Taxing the Church: Joe’s Perspective
The value of property and total income of religious organizations under the umbrella of organized religion is impossible to know with any certainty.
Tradition, legal maneuvering, and favorable legislation have conspired to build a wall of secrecy around this information. Here in Rhode Island, perhaps the most Catholic state in the US, church properties worth millions occupy some of the most premier pieces of land.
All tax free.
But this is not about one particular religious group. Rather it is about the patent unfairness of religious organizations benefiting from the public infrastructure, be it the roads, police and fire, or the courts without contributing their fair share of support.
One can argue all day long about the good works done by the church, yet it does not mitigate the evidence. The church seeks the protection of the courts when facing civil actions. They lobby members of the legislature for laws protecting the church.
If ever there was a conflict of interest that is one. A legislator, who happens to be a believer, lobbied by an organization he believes may control the destination of his soul. Even if you find such beliefs to be nonsense, you have to look at it from a believer’s perspective.
If one has any doubt as to the disingenuousness of the Church, look no further than the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Corporations Database. Look up corporation number 000031279. I’ll give you a little hint, it is a Rhode Island Corporation known as Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence.
Why does a church seek the protection of a corporation? Isn’t their faith adequate enough?
I do not mean to focus on just the Catholic Church. Yet, by their own statements, they are second only to the United States government in spending in the US. They house an estimated several BILLION dollars of gold ingots in the US, England, and Switzerland.
The Catholic church is the five-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. There are plenty of smaller ones reaping millions under the protection of religious exemptions to taxes.
The other argument for treating the church as a corporation is its open participation in the political process. I do not disagree with their right to support candidates whose policies they agree with. I do think their participation trumps (no pun intended) any protections they think they are entitled to.
One cannot insist that government have no influence over church policies and then try to influence government policies. One cannot conceal the value of church income and property and seek court protections of them.
No more certain separation of Church and state is guaranteed then by treating all religious groups like any other secular organization.
My friend Kent, in his opposing piece, will no doubt argue the many good things religious groups do. No argument there.
This doesn’t alter the fact that these organizations reap in huge amounts of money and use it to influence the secular world for purposes other than charity. They lobby for self-preservation through the political process, benefit from the public infrastructure and organizations, all without contributing their fair share.
I will borrow a line from one of the many versions of the Bible. The good book as some call it. The word of God to some. I’ll assume that those of you who follow a religious faith with a Biblical tradition embrace these words written there.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22:21.