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Should churches pay taxes? Show more Show less
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Church tax exemption is hotly debated. Although several countries require church members to pay a tax, many consider churches as tax-exempt. In discussions related to this policy, a nation’s perception of religious freedom and the common good is pivotal. Does the tax-exempt status of churches protect or violate these values?

Yes, churches should pay taxes Show more Show less

The tax-exempt status of churches threatens religious freedom and the common good by sowing the seeds of injustices.
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If churches do not stand for common good they should pay taxes

If they get involved in political campaigns or break laws or are not standing for common good they should be taxed.
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Context

A tax-exempt status for churches has been considered an intrinsic and historic component of the federal tax system. Since 1894, legislation that was enacted to impose a 2% corporate income tax that stated that the income tax did not apply to any companies, corporations, or associations involved in charitable, religious, or educational activities. The tax exemption protects churches and other religious entities from the state. However, many believe that continued tax exemption of churches will allow for false religions to be further supported and allow for religious institutions to not be held accountable for any abuse perpetrated against devout followers.[1]

The Argument

Not taxing churches allows for megachurch ministers to not only prosper greatly others’ expense, but for these churches to get away with scamming the public. According to a 2009 investigation by Senator Chuck Grassley, much of the money given to these megachurches is going to benefit the ministers and support their lifestyles. Grassley’s investigation uncovered thousands of dollars spent on luxuries such as top-of-the-line clothing, private jets, lakefront mansions, and, in the case of televangelist Joyce Meyers, a $23,000 commode made of marble.1. [2] Televangelists and other megachurch organizations often employ dubious methods to acquire this money. One of the most prevalent rationalizations that these ministers offer to their followers is known as “the prosperity gospel”. The rationale behind this theology is that God wants to see his followers prosper; however, this prosperity can only be achieved if followers “plant a seed of faith” (donating as much money as you can) as an act of trust that God will pay you back tenfold. This method has proven to be very successful in making these ministers and their organizations richer, but it is also putting people, especially those already in financial straits, in even greater financial peril. 1. [2] Many see tax exemptions as a form of preferential treatment that allows religious organizations to get away with far more sinister actions than just scamming parishioners out of money. Lack of accountability can lead to catastrophic consequences, often at the cost of human life as seen in the Jonestown incident of 1978. Jim Jones, the leader of Jonestown, was able to amass a fortune which he used to supply himself with weapons, drugs, and take in foster children, which the government granted him a subsidy for. In large part because he never had to account for his financial doings to the government, Jones was able to move his flock to a colony in Guyana, which resulted in the murder of a Congressman and the murder or suicide of the more than 900 followers of Jones. By holding religious organizations financially accountable, more can be done to protect parishioners from ministers looking to make a profit and put their flock’s lives in jeopardy.[1] The 'common good' should represent the community and what will be in the best interest of everyone, especially the most vulnerable. Ensuring that churches are operating on the straight and narrow and not abusing the trust of the congregation through monetary schemes should mean operating for the common good, therefore churches allowing their organizations to be taxed means that they are operating for the common good, because they are making assurances that they have no intentions of abusing their communitiies' trust.

Counter arguments

Many believe that if churches are subjected to paying taxes, they will run the risk of becoming privatized as they were during the Soviet Union. If churches are pushed out of the public, many of the benefits that churches can provide to their communities are at the risk of being lost. Churches are known to provide many different services to their communities such as helping to strengthen marriages, helping to treat addictions, and donating items such as clothing to those in need. [3] Common good is defined as something that benefits the community as a whole. Because of the benefits that churches can offer the community, the community should be the one to define what the common good is, not the government.

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://ffrf.org/outreach/item/12601-tax-exemption-of-churches
  2. https://bigthink.com/daylight-atheism/why-we-should-tax-the-churches
  3. https://www.frc.org/taxexemptionchurches

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 1 Sep 2020 at 13:27 UTC

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