Tax Exemptions: The Business of Religion

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Disclaimer: The Omnipotent Poobah, aka Jack Koeneman, is a former Christian turned atheist. He has nothing against most theists and respects their beliefs – up to the point where they step on his.

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I have dozens of theist friends. Our discussions are generally polite and lean toward the relative merits of atheist and theist beliefs, not mundane secular topics like religious tax breaks. But with the hew and cry over taxes and spending, perhaps it’s time to start that conversation in earnest.

Feel free to jump in anytime.

Everything has a consequence and despite popular belief, cutting taxes and spending have consequences far beyond the ideological argument that we’ll be just hunky dory if government is limited to the political equivalent of forcing Americans to work without a net.

DIY Ass Wipes
It’s not uncommon for teachers to buy school supplies from their own pockets or firefighters in Rick Perry’s capitalist paradise to pay for their own equipment and fuel. In some schools, teachers buy toilet paper because the schools can’t afford it. A sort of DIY ass wipe. It’s sad, but I have boundless admiration for the sacrifices they make while selfish no-taxers bitch about how bad they have it.

Except for the most lunatic-fringe zealots, theists preach a deep spirit of hope and charity. Yet, most don’t walk their talk by volunteering to give up their churches’ tax exempt status.

The primary argument for tax exempt houses of worship is that  theists need the money to exercise their right to worship. However, that argument is a little weak. They’re not only insistent on tax exemptions, but are apparently looking for exemptions to important parts of their faiths too.

I don’t think everything religions do is wrong. On the contrary. By and large, theism is a good thing for society. But with funding disappearing for social safety programs, someone has to take up the slack. My beef isn’t that religious exemptions wholly disappear, but limited to exemptions for the secular parts of the business of their religions.

For those of strong faith, axing the exemption for purposes of building Crystal Cathedrals, installing air conditioners, and proselytizing shouldn’t matter one whit. It wouldn’t interfere with their ability to freely practice their religion. It would force them to make hard decisions on what they do with the tax money we give them.

Let Aunt Milly Rock On at the Organ
Thou Shalt Pay the PriceNo, I suggest exemptions only apply to the parts of their truly secular holdings that have nothing to do with spreading the gospel. A salary for a new organist is an option that could be dealt with by having Aunt Milly play for free. If a church decided a professional organist was essential they should carry the weight of their own hiring decisions.

Conversely, decisions that have nothing to do with freedom of religion shouldn’t be exempt. If theists want to run their own businesses, like Pat Robertson‘s African blood diamond and gold mines or extensive land holdings, or acting like holy day traders, they should pay tax like GE…we’ll if GE actually paid the taxes they owned.

Obviously, there is a scant chance this will happen. I don’t see the Tea Partiers lining up for some sacrifice and politicians are as terrified by the religious lobby as they are the NRA or AARP.

Many would assume that taxing secular business interests would cut the amount of money for charity. However, you could make the argument that the money taken in through new tax revenue would offset a loss and encourage theists to make sacrifices and shift their charity toward more beneficial, secular endeavors.

More fully following your faith is the least God would ask.

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4 thoughts on “Tax Exemptions: The Business of Religion

  1. All the theists have to do is start a ministry and their house payment is tax free. Their car is a write off too as long as they say a prayer for someone at the end of each trip. There are so many exemptions and credits available for not only established churches but every mom and pop ministry that gets formed to capitalize on the freebies that I sometimes wish there was a secular alternative. Sometimes…

    Then I realize that I am paying my fair share and that is the moral and ethical thing to do. And I did not get that advice from a 2000 year old book.

  2. I find myself wondering what would happen if the government started actually enforcing the “no-politics” part of the church tax-exemption codes (rather like Dubya occasionally did to liberal churches)?

    • To hear some preachers talk, you’d think it was happening already. I’m a church-going person, and have sat through more than one sermon, grinding my teeth when a preacher claims the government is forcing political correctness on him by telling him what he can and cannot preach. Well, he’s wanting to preach on political preference in election seasons…do you want tax-exempt status or not?