Should churches be taxed?

by Leiand W. Ruble

Should organized religion be taxed? And if not, why not? For most of the population, religion exists in a peculiar, rarefied atmosphere. It is for most people (even though they may have some doubts) the only source of hope they have for continuing their existence after the body has expired.

Naturally they expect restitution in heaven, a sort of reward for countless prayers; a moral life; and obedience to God. Obviously, taxation of a faith based on a biblical God, would be a desecration of this image.

Religion therefore, has been able to develop and prosper without the payment of taxes that are required from most other organizations that teach a certain philosophy or concept of existence. The majority do not think of religious mysticism as an ideology that is taxable. They feel you cannot tax a church whose reverend is a representative of God. A person who has conversations and visions with the Lord of all, the Almighty.

Presumably because religion is more concerned with the afterlife, Heaven, Hell, and a government presided over by an assembly of angels, saints, and evangelists, and considers sin as the main cause of discord on this planet, it has been exempted from taxation. It is a privilege that has granted religion an elite status that few other organizations, activities, and the productivity of human labor is immune from.

The mystical exploitation of religion has created a hierarchy of sanctimonious pedagogues who prosper in an environment free of obligation to the society from which they profit immensely. There is no such thing as a non-profit religion. If there were non-profit religions, most established religions would not exist.

Why then, is religion exempt from taxation? There are those who assume that it is to prevent government influence into the activities of religion, and to prevent the same from interfering in the affairs of government. It is also thought that taxation of religion would restrict its growth, thus constricting the freedom of worship and making it difficult for religious activity to flourish.

This does not make sense. If a mystical organization cannot prosper or survive because of taxation, it must not have a message or purpose worth sustaining, nor the ability to communicate a concept that appeals to the public. If it requires exemption from taxation as the only way it can exist, then it is a religion based on a superficial concept of Biblical nonsense that eventually the public will ignore.

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States of America and a leading promoter and authority of the U.S. Constitution, had this to say in regard to the exemption of taxation for religious organizations: "Are the U.S. duly awake to the tendency of the precedents they are establishing, in the multiplied incorporations of religious congregations with the faculty of acquiring and holding property real as well as personal...?

The people of the U.S. owe their independence and their Liberty to the wisdom of descrying in the minute of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings."

Apparently not all future legislators or bureaucrats visualized the tenacity of religion to develop into huge corporations with vast properties, investments, and influence over legislation favorable to its prosperity. The present has proven Madison correct in his assumption.

The scheming and manipulation of the frenzied, right wing religious fundamentalists, has proven that religion untaxed, is more dangerous to Liberty than taxation of the same. Why should an institution founded on fantasy and myth, be exonerated from taxation while existing in a society that supports the infrastructure and services that make it possible for that religion to succeed?

My freedom, yours, and every other individual that exists in this society, is threatened by the immense influence of organized religion in its massive appeal to legislate laws favorable to its establishment. We, unlike the religionists, do not as individuals, have the use of untaxed funds or Christianized Coalitions that exist to exercise leverage over politicians.

What is Democratic, what is justifiable in allowing the churches the extraordinary freedom to exist exempt from taxation??? Especially when the exempted religions pursue as their objective, the influence of legislation favorable to their continued material advancement.

The survival of organized revealed religion is dependent on not only the generosity of its members, but also from a government that is sympathetic to the continued domination of mystical authority in the affairs of state and society. Witness George Bush receiving the blessing from his religious minister for the carpet bombing and resulting mass murder of Iraqi civilians during the Desert Storm exercise in ignorance.

The established religions have prospered in an environment that is maintained through the taxation of others for such simple things as street upkeep, courts of law, police and fire protection, or any of the many other services that the public pays for. It is we the people, who are assuring that religious associations can perform their functions, while they are exempted from the same obligation.

They have been granted an exclusion, that is based on the erroneous concept, that religion is a non-profit enterprise. Anyone who believes religion is not profitable and exists solely as a distributor of myth and magic, has not looked recently at the vast resources and property that churches have acquired as non-profit organizations.

The fact Christian religious leaders accept, and even court, the tax-exemption illustrates without question the non-altuistic, greedy and hypocritical nature which permeates Christianity. Not paying your fair share of anything, including taxes, reveals a non-altruistic and greedy streak.

That's exactly what you would think of someone in a group of friends who all go on an outing and all chip-in to pay for expenses with the exception of one individual. And that selfish person is one of the very wealthiest people in the group! It will only be a matter of time until the others catch on and refuse to allow the unfairness.

Christian leaders add the ingredient of hypocrisy to themselves and their mythology by pretending to be followers of Jesus who allegedly believed religions SHOULD pay taxes to existing governments by saying, according to Luke 20:25, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." According to this quote from their holy book, their god would be against tax-exemptions for his followers.

As Thomas Paine wrote, "... the Church has set up a system of religion very contradictory to the character of the person whose name it bears. It has set up a religion of pomp and of revenue, in pretended imitation of a person whose life was humility and poverty."

The religions of this nation do not contribute, in any way, to my freedom, your Liberty, or the future of civilization. Freed of taxation they exist exclusively as a hierarchy whose interest is the exploitation of others!

IS IT NOT TIME THAT WE THE PUBLIC DEMAND THAT THE RELIGIONS OF THIS NATION PAY FOR THEIR PARTICIPATION IN SOCIETY??? Is it not the proper time to cease characterizing religious institutions as a privileged ideology that is more important than other philosophies and concepts?

Why should the labor of a person working eight hours a day be taxed, while a preacher is allowed to avoid taxation in many area? Why should there be a tax for the general public, but not for those engaged in the production (or fabrication) of a religious ideology? Is the enterprise of corporate religion any better or more useful to society than an individual who thinks about existence from a philosophical and rational perspective? I think not.

There is no such thing as an aristocracy of thought or complete agreement on any conception. Religion in all its many forms, does not have the exclusive answers to the complexity of existence. Its reliance on mystical incomprehension and the miraculous is rooted in the dreams and desires of primitive man.

Taxation of religion is based on fairness and justice. It is a notification to those who represent corporate religion that they are not a special institution or a favored aristocracy. It is telling them they do have an obligation to support society in the form of taxation. Particularly when, as the Christian Coalition is doing, they use the millions of dollars saved from taxes to pump into the campaigns of politicians who agreed to spread their brand of bigotry and superstition.