Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

In defence of keeping religious institutions tax free

DCblogger's picture

Riverdaughter

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.

0
No votes yet

Comments

Submitted by lambert on

... only megachurches will survive. This is an interesting perspective:

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.

Submitted by Lex on

Watching the news last night, i commented to the Betterhalf that only in America would we pat ourselves on the back for a church giving away back-to-school supplies and gently used clothing rather than using our substantial ability to fix the underlying issues that lead to families not being able to afford fucking pencils.

I'm a fan of taxing the churches, though not necessarily property taxes. However, the way i would tax churches would leave the small churches that spend what little money they bring in on maintenance and service to the poor/community alone. I'd tax the churches that can afford television stations and shit.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

As I understand it, the basis for religious institutions having tax-exempt status is that they provide services that otherwise would be provided (hah!) by the government.

[I worked for years with an interfaith group which, sadly, no longer exists, whose members were religious institutions providing aid to the hungry. We banded together to ask for more government aid to the hungry, and against things like cuts to food stamps and welfare "reform", because our institutions were finding it increasingly impossible to meet the needs of the hungry, often working, New Yorkers who showed up at our food banks and soup kitchens.]

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

(Yes, I know...Arizona) There are hundreds of "Future Home" signs all over big tracts of land. All owned by some crazy church and all off of the tax rolls....for years and years and years. In the meantime, the churches "rent" space in our public schools and then cover over the public school signs with their own each sunday - as if they own the places.

If they're are going to buy land for "future homes" then they should be required to build within 5 years or lose that property's tax exempt status.

Submitted by lambert on

... based on congregation size, since the larger the church, the greater the local impact on services and plant.

I know that probably doesn't help older churches with big stone buildings they can't really pay for, but maybe it's time to bite the bullet on that anyhow and move to "upper room" status?

mtngun's picture
Submitted by mtngun on

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.

Yet the US has taxed churches in the past, and they didn't fold.

My beef is not so much the tax exemption on the church building itself, as on all the other property and investments owned by churches.

The Mormon church owns ranches, farms, shopping malls, restaurants, etc.. They are one of the largest landowners in the country.

Other churches own HUGE investment portfolios.

That said, I favor an exemptionless, progressive property tax, for all the reasons economist Michael Hudson has spelled out.

The problem with granting tax exemptions is that once you open that door, it's impossible to close it. Everyone and their brother will want a special exemption.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

tried to change the law that only property that was used for religious purposes (Church buildings, schools, hospitals, summer camps etc.) and church owened property that was not part of the religious mission (office buildings, ranches, etc) would be taxed. The blow back was overwhelming.

Submitted by lambert on

nt