In defence of keeping religious institutions tax free
We are letting the religious skate away tax free
If religious property were taxed almost all churches would fold. It is difficult enough to come up with the money to maintain a building, pay a minister and choir director (which is mostly a part time job). There is no way my church, or almost any urban church, could pay the property tax on which the building sits. I would effectively be deprived of my right to worship.
Now you might think, what are the chance that would ever happen? Actually I think it could happen. As Atrios often points out, the biggest threat to religion is not atheism, but other religions. The conservatives don't like churches like mine saying that women are equal, that Gays Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders should be welcomed into church, and that ministry must include some sort of service to the poor. Conservatives don't like churches that teach that the bible is not to be taken literally, that there is no contradiction between the Gospel and science, that we are stewards of the earth and will be judged by the sort of stewards we have been. The conservatives really don't like us. They would love to shut us down. At some point someone will realize that the best way to get rid of the liberal religious is to tax church property. The cathedrals and megachurches would survive, most of them, but the millions of little churches, the ones that minister to the needs or ordinary people would be wiped out.
Churches are the last institution still in the hands of the middle class. Most of the meetings for single payer health care are held in Churches. During the Occupations here in DC Churches provided showers and laundry services for Occupiers. Churches also provided other logistical support.
Urban churhces are the politically strongest advocates of anti-poverty programs. Urban churches are taking the lead in defying these horrid prohibitions of feeding the homeless on public property. Most homeless shelters are run by religious institutions (and frankly we need secular homeless shelters, especially for GLBT children), almost all soup kitchens are run by churches, taxing church property would make this work impossible, which is why the kleptocracy might do it.
Churches will play a decisive role in the coming overthrow of the kleptocracy, which is why sooner or later, someone will have the happy idea of ending their tax free status.