The argument on the above graphic states (IF churches paid taxes… it would pay for ALL the food stamps for every person on welfare $76 Billion with enough left over to house the entire homeless population). This graphic is based on a significantly flawed article from the Council for Secular Humanism.
You may have seen this graphic posted on a friends facebook page but did not know how to answer back… Here is a step by step answer.
1. Reliable or Not? The first thing that needs to be noted is that this report is NOT from a neutral source. The Council for Secular Humanism exists to promote secular humanism, which largely defines itself by the absence of religion, and Free Inquiry is not a peer-reviewed journal. This does not mean we reject it, of course – it means that we should apply a skeptical analysis to the report, which the rest of this answer will do.
2. Hypocrisy? The report by the Council for Secular Humanism implies that many tax breaks are given to churches when in fact churches only have one tax break which is (the parsonage allowance highlighted in red). Where the rest of the tax breaks are available to other non-profits, whether they are religious or not, and whether they do any charitable work or not.
- Federal Income Tax Subsidy – $35.3billion
- State Income Tax Subsidy $6.billion
- Property Tax Subsidy $26.2 billion
- Investment Tax Subsidy $41 million
- Parsonage Subsidy $1.2 billion (Churches)
- Faith Based Initiatives Subsidy $2.2 billion
- Total $71 billion
It is interesting to note that the Council for Secular Humanism is registered for tax exempt status under the tax breaks that are not in red.
3. What is fair? The report by the Council for Secular Humanism states that ALL churches should be taxed to pay 70% of their income taxes. They claim that $70 billion is the tax due to churches. No other corporation, profitable or not, pays 70% of their income taxes; a 70% rate is not “paying taxes the same as everyone else”.
4. Churches are loaded with Money: The Council for Secular Humanism states “We calculated the subsidies to religions under the assumption that religions are more like for-profit corporations providing entertainment (such as movie theaters or amusement parks) rather than charities.
This is a highly selectively illogical comparison… First, churches have many differences with a movie theatre – they don’t charge admission, and they don’t make a profit for two.“Churches don’t typically have significantly more income than expenses”. Any church treasurer will back this up.
5. Property tax subsidy: The Council is very vague about how it arrives at its figure for the total value of church property. It claims (without support) that the average value of a church building is $1.7 million. However, many congregations do not even own buildings at all, and are currently renting space to meet as required, or sharing space with other congregations. The report by the Council for Secular Humanism did not take this into account when preparing there argument.
Churches have no special treatment regarding property taxes compared with other non-profits. Non-profits are frequently (not always) exempt from property taxes, but churches are treated equally with them.
- This article has proven that the Federal and State Income Tax subsidies presented by the Council for Secular Humanism are entirely mythical and false. Treating churches as a business would not bring in any of the $35billion federal tax, nor the $6 billion state tax claimed. The investment subsidy falls in the same category.
- The Property Tax Subsidy applies to all tax-exempt non-profits, including those with no ‘charitable’ activity for example organizations like The Council for Human Secularism.
- The Parsonage subsidy is real, and if abolished would bring in about $1.2billion.
- The real level of subsidy is much, much less than $70 billion and closer to 1.2 billion however this would take away 90% of all homeless shelters 90% of all humanitarian work done worldwide by Christian missionaries (doctors, nurses, healthcare workers etc…)
. Sadly, these people proudly post these unoriginal inciting arguments in order to try and shame Christians without ever researching their own arguments that they themselves are claiming.
They say, “here’s a post that some other person put together, it defames Christian beliefs – I want to sound smart without having figure out if the claims are true or not…”