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Thread: The drive to tax religious institutions?

  1. #1

    Default The drive to tax religious institutions?

    I apologize if this post is long.

    I've heard the argument many times throughout the years that churches should lose their nonprofit status, and while I've heard many emotionally charged debates, I've never heard a legal argument as to why to tax churches or where to draw the line.

    Legally speaking, churches are defined as "social welfare organizations" as a 501(c)(3) organization so long as no part of the church's income goes to the benefit of "any private shareholders or individuals", and any surplus must essentially sit in the bank to be used for a nonprofit purpose, and if it isn't, the church is at risk of losing its nonprofit status or ending up in "the big house." Along with that, anyone who earns a salary from a church must also pay income taxes.

    Finally, churches are the only 501(c)(3) organizations. Among other things, charitable and scientific organizations are listed. I find it hard to distinguish between a scientific and religious nonprofit, and why one should pay taxes while the other shouldn't. I see them both as contributing to the social welfare of America (scientific nonprofits advancing knowledge, churches providing social programs/aid).

    There's a lot more I could say about this topic (such as laws regarding lobbying), but I'll address those things if they come up.

    So, what do you believe should be the legal requirements for a church to be a nontaxable nonprofit?

    I think that so long as churches continue to only spend their income on overhead and social welfare, they should be allowed to maintain their nonprofit status, and any income used otherwise (i.e. lobbying) should be taxed.

  2. #2


    Have you ever been to the Vatican Museums? I have and beleave me their hording their swag, not spending it on the poor. I think the churches should have to file just like everyone else and pay taxes on their salerys, overhead, property and the like but be able to deduct what they spend on charitable work. I mean really they expected me to donate 10% of my income before taxes. Thats almost as much as Uncle Sam takes! Smal wonder I stopped going.

  3. #3


    I really am torn on this one, I remember once when I was about 10 I went to a new church and they talked about the churches budget and I think they said they needed a million dollars just for that year. I believe it too the chursch was humungouse big lights everywhere, giant TV's, an the church was massive and it was built so it looked like a huge cross from an ariel view. These churches don't spend their money for charity, most of it is spent expanding their reach. When I think of that I think that of course they should be taxed. On the other hand if they were taxed They would want more say in the government, that would be awful especially for the education system. So I really can't decide.

  4. #4


    I think Nam has hit the nail on the head. My church is barely making ends meet. There is no extra money at the end of the month. In fact, I had to take a 33 percent pay reduction. As long as churches are charitable, non-profit organizations, they shouldn't pay taxes. But if they are giant religious machines, taking in money like Thomas Road or the Vatican/Catholic church, then I believe they should pay taxes. There are churches that own a lot of property and earn revenue from that. There are churches that advertise on television and reach millions of people, earning revenue from these contributions. These are the kinds of churches that should have to pay taxes, as they are as much a business as they are a house of worship.

    Liberty U. which is an outgrowth of Thomas Road Baptist Church is having Donald Trump this week as a speaker. How does Trump speak to education or worship, especially since he will only be Obama bashing.

  5. #5


    The large organizations should be taxed, I would agree with that. I also don't believe that the local churches, or at least quite a few of them, around here are exactly rolling in cash or hoarding it to make super churches, with super technology (or spend it on themselves).

    I am no means religious, but I have no issue with churches that help out within the community, even if the people contributing (to allow them to do that) aren't doing it JUST out of the goodness of their hearts. The problem is when churches seem too busy looking the shiniest, or being the richest, and worst is when a church decides to inject itself into politics. They can have their opinions, but its really hard to like a group that makes it seem they believe, "everyone should have to follow what we believe!" *shrugs*

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    ...and worst is when a church decides to inject itself into politics.
    Yeah, this is really where I draw the line. I have a friend whose wife works for a large Christian lobby group. They spend millions of tax-free dollars to hire lawyers and file lawsuits that attempt to, for instance, "defend marriage." Not ok, IMO. If these groups are going to get favorable tax status for functioning in largely charitable ways, then they need keep their noses out of politics. If they want a lobby, or to otherwise do more than simply provide statements in favor of or in opposition to something, then tax them like all the other entities that do those things.

  7. #7


    I don't think churches should be taxed so long as the vast majority of it's profit goes towards either charity or back to the members. If the church starts to become more of a buisness with an agenda rather than a public service, they should be recognized as a buisness.

    Take for example the LDS church. The church says that it was revealed by god that each member should give 10% of their total income to the church. This money mainly goes towards building temples so that their members around the world can participate in the church's rituals that can only be preformed in a temple. The LDS church also says that members should fast for two meals every first Sunday of the month and give what the price of the food they would've eaten to the church. This money is used for welfare for everybody, not just members, and emergency relief aid. In addition, not a single member is paid by the church, not even the prophet, the highest office. Because this church's money is going back to it's members and the community, I see no problem with it being exempt from tax.

    If a church is trying to get rich, pay the people employed by it, and sell itself like a buisness would, it should be taxed.

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Cygnus View Post

    Take for example the LDS church.
    The LDS aka Mormons also use it to send missionary's all over the world to push their message and for political lobbying. Hell the amount of Mormon missionary's i meet in Australia sent by the LDS is crazy yet that is tax exempt.

  9. #9


    In all honesty, I wouldn't be against taxing churches, but that's just me.

  10. #10


    Churches out of this earth. The same with all other buildings of all criminal religious organizations, indiferent if cristians or not.

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