In these times of economic downturn and calls by our elected leaders for everyone to carry their own weight and not be too quick to accept government subsidies, I think about the question dealing with churches and taxes; specifically, why are religious organizations waived from having to file a Form 990 each year, just as non-religious non-profits are required to do?
I have several reasons to encourage the Congress to require this: First, it is unconstitutional for the government and taxpayers to subsidize the building and continuing work of churches. The framers of the Constitution would disagree heartily with giving churches tax-exempt status. Second, religious organizations own (and continue to purchase) some of the most prime real estate in our cities and towns. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC is a prime example of pricey real estate, worth over $225million! Now, we all know how the Catholic Church has been hurting lately, since they have been forced to pay out millions in damages for the very bad acts of their priests, but still…not even a Form 990 which is only a verification that the Church has no income tax to pay?
Of course, we’ve all seem the rise of so-called ‘mega-churches’ and the ministers that lead them. Now, I understand that giving a polished look of success is good for the church…it shows how kindly God has looked down upon them and bestowed them with the benefits associated with wealth and success. However, where do we draw the line on churches that declare themselves “non-profit” but continue to purchase mansions and top-end luxury vehicles for their ministers and lay administrators. Of course, expensive trips, artwork, statuary, antiques, church conventions and other tax-free ‘perks’ all need to be added in the mix for a true understanding of the money we are talking about.
Further, has anyone noticed how loud and noisy churches and ministers have gotten over the last 25 years? It seems that they are lobbying our elected officials every bit as much as those high-rollers that walk the halls of Congress! In fact, some of the religious organizations ARE those “high-rollers! If a religious organization wants to be politically active, it should be stripped of its tax-free status! There is a conflict of interest and a violation of the separation of church and state clause when churches are able to direct the political life of our country! We are not a theocracy…yet!
Again, all I’m asking for is to require religious organizations to prove their non-profit status, in the same way we require other non-profit organizations to do the same. If we waive that requirement for religious organizations, we are allowing government- and taxpayer-subsidization of churches, plain and simple! This is no different from a church coming to Washington, DC and asking for funds to build church building across the country! If our elected leaders are right and it really is time to ask everyone to step up to the plate and give their ‘fair share’, then the least we can do is demand to see proof that a group is too poor to pony up!
IF YOU AGREE WITH THIS POST, HERE’S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO PUT YOUR SIGNATURE WHERE YOUR HEART IS; GO TO THE PETITION WE’VE CREATED AND LET CONGRESS KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. HERE IS THE LINK: http://www.change.org/members/delmarvaprogressive