Class Warfare Blog

December 29, 2012

Religious Relics

After yesterday’s post, I have been giving more thought to what the words “religious relic” mean. In the past I have contended that one salve for our fiscal woes is to legalize some recreational drugs. The taxes on those sales would flood the federal and state coffers with new revenues and ease the pressure on the middle class paying taxes to support rich people. In addition, we could release half of the people from our prisons in that they are there for the grave sin of selling such drugs. This would also reduce the pressures on our criminal justice system and reduce quite a few of its costs.

But Americans aren’t ready to take that leap just yet. Close, but no banana.

But there is a way to “enhance tax revenues” without doing anything at all sinful and that is to tax the profit-making activities of churches. The amount of tax revenue, if the tax rates were set at the same levels as are ordinary enterprises, is immense. Now, please note I am not advocating a change in the First Amendment to the Constitution (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . .). If there is any religious purpose to the activities on church property, under current law it is exempt from taxation (and many labor laws, and . . . ) due to this provision and I am not talking about changing that status here, but what many people do not realize is that churches in the U.S. run many profit making enterprises that have no religious function whatsoever; they just pour monies into the church’s coffers. This is not a good deal for the churches, it is a great deal. (Ask any business man if they would like to be free from taxes and you won’t have to wait long for an answer.)

For example, one of the major landholders in New York City is the Catholic Church. Prime real estate in the form of office buildings and residential buildings are wholly owned by said church and rents and fees are collected but no taxes are paid. Those buildings have no religious function whatsoever, but because a church owns them, they pay no taxes on their profits.

If you think this is surely a small quantity of commercial activity, think again. If property taxes alone are considered, there are hundreds of billions of dollars in untaxed church property in the United States. The tax exemption on that land is the same as a gift of money to the churches at the expense of tax payers meaning that all citizens are forced to indirectly support churches (and synagogues and . . . gasp . . . mosques). Again, I am not talking about taxes on property where there are churches or seminaries, or retreats (or synagogues, or mosques), I talking about secular, for profit enterprises that have no religious activities associated with them.

Italy, you know, the home state of the Roman Catholic Church, has decided that these taxes are legitimate. We could, too.

The tax-exempt status of churches is a religious relic we can do without. And I certify its authenticity.

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4 Comments »

  1. Yes, yes YES! I knew that churches were tax exempt, but had no idea of how this travesty affected the economy – until it affected my own personal economy. When applying for unemployment a couple of years ago after being laid off from a restaurant, I discovered that my stint as a local church’s daycare in a previous quarter “didn’t count”. Not only was the church exempt from paying taxes on the income from the daycare clients, they didn’t have to pay into unemployment either, which put me below the qualifying level. I’m also in complete agreement about the legalization/taxation on recreational drugs. Sadly, it will be the outraged howls of the GOP that will prevent both. Great post all the way around!!

    Like

    Comment by hillbillyzen13 — December 29, 2012 @ 8:20 am | Reply

    • Both of these ideas run counter to the GOP’s “starve the beast” strategy which is to shrink what government can do by reducing it’s resources. By this is a fear based strategy: by preventing what they think of as things government does “to us,” they restrict what government can do “for us.”

      The GOP constantly complains about the bloated US Tax Code, but over half of that code involves special deals for businesses and guess whose fingerprints are all over the legislationncreating those “loopholes?”

      If we could just eliminate the GOP for six months, we might be able to get some of these things fixed, but unfortunately the Democrats have been boaught off, too, only just not as much.

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — December 29, 2012 @ 8:32 am | Reply

  2. Good call. A very good friend of mine was head of Telstra (Australia’s major telecommunications carrier) Corporate division. One of his largest clients was the catholic church. They (a priest whom i met over lunch once, a heavy drinking Father Patrick O’Malley) negotiated ridiculously low bulk packages and sold those onto their parishes and parishioners… for profit. None of this was taxed. Cheeky fuckers.

    Like

    Comment by john zande — December 29, 2012 @ 8:34 am | Reply

    • Hey, they recruit “cheesy fuckers!” Like any corporate entity they have personnel divisions which seek out the “talents” they need. Now, how does one tactfully advertise for all the pedophiles needed for the priesthood? Hmmm.

      Cheers!

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — December 29, 2012 @ 8:43 am | Reply


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