Should churches have to pay taxes, especially since they get the same benefits from roads, schools, and police that other residents and businesses receive? It’s a question that had many religious institutions bristling.
Via Huffington Post:
With cash-strapped states and cities facing a slew of tough choices, there’s a growing debate nationwide about whether religious congregations should help foot the bill.
“It makes no sense to tax churches and to limit their ability to provide their services, and it does damage to the constitutional separation between church and state,” argues Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Catholic and Baptist churches in the city of 10,000.
He acknowledges that church-state separation is generally not an argument made by his conservative Christian law firm; but in this instance, he says “there should be a separation here.”
Houses of worship are generally exempt from federal and state taxes, in part because nonprofits are viewed as providing beneficial services for society.
As a result, municipalities often don’t gain any revenue from the property on which they sit, and Stanley views the fees as a way to get around the churches’ tax-exempt status.
There is, of course, a huge amount of irony in churches declaring that they shouldn’t be taxed because of a separation of church and state, especially considering how much they usually claim that such a separation does not exist in the constitution.
It’s also interesting considering the amount of political involvement many churches have been partaking in, in some cases going out of their way to challenge the idea that religious institutions should not participate in politics, and trying to draw attention to their tax exempt status.
Prominent Christian conservative Alex McFarland reacted to the possibility of churches being taxed with much expected rage:
According to Dr. Alex McFarland, author, speaker and expert on Christian Apologetics, few true freedoms will remain if churches are taxed based on the number of people who enter their doors to worship.
“How sad that we have reached a level of greed and financial mismanagement that money comes into play regarding one of our most basic freedoms—freedom of religion,” McFarland says. “Our country was founded on being able to worship freely and without reservation.”
I assume the emphasis is on the “free.”