Thursday, October 1, 2009

State Funded Religion in America

Approximately half the funding for churches in the United States comes from the government. The Federal government allows its citizens to take a tax deduction for money they give to their church (or synagogue or mosque). So do States that have an income tax. In addition, churches are exempt from property tax, and some of the money their pay to their ministers is also tax free. Add up these tax benefits, and approximately half of the money given to churches comes from our tax dollars.

This government funding is available to all religions, regardless of whether they preach love or hate. The government pays, whether or not the religion treats blacks, women or gays as full human beings. The government pays, which means you pay. So, if you are an atheist, you pay for Catholic churches. If you are a Baptist, you pay for Muslim's mosques.

Some have claimed that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, and that it would therefore be unconstitutional to tax churches. That is an obvious fallacy. The constitution also guarantees free speech, but that does not mean that money you spend on books or newspapers is tax deductible, and it does not stop the government from requiring book stores to pay property taxes, income tax and sales tax. Hospitals pay property tax. Private schools pay property tax. But churches do not. And our taxes therefore have to be higher to make up the difference.

Freedom of religion means that there should be no laws designed to discourage religion. If you want to have a church, you should be free to do so. The government should not tax or otherwise burden something just because it is religious. On the other hand, the government should not be in the business of giving benefits just because something is part of a religion. That is forcing people to fund religions in which they do not believe and, ironically, violating the rights of the religious, as well as the atheists and agnostics.

What I have written here is hardly new. No one who studies law seriously disputes it. Yet, one rarely hears anyone complain about it openly. I want to go on record saying that I am outraged that the government takes my money through taxes, then gives it to anyone and everyone who runs a church.


jag said...

All not-for-profit organizations enjoy tax exemption; an animal rescue organization or a church or a homeless shelter run by AA. Are you advocating taxing all such organizations or only churches?
Since even your Kiva lending page is hostile to organized religion so I'm guessing you only want to tax churches. I think your "reason" has been overcome by an emotional disregard for people of faith. Sad.

Provisional Eastonlow said...

Jag tries two different kinds of false arguments. First, he (she?) tries a distraction. An animal rescue organization and a homeless shelter both perform a service; in that sense, they are different from churches, and so whether they should get tax exempt status is a different issue than the one I raised. Then, he tries makes an ad hominem attack -- if I am against religion, then my argument must be wrong. Jag, if you have a substantive response, feel free to post it!