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Thread: O’Rourke: Churches Should Lose Tax-exempt Status

  1. #31
    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    I'm pretty sure no part of the constitution requires the secular government to subsidize religious organisations, which is what a tax-exempt status effectively is. In fact, insofar as it means you are essentially taking money from other taypayers and putting it toward your own particular religious organisation which they may well object to, I am surprised it hasn't already been struck down as unconstitutional.
    "NOT taxing" religious organizations is not "subsidizing" them - the members of those organizations already pay taxes. And the first amendment prohibits Congress from making any law that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, so, there's that.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

  2. Amen Teallaura, NorrinRadd amen'd this post.
  3. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    I've been thinking for quite a while -- like, decades -- that one of the worst things churches ever did was accept tax-exempt status. Whatever the original intent, it has long since turned into a backdoor way to nullify the First Amendment.
    Well, here's the deal. The 501(c)3 thing has only been around since 1954-ish. Prior to that, it was simply understood that churches were not taxed, going back to the English "Law of Charities" that had been around for centuries. The "tax exempt status" simply gives the government more control --- "if you do this or don't do that, we can revoke your tax exempt status".

    In a way, you have a point about the first amendment, because Congress should ALREADY (without the 501(c)3) leave churches alone concerning taxation and control, "not prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

    There are many churches in our country that have chosen NOT to apply for 501(c)3 status -- they simply don't pay taxes because churches in the US were never required to.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    tWebber Teallaura's Avatar
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    As the judiciary becomes more conservative, we'll probably see fewer churches bothering with 501(c)3 - or paying taxes. The IRS doesn't want another court battle and really doesn't want one without a sympathetic judiciary.

  5. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teallaura View Post
    As the judiciary becomes more conservative, we'll probably see fewer churches bothering with 501(c)3 - or paying taxes. The IRS doesn't want another court battle and really doesn't want one without a sympathetic judiciary.
    Right now the big target for the anti-Christian crowd is the housing allowance that is allowed clergy.

    (It is an incredible tax advantage that, among other things, benefits smaller churches by making it easier for them to afford to pay clergy)
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

  6. Amen Teallaura, RumTumTugger amen'd this post.
  7. #35
    tWebber firstfloor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    And the "worldly book" (that you so frequently denigrate) and the Love of Jesus taught therein - that's why I am like I am.
    That was my upbringing too. Sunday school, Bible class, prayers were read every day at school, and so on. I became a heathen quite late in life, but there is a Christian foundation to it.
    “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
    “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ― Anne Lamott
    “And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence” ― Bertrand Russell

  8. #36
    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by firstfloor View Post
    That was my upbringing too. Sunday school, Bible class, prayers were read every day at school, and so on. I became a heathen quite late in life, but there is a Christian foundation to it.
    As are many atheists in western countries. And in many ways you do not know the extent to which you have benefited from the basic moral values that were instilled in such an upbringing, or the type of loving community you likely grew up in. I realize there are dysfunctional situations, and I do not know your specific circumstances, so I do not want to presume what your specific situation is, nevertheless, in general a church community is a loving supporting group of people that look out for one another, pray for each other, bring food, take care of kids, even offer financial when sickness or other calamities strike. For many that have chosen to walk away from faith, that sort of concept of community and love still forms the basis of what they believe is good and right. And the effect on society as a whole of removing that foundation is for most of us unknown.

    I really think people who have run up against some element of faith they find distasteful need to take a step back and recognize the cost of actually ridding society of the Judeo/Christian values and beliefs that really do form a good bit of the foundation of western civilization.

    Jim
    He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

    "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets"

  9. Amen Cow Poke amen'd this post.
  10. #37
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    "NOT taxing" religious organizations is not "subsidizing" them - the members of those organizations already pay taxes.
    There's no meaningful difference between having your taxes waived versus paying your taxes and then being sent a subsidy check from the government equal to the amount of taxes paid. They amount to the same thing.

    See Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock for SCOTUS confirming that a religious tax exemption amounts to a subsidy that other tax-payers have to pay and striking down a Texas law giving tax exemptions to religious publications.

    SCOTUS ruling...

    "a subsidy [that] incidentally benefits religious groups... [would be fine] so long as it is conferred on a wide array of nonsectarian groups as well as religious organizations in pursuit of some legitimate secular end.

    However, when, as here, government directs a subsidy exclusively to religious organizations... it cannot be viewed as anything but impermissible state sponsorship of religion

    Because it confines itself exclusively to such religious publications, the Texas exemption lacks a secular objective that would justify its preference along with similar benefits for nonreligious publications or groups."


    And the first amendment prohibits Congress from making any law that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, so, there's that.
    Indeed, in above case, that is exactly why SCOTUS struck down the religious tax exemption that was being considered in the case that was before them: It infringed on the free exercise of religion of others by taking their tax dollars and funneling them into a religious subsidy.

    As far as I can tell, in general the tax-exempt status specifically for churches or religious organisations would not be considered constitutional by SCOTUS due to the above. But a tax exemption for charities in general is considered to be fine (and churches happen to be one form of charity). Because a subsidy/tax-exemption for charities in general "is conferred on a wide array of nonsectarian groups as well as religious organizations in pursuit of some legitimate secular end [that only] incidentally benefits religious groups", and therefore legal according to the SCOTUS decision above.

  11. #38
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oxmixmudd View Post
    As are many atheists in western countries. And in many ways you do not know the extent to which you have benefited from the basic moral values that were instilled in such an upbringing, or the type of loving community you likely grew up in. I realize there are dysfunctional situations, and I do not know your specific circumstances, so I do not want to presume what your specific situation is, nevertheless, in general a church community is a loving supporting group of people that look out for one another, pray for each other, bring food, take care of kids, even offer financial when sickness or other calamities strike. For many that have chosen to walk away from faith, that sort of concept of community and love still forms the basis of what they believe is good and right. And the effect on society as a whole of removing that foundation is for most of us unknown.

    I really think people who have run up against some element of faith they find distasteful need to take a step back and recognize the cost of actually ridding society of the Judeo/Christian values and beliefs that really do form a good bit of the foundation of western civilization.
    This argument sounds like it has plausible logic...

    ...right up until you actually start to look at the empirical evidence. The least religious countries in the world, who are majority atheist, tend to be the ones who are doing the best (in terms of almost any international comparison you care to pick - e.g. happiness, low murder rate, lack of corruption, life expectancy, general multi-variate comparisons etc.)

    A list of the top-10 least religious countries in the world, is pretty much a list of wonderful countries to live in (Australia, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Denmark, Canada, France, Austria). That is certainly NOT a list of countries that are "going to hell in a hand-basket" or who are falling apart as a result of abandoning their Christian roots.

    A list of the top-10 most religious countries in the world is pretty much a list of atrociously awful countries to live in. (Algeria, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, Cambodia, Cameroon) With the possible exception of Qatar, religion doesn't seem to be making these countries great.

    So why doesn't abandoning religion cause countries to fall apart? The simple answer, as far as I can see from living in a majority-atheistic country is that the moral values you mention "community and love... forms the basis of what they believe is good and right" is just as true, even more true, of secular non-religious people, as it is of Christians. For Christians, morality is quite complicated and the ~1000 different commands in the Old and New Testaments interact in various ways to produce an overall and complex moral code, that you are are only very loosely boiling down here. I'm not objecting to your summary, but we should acknowledge that you're oversimplifying it greatly and what Christians believe, and focus on, and spend their time on is a lot more complex than that. Whereas for most secular non-religious people, to them the word "morality" is just a synonym for "altruism" aka "loving and helping others". It's direct, and straightforward, and they don't spend time tying themselves into pretzels over issues of how some parts of the bible affect the interpretation of other parts of the bible with regard to how they should act, they just try to be loving toward others.

  12. #39
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teallaura View Post
    The power to tax is the power to destroy.
    This appears to be an obscure quote from an old case that hasn't been applied much since. You say it here as it if were standard legal doctrine, but it isn't.

    Government literally has no right to tax churches at all.
    That is totally false. You're just making it up. Tax exemptions are granted by legislatures, they are not constitutional rights. e.g. see here.

    And 'subsidy' doesn't mean 'no taxation'.
    Mathematically and legally, a tax exemption is the same as a subsidy. See the Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock case I was discussing with CP, where SCOTUS literally said a religious tax exemption was a subsidy.
    Last edited by Starlight; 10-12-2019 at 04:00 PM.

  13. #40
    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    There's no meaningful difference between having your taxes waived versus paying your taxes and then being sent a subsidy check from the government equal to the amount of taxes paid. They amount to the same thing.
    The taxes of the members are not waived - they pay the same whether they are church members or not.

    You bring up an interesting point though -- if Americans had to actually PAY their taxes - as in sit down and write a check - there'd be a whole lot more tax rebellion. The government fools people into thinking that "getting a refund" is a GOOD thing, when all that happens is that any "refund" due is the taxpayer's money used interest-free by the government.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

  14. Amen NorrinRadd, Teallaura, RumTumTugger amen'd this post.

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