Monday School: Is it finally time to tax the Churches?

 
It’s Monday! It’s Monday! It’s time once again for Monday School! Another installment of the ‘Rational Corrective To All That Nonsense You Learned Yesterday!

This week, I’m going to tackle an interesting question: Do the Churches as we see them today function as a charity or a business?

This subject came to me because of an event I was invited to last weekend but was unable to attend. Various atheists in the city were invited to attend a conversation that was to take place at an RC Church between their people and some non-believers. The purpose of the event was according to the organizers was to ‘foster mutual understanding and friendship among believers and non-believers through conversation, music and a social gathering’.

Seems like a cool idea, and had I been available I would have attended. Alas, that was my weekend with Ethan so I had to pass. From what I’m hearing from some Atheists that attended was the panel for non-believers was poorly chosen and that not many others on that side showed up as well. The event organizers claim that invites to many non-believers, especially the group run at McMaster were invited months ago, but that just isn’t true. The person I was invited by was the person who runs the McMaster group and she get the invite until less than a week before and that’s when it was passed to me. Zero notice was given, hence the poor turnout by non-believers.

There is a saying in the Atheists: organizing Atheists is compared to herding cats. It can be a hard task as we all seem to want to go in our own directions.

Back to the subject at hand, while discussing our disappoint of the event online, some people I interact with came up with the subject of Churches and their tax exemption. Many of us are convinced that Churches in both Canada and the US have grown beyond what should be protected from tax exemption. The fact is today’s churches have grown into businesses… some of the largest in the world actually.

Religious organizations have been adapting to the new reality and do whatever they can to generate money for their coffers, whether it be renting out halls and even their own churches for weddings. It’s also a home for choirs and it also provides services for birth registrations and funerals if so desired. These are not actions of a charity, but ones made by what has been a very profitable business.

My gripe is should taxpayers be shafted from the profits churches have been making for generations? Should a single dollar that we pay go to subsidize the continuation of their existence as it was? The answer to that should be a resounding no, but still churches get away with their exemption and ability to make profits without paying their fare share like every other company that makes money off our citizens.

Many Churches (especially in the US) have been using their influence to sway voters and take a political stand on many issues, which they are not allowed to do if they wish to keep their tax exemption. For this reason alone, many churches in the states should be stripped of their exemption and start paying up right now, set an example with a few to make sure that others don’t cross that political line the next time they feel tempted to preach politics.

According to an organization called Tax the Churches Another reason why their tax-exempt status should be removed is because that status is routinely abused. The site states “Consider the fact that there are countless phony churches that are created just to dodge paying taxes. An IRS attorney actually had the minerals to list a brothel as a Church that ‘sisterly love’ was being offered to their male parishioners in exchanged for donations.” Seriously?

The site also states that the exemption 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 … It’s 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. “

I realize what a lot of people are going to say in response to this: some churches do a lot of charitable work and that shouldn’t be taxed. That much I agree with but the tax codes in both our nations are very complex and can split hairs between what is charitable work and what is business profits. If Churches are going to charge ridiculous prices for their own parishioners to use their own church or hall to get married, that should be taxed as income.

Charities don’t practice like that and is just another reason why churches need to be taxed. They are organizations that have great influence and are selling a product. Tax-exempt status is a privilege, not a right. Churches should be held to the same standards as other non-profits if not higher standards.

So what do you think? Is it high time the churches give their fair share to the tax man?

PJ

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