Has the time come…….to tax the Church???

taxes

 

by Kenneth Justice

~Last week I wrote an article about a local charity that I have strong suspicious  with regarding their integrity <article>

It brings me to another question; should churches be taxed?

Our illustrious culture has a long history of providing tax-free status to churches…but I wonder where all that money is going?

Hey, I don’t have a problem with beautiful church buildings…I love touring Detroit and taking pictures of Gothic cathedrals and I prefer attending Mass in a pristine 150 year old building than a circa 1970’s pole barn…..

I realize it takes money for the up-keep of those beautiful buildings

However, if Churches are merely using their tax-free exemption to pursue nefarious behaviors……has the time come to remove their exemption status?

I know of one particular protestant pastor who earns $150,000

I know of another who was granted a 3-month paid vacation

I know of another who drives a brand new Rolls Royce

I know of another who is a member of the most exclusive golf club in the state…he hob-nobs with celebrities.

I know of another pastor who lives in a gated community; in the most affluent city in the entire state

Most Pastors are more comfortable on the golf-course then in the ghetto

Hey, if everything in our economy was peachy keen….maybe these kind of extravagance’s could be justified…..but things aren’t so great.

It bothers me when I see parishioners who are unemployed…and who attend churches where the Pastor is living high-on-the-hog

It bothers me when I see single moms who are barely making it….who have very little help when it comes to baby sitting, house cleaning, and meeting the demands of life as a single mom…..

and then I see Pastor’s jetting off on vacation to Paris, the Caribbean, Prague….or wherever….

I only wish I was making these things up about Pastors…..but sadly I am not….

I know of one church that unanimously voted a great vacation package for their pastor….

and yet I know of a family in that church who is struggling to pay their bills, the family is struggling so much the young wife has to work 6 nights a week at a fast food restaurant in order to help pay for health insurance for her and her husband.

the new Pope intrigues me…..

Pope Francis, at least on the surface, appears to be ushering in an entirely new way we think of our church leaders;

Pope Francis seems to care about the poor, the lowly, the hurting, etc….

I am encouraged……

and yet…..when I look at all of the social ills which plague our society….and the way Pastors and churches tend to disregard these problems…..I am saddened

At what point should these high-on-the-hog pastors be held accountable?

Aren’t they giving a bad name to the church?

Fortunately I have my coffee…..otherwise I might get really pissed off!

Thankfully, Starbucks is brewing Veronna this morning!

Kenneth

 

 



Categories: Religion

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46 replies

  1. I think for you to even suggest taxing the church is nothing short of heretical. My pastor earns a lot of money and I am glad. He drives a brand new Cadillac SUV but it is evidence of our love for him as our pastor. For you to expect pastors to live lesser lives than the church members is absurd because it is because we appreciate our pastor that we want him to be taken care of financially.

    • “heretical” might be overstating it just a bit. Its not like the bible says its morally wrong to tax the church. but i do think the bible provides a foundation for us to believe taxing the church isn’t a good idea.

      Look, i get where your going with your article; a lot of churches are misusing the money they are taking in. But thats just life. bad things happen. nothing we can do about it. fortunately there are some good pastors out there who deserve three month vacataions.

    • being taken care of doesn’t mean taking advantage and i believe that’s what’s really being said here. there’s always that thought that you need to support the church with the idea that it helps show your love of God, etc., but when these pastors are living the way they are they are forgetting the message they are supposed to be sending that’s no okay. that it is love, not money that gets you to heaven; that it’s kindness, being caring and supportive of others that’s the point of religion – not money. im all for supporting pastors who deserve it, BUT that doesn’t mean taking advantage of the situation. so we’re supposed to just LET bad things happen to us? i think the fact that we’ve ALLOWED stuff to happen is why it’s become this way and not just in religion – this can definitely be seen in politics and the economy. it’s time to remind everyone that religion ISN’T about money and power, that it’s about love, forgiveness, belief in something greater than ourselves. i just think it’s sad that we put our faith in pastors who are suppose to be sending these messages but can’t live up to it themselves – seems hypocritical to me.

    • Daniel it great you love your pastor. It is wonderful that your church body sees to his needs . . . but . . . was Jesus “heretical” when he turned over the money changers table and said, “you will not make my house a den of thieves?” Was God wrong for punishing Eli and his son’s Hophi and Phinehas for taking the best before giving sacrifices? Was God wrong for punishing them for abusing the women in the church? Personally, I don’t think so! The monies given to the church should first meet the needs of the church, its people, community outreach, and then the leader. Sadly, parishioners have begun to idolize pastors until God’s work goes undone, thus, making God’s house a den of thieves. Pastors that take from the church as members go hungry are (as I see it) raping the church as did Hophi and Phinehas, and the members are allowing the molestation of God’s house to happen because of misplaced spiritual values just like Eli did.

  2. no coffee this morning Kenneth…you might need one of your blends to swallow what I have to say. I believe churches ministers priests all of them should be taxed…the church and the clergy no longer fulfill their social obligation. Once upon a time a after the bills were paid the rest of the money went to easing poverty in their community… priests once lived on a humble stipend (about $60-100 a week)and lived in housing provided on church property and there was a little thing called a vow of poverty…the church no longer hands out alms to the poor hasn’t for quite some time and do very little to ease the hardship in their communities… I live in rural Quebec Canada now and it is steeped in Catholic tradition. When you go to a small town in Quebec you will marvel at the splendor of the churches and then when you look at the community your heart will sink to see the condition of the houses by comparison… it makes me sick… and then if you want help (the little they provide as most food banks are run in the basements of churches… over Christmas I was forced to use a food bank sponsored by the church in my community…) you will be left disappointed I had lost my job as a result of my third heart attack… they didn’t give me very much and most of it I couldn’t eat because of health reasons which they inquired all about and yet gave it to me anyway…all the food they gave me was donated, most of it by local grocery stores at the same time I’m there I notice a menu on the door to the kitchen of the church…they charge for meals lunch every day at a cost of about $5 including desert… I also noticed that the food they did give me came out of those same pantries from which the cook started to make the lunch…so in my mind it is clear they are even using donated food to make a profit when it should be designated to helping those that don’t have anything… $5 isn’t much for a full meal but it’s $5 a day a poor person doesn’t have… until churches find their ethical roots it is my opinion they should be taxed to the hilt… let them feel some of that poverty that goes on in their community.

    • TJ,

      “Once upon a time a after the bills were paid the rest of the money went to easing poverty in their community”

      It really pisses me off that this is no longer the case!

      good thoughts 🙂

    • thank you Kenneth people seem to forget that the church was built on the ministries of Jesus… the very same Jesus that lived and walked among the poor (Born in a manger not the Ritz Hilton) and chief among his values were love and charity…the basic question is how far have churches strayed from that and are they now no more than businesses selling you salvation because they are not practicing what they are preaching…the same can be said about synagogues and mosques, they are no different…don’t get me wrong I am not knocking God…it is man because apparently very few people seem to understand the messages of our holy doctrines…Did Jesus ever take a 3 month vacation, or live in a nice house, or ride in a fine chariot…no he didn’t and his representatives on earth shouldn’t either…they should be trying to emulate the life of Christ…People just don’t get it anymore… on a last note…while Christ may be all forgiving but the old testament is part of our faith and Jesus’ Father might go all old testament on the ass in the afterlife of those that made a mockery of his son’s sacrifice in this one…

  3. Hmmm interesting post this morning.
    While I agree that there are many who abuse the ‘privilege’ or ‘calling’ to ministry and that their income should be comparable to the average income of let’s say the congregation they minister at (I don’t know if that’s fair but let’s say they get paid the average salary in whatever country they are from) There are many people that dedicate their life to ministry, for free even.
    It’s a shame when the ‘Hollywood effect’ trickles into religion.
    But in all fairness we don’t know the past off all of these pastors that you speak of, maybe they have family wealth, maybe they were lawyers before they followed the calling to ministry.
    I think you are suppose to ‘lead by example’ and these ‘glorified pods’ certainly are not doing just that.
    I’m not trying to promote my blog here but I want to link you to my very first poem that I wrote in 2009, I took a chance posting in my first week blogging. I noticed that it was poetry month so I thought hey, I’ll post my one and only poem and people liked it, I got inspired and the poetry has been flowing since then!
    I wrote this poem one day while I was thinking deeply on faith and science
    You can delete the link after you read it, I just wanted to share it with you.
    Thanks for giving me something to think about this morning.
    Enjoy your Star Bucks. I have an espresso machine at home and I am sipping on a latte.
    Jennifer

  4. It seems almost like the situation with politicians…they’re there to serve, but don’t pay them and they’ll steal what they think they deserve. Is that the past? Now they get paid and some still steal. I went to an Black Baptist church in Cleveland for the ecstatic energy…and the sermons were unabashadly money-oriented. One woman pastor collected $24,000 to remodel the home of a member who was wheelchair-bound, then made off with the cash. She was there…dressed in a beautiful white dress, and a hat that probably cost more than all the clothes I own. A lot of Catholic churches here in Central America are benevolent, the priests living the same as their parishoners…and they push for rights and justice…think ArchBishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who Reagan’s goons assassinated on the steps of his church because he gave the impoverished the idea they were being misused by those in power. The restaurant across from my place is owned by the gringo Godfather of Tamarindo, and he has allows the local church to use his place for Bingo Nights para gratis. This man won’t put toothpicks on the tables because diners use them frivolously unless they have to go up and ask for one…there’s no way he and the local priest aren’t in the backroom tossing 10,000 colones bills in the air like confetti and yelling, “Bingo !” This comment is all over the board because this situation is so unique to every individual situation and church leader.
    Later…

    • coyote,

      lots of good things in your comment.

      One of the weird things about the Roman Catholic church is that I admire them so much for the way their priests essentially only take enough to live on…they don’t live extravagant lives at all, but then I look at Vatican City, all the money that goes into keeping it going….and THEN there is the whole priest/molestation thing…..its a troublesome issue……because there is so MUCH to admire about the Roman Catholic church and so MUCH to hate…..

    • My only experiences are Cleveland – Catholic schools recruiting athletes from ghetto-land like Ohio State or U.S.C. – Italy…Vatican – and Latin America where they are community support. All the divergence you mentioned. Being a Scandy/Native American non-believer I had never thought about them that much. Not going to start now.
      Later….

  5. Gee Kenneth – I can’t imagine you getting any grief about this one:)

    (thank you.)

  6. Some churches genuinely do a lot of good work and selflessly serve others. Other churches are wealthy and do the lip service. I don’t know.

  7. I was curious to see what others said about your post. I live in the South (not sure where you live) but I was surprised to see more posts agreeing with you than not. You are brave! I was really going to say what Rhan said. 🙂

  8. You just defined the exact reason I walked away from organized religion … and forged a link between this blog and your one on contradiction. I loathe those type of pastors – the hypocrisy is astounding. I wholeheartedly support churches who undertake missionary work, home and abroad, but cannot take a word of preaching from people who set aside whole chunks of scripture in order to support their preferred lifestyle. Likeeise constant ‘refurbishments’ of buildings that suffice to hold services – I personally prefer the British model if preserving old churches where, as buildings if historic interest, thechurch doesn’t bear sole responsibility fir preservation but must allow secular access to buildings funded by social monies. Personally I’d cap funds removed for non parish or charitable work and pastors would receive nothing more than the national average income for similar work and a very closely monitored expense account. Eye of the needle anyone?

    Incidentally, whilst I share your concerns about charitable spending, remember some if those homespun deals actually donate more funds per receipt due to lower overhears and non-salaried personnel … unlike so many if the big guys. Ask her if she produces an Annual Report detailing her spending. That and Tax Returns should be charitable status funding requirements and are usually required to be public.

    • Wild,

      what you’ve written is something i hear on a regular daily/weekly basis; people who have left organized religion because of the abuses and hypocrisy they see…..it is so sad….

      I don’t want to discount all of the ‘good’ priests and pastors…but sadly…..it seems like they are in the minority.

  9. The church is supreme, the church is pious,
    and thought of taxing, sounds so heinous.
    but, situation is dire, jobs being axed,
    I don’t find a reason, why the church should’nt be taxed.

  10. I understand where you are coming from, the frustration towards those who so blatantly (and dare I say, sinfully) use and misuse funds that would be better used elsewhere. My concern is that the good, the bad, and the ugly are all being lumped in together. Tax those who abuse the system, and likely put out of existence those who don’t abuse it and who are actually doing the things they should be doing.

    I have worked on a church staff in the past, and I have friends who are ‘in the ministry’. I can see both sides of the issue. But I have also seen pastors take pay cuts to the detriment of their own families, volunteers and staff members alike spend many hours of their own time loving the people not only in the church but also in the community, chuches that open their doors free of charge to community groups who need a meeting space, money spent to put the homeless up in a hotel until they can be connected to long term help, bus tickets bought to send hurting people back to the families they left in a drug-induced haze, and funerals paid for because a spouse had no money to cover the cost (I was that spouse).

    I don’t think much in this world is black and white, including this. But I do know that there are those churches out there barely making ends meet financially, yet still pushing on to meet the call of Christ in serving their communities. They’re the ones doing it right, and what happens to them when they can’t pay the taxes?

    Food for thought all around. Thanks for the post.

    Monica

    • Monica….i like your sentence, “I don’t think much in this world is black and white”

      i totally agree……I think where we often go wrong as a society is we want to believe that everything IS black and white…but as you said…there are a lot more grey areas than we want to admit

  11. You make some very good points in this blog today…
    Yes…here it comes…
    BUT
    Not all pastors are in situations like you mentioned. Many of us are bi or even tri vocational. In fact, 80 % of pastors serve in small churches with even smaller budgets.I personally work 60+ hours a week in our coffee house and then spend the rest of my time serving in the community, studying, fixing swap coolers, serving on the local school board, and teaching suicide intervention classes occasionally…
    Why do I share this? Not for any accolades, only to make this point-
    Do not punish the lot for the actions of a few.
    If our small church were taxed on the meager amount that comes through our giving box, we would not be able to do the few ministries we are blessed to do.
    Maybe those pastors who are abusing their positions should be the ones who get taxed?

    • shepherd….

      good thoughts….

      (although I had to read your comment twice because the first time i thought you said that most pastors were bi….and I thought you meant ‘bi-sexual’)

    • LOL
      Yeah, it really gets the conversation going when I tell someone, “I’m a Bi-vocational pastor.” It always gets a double take!
      But it’s a great ice breaker!

  12. im not sure about the taxing part – i certainly agree with the overall sentiment (see my comments to some of your commenters). i agree with scott (who just commented) – it would be very difficult to tax those smaller churches where the pastors are legit. i realize you just brought up the notion, not necessarily the how it would happen. it is an interesting idea though. i do wonder how that would mess up the whole separation of church and state? that line is continually being attacked any more and if the church is to be taxed i wonder if they would then go on to say then that prayer has to be allowed in school which opens up pandora’s box on okay so what type of prayer by who for who as there’s so many different religions here. it would be an interesting thing to see and from here my guess is despite being taken for a ride so to speak, my guess is there would be backlash on that idea anyway. very interesting thoughts and again i agree that the idea of religion has been lost – but then again the money and church has always coincided for a long time – going back to the medieval days. great post! 😀

    • Jen,

      I agree with all you said 🙂

      on a completely different side note:

      Some days I wake up and think to myself…..am i REALLY going to write another article about church??? to be honest…because I grew up in such a ‘christian’ family…i get tired thinking of all the problems with the church….

      BUT

      when I look at other blogs….and when i read newspaper articles….and when i turn on the radio…..

      the subject of CHURCH really dominates a lot of thought in America & Europe….

      And even though it gets tiresome talking about church and religion; they are so intertwined in the lives of millions and millions of people I believe they are very important to discuss 🙂

  13. Why tax the church? The church already pays its share of payroll tax and property tax on adjacent buildings. It pays utility tax, gasoline tax, et al. Perhaps a more direct approach to the underlying problem would be in order, because taxing the church more will not bring the desired result of a more equitable distribution of capital. Hoe can anyone jusify riding around in an $80,000 automobile, when there are people within the shadows of the church building who are homeless, hungry and forsaken? The true answer is revival to the preaching of the Gospel that Jesus quoted in the temple, taken from Isaiah 61. Bring justice to the downtrodden. Stop turning a deaf ear to the hungry. Visit the shut-ins! While this may not be totally palatable to “modern” Christians, why not at least give the marginals the same amount of money that yhe church would pay in property tax, if it were required to do so. It’s a start. Who knows, maybe a revival will break out and some people will give generously!

  14. No taxes for the church. Ever.

  15. Maybe just talking about taxes will be enough to get their (the churches) attention. I’ve never understood why churches are tax-exempt. In a way they are businesses, ideally non-profits. If they actually used that status to help their communities, financially and otherwise, then all well and good. But I don’t see it, at least not often. Perhaps one approach would be to start with the mega-churches: have a sliding tax scale so smaller congregations have little to no tax to pay. Oh, wait, that’s progressive. What am I thinking? (It’s been many hours since my last caffeine fix.)

  16. Religion has become business and is therefore run like one. The top dog gets all the good stuff, and sticks it to those it is supposed to serve.

  17. Yes, we probably all know at least one pastor who is living “high on the hog,” so to speak. But please keep in mind that this is far and away the exception, rather than the rule. I’ve visited many churches and met dozens of pastors over the years, and I don’t think a single one of them made anywhere near $100,000 a year. (My current pastor certainly doesn’t.) Most church buildings are so small and nondescript that most people don’t notice when they drive past them. A lot are lucky to keep the lights on from week to week. It’s not uncommon for pastors of small congregations to have to work full or part-time jobs in addition to their ministry just to make ends meet.

    Being a pastor is considered self-employment by the federal government. Churches can offer to pay half of the pastor’s social security taxes as a favor, but they don’t have to. Ever been self-employed? The tax burden is quite steep.

    Also consider what a church does for its community, even if it doesn’t engage in outreach to the poor. The pastor is usually on call 24/7 to pray for the sick, comfort the dying, or counsel a couple on the verge of divorce. The bigger the congregation, the greater the demands, and the work is mentally and emotionally draining. Some ministers pull double-duty as both preacher and musician/worship leader. (My dad did, for about 20 grand a year in income, total.)

    In addition, most of the wealthy mega-church pastors got that way–not by tithes and offering–but by writing books or launching successful television programs. And that income is certainly subject to taxation. One well-known mega-church pastor who made a fortune off of his books actually paid his congregation back for all of the income they had given him in previous years and now does his ministry on a volunteer basis.

    But here’s the big question: Who should churches and ministers be accountable to? Should it not be to the people who voluntarily fund them? Most churches hold yearly budget meetings so people know how their offerings are being spent. A church board usually has to vote to give the pastor a raise. Church members generally have voting power as well (something even low-level corporate employees don’t get.) If I don’t like what my church is doing with my money, I can withdraw it and spend it somewhere else–same with any other charitable organization. So why should we make churches accountable to the government, which invests nothing in the church’s activities, especially when we know how poor of a job the government currently does at holding anyone accountable? All it would do is place an undue burden on small congregations and limit their charitable work–which is often personal and not immediately recognized.

  18. Oh my. I heard a comment like that a couple weeks ago that they’re getting paid a shitload of money. I guess the European system is different. All the priests I know live in places that usually have no TV and all the usual home comforts you find nowadays. They do travel for religious things (pilgrimage…) but most of the time on trains (Germany to Italy by train is awesome!).
    I wish they would stop wasting our money! Catholic Germans pay church taxes (quite a lot!) and I hate seing that money being wasted!

    • Suze,

      I only yesterday learned that catholic germans had to pay an actual ‘church tax’ wow, i had no idea

    • “A German court gave its backing yesterday to a decree by the country’s Catholic bishops declaring that believers who refused to pay an eight per cent church tax could not be considered Catholic and would automatically lose the right to receive Holy Communion and a religious burial.”
      here is the article:
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-court-warns-catholics-pay-church-tax-or-face-expulsion-8180811.html

      That’s how it works here.. I am the only Catholic in my family still paying the 8%. My siblings and father are not “catholic” anymore. (they sort of resigned) I am the only one in the family who attends curch anymore .. pretty sad.

    • Also you can’t marry in church anymore if you’re not a “registered catholic” (which also means one of the paying) (at least in Germany!). And I see why. Why would somebody get a free ceremony? 😉 I don’t mind the 8 per cent, really not. As long as they’re invested and not used for vacations and shit like that! 😦

  19. You clearly hang out at the wrong churches, Kenny. Your reasoning skills also need to develop a bit more. Rather than make broad generalizations with little facts, I would encourage you to use data from time to time before you make broad generalizations about pastors. Here’s an example:

    The common educational requirements for a pastor is a masters degree; I don’t think the salary level for pastors is out of line with that level of education. I’d also add that while churches are tax exempt, pastors are not. That is, they pay federal, state, property, sales tax. They do have an option to opt out of social security, but if they do, they are not allowed to receive benefits. So your problem with Church tax exemption based on Pastors’ salaries seems ill founded.

    Further, if salary levels of paid employees are to be used as a determination for tax-exempt status, lets form a line for all non-profits with salaries > $200K – why should only churches be targeted?

    Your mention of the family struggling in the church is another example of poor reasoning viz a viz, broad generalization based on a single point reference with incomplete information. Leaving aside that it is only a single point reference, do you know that the church is not helping this family out? do you know that the church is aware of their problem and elected not to help? do you know if an offer was made and the family refused?

    In all the churches I have visited, participated in, and am aware of, the good work that they do is typically done quietly and discreetly (Matthew 6). In our small congregation we regularly support families in difficulty (members and non-members), provide food and clothing to those in need, minister to those in jail, fund foreign missions, etc. I would say that our congregation is more typical than atypical – we all do wish we could do more, and often we don’t do it perfectly, but we hardly fit the straw man you have constructed. I would challenge you to do a little research on relief organizations in the metro Detroit area and see how broadly faith based organizations are caring for the poor in this area. Churches have been tax exempt for exactly this social benefit that they bring to their communities.

    One of the fundamental tenets in our country is a separation of church and state. This was originally intended to protect expressions of faith from government manipulation and control. This understanding may have changed a bit over time, but the main point is still respected. It is, however, a two-edged sword. Early court decisions regarding tax-exempt status for churches recognized this separation – courts held that the power to tax is the power to control, and that would be a violation of the first amendment.

    I’m not sure why so much of your blog is written to attack or criticize organized religion – especially, if not solely, Christianity?

  20. Kenny,

    I am not going to beat you up because I think it is OK to ask questions.

    As a pastor, I can tell you that I am taxed personally, My church does not pay taxes but I do. Also you should look up the typical church in America and you will find that most barely make it financially. Mine has a budget of about $40,000 which is why I work a second job. Fairly typical is a budget of around 50 to 150k. Pastor’s have differing levels of education but most hold Master’s degrees so they probably should be paid at that level but most are well bellow. What you see in large churches and TV guys is probably 1-2% of churches. Most of us either just get by or struggle.

    The taxation of churches would cause a problem. It is called it would be declared unconstitutional. I believe it has been tried before. The grounds would be that if the churches are taxed than the gag order on churches being pulpits for political action would have to be lifted. If we are going to help pay the governments bills, than we better have more say in how the money is spent. Also, then I better be allowed to get government funding for projects just like any other organization. Sorry, cuts both ways this separation of church and state. Both have to stay on their side of the line. We can’t establish a state religion and they in turn can’t tax us.

    • Ed, great thoughts……and I think you make a splendid point: if the government is going to dish out money for other organizations…than why not dish out money to churches as well…as you said it “cuts both ways”

    • It’s more than that, the moment you tax churches is the moment that you open a whole Pandora’s box of issues of separation of church and state. Ultimately, though it will be opposed because a whole ton of people would oppose it because you have Christians on both sides of the isle and then they would ask — what about mosques and synagogues? It gets ugly from there.

  21. Ed Raby Sr is much better explaining the unintended consequences of taxing churches. A conclusion to issues of separation of church and state– if the church is taxed, then it is only a few steps away from establishing a State church. I have lived in places where State churches were implemented. There was a church tax as well as a State tax (State as in Country).Also students were required to take religious classes as part of their schooling. We don’t realize how intertwined religion is in other countries and how it is used to govern people.

  22. You point out examples of hypocrisy in churches. I’m pretty sure most people would agree with you. I certainly would. We could quibble about whether or not this is a fully fair picture – but the point is valid.

    The tax issue is different, IMO. Tax exemption is not a contribution of the government or the community to the church. It is a product of the 1st amendment. The ability to tax remains the ability to control – and the one thing above all others governments (or anyone) lacks the right to even try to control is religious belief. (Obviously church organizations – like other religious organizations – have often sought to use governments to do just that in their favor – but it is still a profound obscenity.) In the U.S., the theory behind not taxing churches has nothing to do with the virtues or vices of those churches (or mosques or synagogues or other religious expressions). They are not even non-profits / charities – which are judged by other criteria. It is more the premise that the government must keep its hands off religion. I mention it because I’m inclined to agree with that premise – and to say that any government that seeks to either compel religious belief or interfere in religious belief is committing an appalling human rights abuse.

    Having said that, there is a separate issue. Individuals who contribute to churches receive deductions on their own taxes. Churches and other non-profits support this system because they believe it increases the money coming in. That should be stopped. If it does, in fact, increase the money coming in, that increase is coming not from donations but from a tax burden shifted to others. (Of course, I tend to think all deductions should be stopped. All they serve to do is complicate the tax system and they are ultimately unfair.)

  23. This was interesting to read. I grew up as a Preacher’s Kid, well versed in the traditions of the independent Baptist traditions; and I’ve walked away from organized religion. And my dad, no longer a minister, has interestingly changed his views of most of that nonsense as well. We’ve had some rather long and involved discussions about it.
    Hypocrisy and incongruent living aside, there’s another reason that churches should be taxed. Presuming the pastor of the church isn’t otherwise morally corrupt — they exist, I assure you, but are rare — he’s compromised in his ability to deliver the word of God by his tax-free status. If the government giveth, then the government can taketh away; and I’ve heard pastors back off from biblical precepts to protect their tax-exempt status. Which to my mind imbues these men with a de facto inconsistency.
    And to me, that undermines their ability to tell me anything about morality.

  24. Definitely agree, especially here in Asia. We have ruthless businessmen converting to become pastors after they’re passed a certain age, thinking they could clean their sin. Some pastors charge a thousand dollar for people to go hear their sermons, and one in Indonesia even has his own private jet. I think it’s disgusting how these people who are supposed to be leaders misuse their power for their own benefits. Even stupider for us to be blinded and follow. Same goes for all religions, so I’m not attacking Christians here. Buddhist monks in China can be seen prompting Gucci bags, when they’re supposed to be swearing off materials. Sadly, in most cases, religion is just a business.

  25. Well thought-out article. And how can a tax-free Church even begin to call the government into question when that is needed? Tax free status has actually enslaved the Church to the will of the State.

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