Should churches remain tax-exempt

Tax exemptions for churches violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Churches receive special treatment from the IRS beyond what other nonprofits receive, and such favoritism is unconstitutional. A tax break for churches forces all American taxpayers to support religion, even if they oppose some or all religious doctrines. A tax exemption is a form of subsidy, and the Constitution bars government from subsidizing religion.

The tax code makes no distinction between authentic religions and fraudulent startup "faiths," which benefit at taxpayers' expense. In spring 2010, the state of Oklahoma awarded tax-exempt status to a Satanist group called The Church of the IV Majesties.

Churches serve a religious purpose that does not aid the government, so their tax exemptions are not justified. Exempting churches from taxation costs the government billions of dollars in lost revenue, which it cannot afford, especially in tough economic times.

Despite the 1954 law banning political campaigning by tax-exempt groups, many churches are clearly political and therefore should not be receiving tax exemptions. American taxpayers are supporting the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy pastors whose lavish "megachurches" accumulate millions of tax-free dollars every year. The "parsonage exemption" on ministers' homes makes already-wealthy pastors even richer at taxpayers' expense. The tax break given to churches restricts their freedom of speech because it deters pastors from speaking out for or against political candidates.

It was the fervent hope of the founders of our great nation that its government would not trespass on the province of religion, and that religion would find neither refuge nor condemnation from a secular government. The founders' commitment to this idea was unequivocal.

The very first words of the Bill of Rights read: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

John W. Merrick


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