Alternet says that it's "Time to Tax the Church." Is it?

Over on Alternet, there's a post by Adam Lee, "How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- It's Time to Tax the Church." He says as follows:

By some estimates, the property tax exemption alone removes $100 billion in property from U.S. tax rolls, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Would the world be better off without religion? That was the topic of a recent debate in the NYU Intelligence Squared series. One of the audience questions concerned the enormous wealth hoarded by churches....

I've left a few comments there. Below is my most recent, as of the original posting date of this blog post. I might post more comments there and update this post with them.

Before going on to read what I posted over there, let me say that it is beyond ironic that Alternet is a 501(c)(3), just as is this Church. Alternet selling advertising space. It makes money. It pays salaries. In what way is it not a business while this Church is? Alternet is a non-profit. This Church is a non-profit.

I'll tell you what though, I'll stack up what this Church is trying to do with donations against what Alternet does with its any day of the week. That's not pride talking. That's truth.

Mark Jacobs,

A good Christian is a careful person. If tax exemptions were removed for all religions, it would not impact only the heads of large congregations. It would hit the small and poor as well. Jesus cautioned against taking the wheat with the chaff. You have not done that. Search your soul on it, my friend.

As for Jesus speaking on taxes, it would behoove you to re-read it in full context. In very fact, Christ said that the children of God owe no taxes. They are to be free of taxes. He did not pay taxes for conscience' sake but rather simply not to offend the ignorant – those who do not comprehend. Peter comprehended. It took awhile.

You also said that Jesus whipped people. Where does it say that? It does not say that he whipped anyone. If he had beaten anyone, he would have been tried and convicted for it. You will note that the Jewish Sanhedrin kangaroo court did not mention a word about any whipping of any people.

In what way was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s tax-exemption offensive? In what way would the money (given to aid him in his historic civil-rights ministry) have been better used by those who spent billions killing millions in Vietnam?

My father was a preacher. The tax-exempt donations given to him helped him be a national voice in the Nuclear-Arms Testing Freeze Movement (look up the Nuclear Freeze). The people in Washington want to overturn the Freeze. Would you rather he had not been able to do that? The funding wasn't going to come from the richest of the rich. It came from members of the Church, many of whom were very middle and working class. He also ran a home for the homeless. Without tax-exemptions for it, it wouldn't have been possible; and he never forced any sermons on anyone. I met many of the homeless ones. They truly loved my dad and respected his efforts.

The comments on this post have focused upon prosperity preachers and Roman Catholics for the most part. What about the Peace Churches? Are you unaware of them?

Besides that though, many people forget Catholic charities. It's a shame what has been done to them at secular hands. The Roman Catholic Church has made huge mistakes, but crushing the baby (small, non-Roman Catholic assemblies) while throwing out the bath water is far from a good solution.

If you tax Churches, there will be no free exercise. Without free exercise, theocrats could, and will, more easily work to establish a state religion. Think about that. Things have not been getting better; and the worse they get, the more radical people will become going in all directions. Historically, fascism (a police state) has always gained in the most troubled economic times. If you squeeze Churches that are already squeezed (and they are being squeezed), you will open the door for militant Zealots and greater strife.

Rather than calling for taxing Churches, why don't you learn about United States Notes and Public Banking and other monetary reform measures that if done correctly, would do away with taxes completely? I've written extensively on that.

Don't lump all religious people together.

Jesus did tell the rich man to go and give everything away and follow Jesus, but Jesus also lived with his disciples from one purse and took donations to fill it.

There are many things that can be done with mammon to translate it into what won't need mammon anymore. That's why I started the Christian Commons Project. The greediest of the greedy don't hate any idea more. It's light years ahead of secular war-mongers taxing everyone to fund the Military Industrial Complex.

Have you read Acts? At least read the first four chapters. Pay attention to what they did with the money that was given to them, and then ask yourself if you would rather that Caesar had taxed it away from them?

I'm a communist, Mark. I'm not a Marxist, but a Christian. Do you really think the powers that be in Washington, D.C., would do with taxes what I am working toward with donations?

Peace, love, and the blessings of God and Jesus Christ upon the whole Universe,

Tom

Here's the link to my comment, in case you want to like it over there: How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- Its Time to Tax the Church | Belief | AlterNet.

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The following should appear at the end of every post:

According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":

Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.

Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.

Political Campaign Intervention

Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.

Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.

Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:

  • Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
  • Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
  • Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
  • Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
  • Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office

Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:

  • The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
  • Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
  • We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
  • When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
  • It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
  • We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
  • We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
  • When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
  • We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
  • It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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