Letter: End tax exempt status for religions
To the editor:
In the Dec. 7 column by E.J. Dionne, he covered the addition of taxation of religious organizations and the Trump administrations exchanging it for tax cuts for the rich. While I rarely find agreement with Republican positions, and the exchange of the taxes on the religions vs the cut for the rich is a typical Republican and Trump Two Step, I do agree with the religious organizations paying taxes in the first place.
I seem to recall passages in the U.S. Constitution mentioning something about "separation of church and state." Yet seemingly from the beginning, churches have been given special status that consisted of tax exemption as well as other benefits. While those who are members of such organizations may feel they deserve those special treatments, many of us have a completely different perspective.
For starters, there are a very large number of people, I believe it in the area of 17 percent, who have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Why should we be required to underwrite the existence of the religions that we opt not to support nor necessarily even believe in? For another, there are those who actually do believe in a religious perspective who also think the expense of the underwriting is unjust and unfair. If a religious organization cannot survive without these tax exemptions, then it is time for them to rethink their positions.
Those tracts of land, those buildings and those schools that are operating under a tax-exempt status are depriving the entire population the available tax revenues. We are talking religion here, not government buildings or parks. Religion is an organization that needs to be self sufficient with no outside discounts beyond those that the believers wish to support.
As an extreme but viable example, the Jehovah's Witnesses had a large piece of New York City property that they owned for years, tax free. They recently sold the land for hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars while enjoying tax-free status during its ownership. Then they decided to consolidate their operation to the huge piece of land in upstate New York where they will continue to enjoy the tax-free status. All these properties are off the tax roles and the rest of us are paying the bill.
There are uncountable numbers of synagogues and churches of all denominations all over the United States that are 100 percent tax exempt. And more recently, we have seen an increase in the Christian movement that has increased the number of churches under the exempt umbrella and therefore the taxable properties having to pay larger portions in order to compensate for the new buildings exemption.
If you choose to worship, then by all means do so. However, if your place of worship cannot afford to pay its fair share of taxes, then your group needs to rethink its position and the parishioners need to dig deeper or else consolidate with others in order to continue to exist.
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