft
governmental advancement of religion is sometimes required by the
Free Exercise Clause."
Court Justice Anton Scalia
THE CHURCHES DOES NOT WANT
WANT YOU TO DO THIS:
next time Congress is looking for an extra couple billion to
finance a war, tell them to look no further than
an income tax on religious payroll. Better yet, tell them today,
and let them know you intend to VOTE accordingly.
We love our
And our freedom. Remember freedom?