16 June 2012

Churches: reaming your tax dollars

Hemant Mehta has a great post up today about the cost of churches not paying taxes. I have no idea why churches get tax-exempt status, but it's always seemed absurd. Given the whole "congress shall make no law" thing, it seems like obvious unconstitutional favoritism to allow churches to reside on often huge properties and even hand out conservative-leaning 'voting guides' without paying a nickel.

Anyway, so how much is this tax exemption costing us? Brace yourself:
While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion — to the tune of about $71 billion every year.
I'll leave it to you to peruse the rest of the article. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the data (there's a link in the original post to a defense of the methodology in Free Inquiry), but it certainly seems plausible. Churches are everywhere. Many of them are massive, and bring in millions of dollars in revenue. And none of them pay taxes.

Right now, Tulsa is facing some serious budget shortfalls. We've had to close several schools, and there has been much talk and debate about firing more teachers. And I do not think it's a stretch to say that our city, with churches about as hard to find as gas stations, could benefit immensely from the revenue a simple property tax on churches would generate.

Of course, that might mean some of our pastors might not be able to afford million-dollar homes and Mercedes coups, but you'd think that paying for education would be a priority for Christians over stuff. Y'know, "store up treasures in heaven", etc. etc. But then again, the only thing easier to find in this town than a Christian church is a Christian hypocrite.

Asbury United Methodist, just a few miles from my home.

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