I believe that every church in the US should be taxed just as any other not-for-profit organization and charity is taxed, and that such taxes should be designated monies for social "welfare" programs that involve feeding the poor, protecting victims of all forms of abuse, and provide housing for low income families - essentially any form of government program that involves domestic humanitarian efforts and does not involve defense spending.  This is a position that I have long thought about, and one that evolved over time - having been a part of the religious establishment.  Pastor's salaries are already taxed, though there are a number of tax breaks that they can take advantage of since most churches pay their pastors poorly and expect them to work more that 40-50 hours per week.  However, churches never pay taxes for the services they use.  I believe that should change - especially since a number of them are becoming and have been more and more politically active.  Any further thoughts on this?  I just wanted to put it out there for the world to see.

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This is long overdue for churches anywhere and everywhere where they don't pay tax

The US is a big player in the tax exemption status of churches and so long as the religious right have death grip on the Republican party it will most likely not change.  It will take people of real courage and tenacity to overcome this and force the issue.  Some liberal churches who are advocates of government programs and shun the religious right might shy away from such an proposal and find themselves passively siding with their idiot brothers.

I'm pretty sure the argument will be along "separation of church and state" lines, taxation being a foot in the door of government control over religion. Which is not something I lose sleep over, but I think that's where the argument would go.

They tried that with the recent same-sex marriage act in Maryland; however, they were cut off at the knees because the creators of the act added a "religious protection" clause.  So the only thing that was left for churches to do was petition to get the act on the ballot, which they did, but it blew up in their face because a majority of voters voted for marriage equality.  I am sure something similar to such a protection clause could be drawn up in the same way regarding taxation.  However, the argument of separation of church and state is pretty flimsy on the churches part, considering how active it has become in politics and with political parties.  Thus, they only use that argument when it suits them.

Churches should pay taxes like everyone else.  

You mean like General Electric?

Why should churches have any control whatsoever over how their tax money should be spent? I'd like to see my money spent a lot less on the military and a lot more on helping people get proper health care and rise out of poverty, but what say do I have? 

Having worked in the pastoral profession, I can tell you that very few pastors get a BMW or a mansion to live in.  Most pastors are not paid well enough for what is expected of them outside of Sunday worship service.  Basically, churches expect them to be masterful CEOs, grief counselors, and be on call 24/7.  Do some get a house to live in (called a parsonage)? Yes, but they are hardly mansions. 

Essentially, the whole setup is modeled after how the government does military housing.  If you don't get a parsonage, you might get a "housing allowance" which is just a stipend added to your salary and your salary isn't a ton either. Most pastors' salaries never reach six figures.  The only way that is going to happen (in general) is if you live in an extremely rich area with wealthy congregation members, start your own church and basically make it into an enterprising organization like mega-churches, or are a slimy televangelist taking money from grandma - with varying degrees in between.  It also depends on your status (senior pastor or associate or youth).  Seniors obviously make the most.

The links here show a median for three positions in the US: Pastor Salary, Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor

You also have to consider the geographical region of the US the pastor practices in and whether or not that pastor is leading a small or large church, as well as whether the church is located in the countryside, city, or suburban area.  I, personally, was always paid within the 10-25% range - without benefits.  Benefits didn't matter because my wife's job took care of that nicely.

Oh, and if you think that pastors don't have to pay taxes, you would be wrong.  Pastor's do pay taxes on their salary.  Do they get certain tax breaks?  Yes, but the code is complicated to take advantage of all of them.  Most claim 1099 tax status and follow the rules governing that status.

My concern is that churches (as in the organization itself) do not pay taxes.  And I do not believe that churches should have a say in where their tax dollars go, unless certain restrictions were already placed upon where the taxes go - such as what I stated above.

I am not sure how those other pastors did it then.  I know in established churches I would file as a 1099 and pay my own social security tax on top of my income tax.  Now, with some of the tax benefits there are ways that you can pretty much make your salary tax free, and that is based on what you claim and how you claim it.  However, I was never willing to do that because it seemed to shady.  You also run a risk of being audited, although the IRS usually stays out of church business.

** There are no religions, only religious institutions

Once xianity as religious institutions takes up its ideological cross to claim secular powers -- that's where the excesses of enthusiasts end. Xian god-proxies can play politics -- why not, they are entitled to pursue their ends as any other religious or secular group -- pedophiles, child pornographers are obvious exceptions.

However, in doing so organized religious institutions forfeit their not-for-profit status. Those who want secular power have to pay for it -- back a particular party (as catholics and fundies do), back particular candidates (as catholic and fundies do) -- then income, land, land transfers should be taxed.

The enforcement of morals -- far-right xian claims to control behavior through legislation amount to no more than bringing back misogynist mores and male social control overcome through painful history during the last century: voting rights, women's rights, minority rights, gay rights.

There is no "executive privilege" for God. There are no gods. There are only god-proxies who try to ram their ideological sickness into a culture which passed them by morally more than 100 years ago.

The US is by design -- a human, rare intelligent design -- a secular state and an Open Society. Xian mythology is risible -- xian institutions are pernicious.

Isn’t it a bit hypocritical for religious people to claim that the government taxing them is a violation of their 1st Amendment rights to freedom of religion, while simulaneoulsy claiming that there is no separation of church and state implied in the Constitution?  They want to have their communion crackers  and eat them too, it seems.

A dozen or so states have indicated their intention to declare Christianity as a state religion.  If they do so, it may buttress their claim to be free of taxation (and Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc.); but it also amounts to de facto secession, I should think.  Fine with me.  We’ll see how they get along without the federal government.  Of course, we already know how they would get along; it was called the Articles of Confederation.  We saw how THAT worked out.  

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Posted by Quincy Maxwell on July 20, 2014 at 9:37pm 13 Comments

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