Sunday, August 30, 2015

Americans Are Split On Whether Churches Should Be Taxed

I have to admit that I was a little surprised at the results of this survey. I had expected that a significant majority of the United States public would think that churches (and other religious organizations) should be exempt from paying taxes (as they currently are. But that is not true. They are split right down the middle on the matter -- with 40% saying they should be taxed and 40% saying they should not be taxed (and 20% who don't know what to think).

I was also surprised by the demographic breakdown of those who believe either way. I had expected men to want them taxed over women, and younger people wanting them taxed more than older people. That was just the opposite of what the survey showed. It turns out that by a small percentage, men support the tax exemption while women support taxing them -- and younger people support exemption while older people support taxation.

I think churches should be taxed. They are exempted because they are considered to be charities, but I don't see them doing that much charitable work (and I don't consider spending money to convince others to accept their particular brand of religion to be charitable work). And I certainly don't see helping a religious leader to live the life of a rich person to be charitable.

I could see allowing churches to get a deduction for true charitable spending that some of them do (such as feeding or housing the poor), but the rest of their income, not spent for that charitable work or to pay their true expenses (such as utilities) should be subject to taxation -- and they should pay property taxes on any property not used for true charitable work.

I see no reason why religion should be given a free ride in this country -- and it looks like 4 out of 10 Americans agree with me (and an equal amount disagree). We have a secular government established by a secular constitution, and those who are not religious should not have to pay more in taxes to make up for what religious organizations do not pay.

These numbers come from a new YouGov Poll -- done between August 24th and 26th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of 4.4 points.

Another interesting question in the survey is illustrated in the charts below. It seems that a significant majority (62%) think it is NOT acceptable for a religious leader to become wealthy through their religious activities (like many preachers, especially the TV preachers, do).

1 comment:

  1. I'm similarly surprised -- and pleased. I'm going to sleep on this and see if I can't come up with a narrative to explain the strange demographics.

    About 10 years ago, I was employed doing database work for a mid-sized real estate investment company. I was shocked at all the land that was owned by all these churches. These weren't church grounds. They were places zoned industrial and such. It's huge amounts of property that they don't pay taxes on -- which means money they don't pay for infrastructure and education. I think if people knew just how many ways that churches get around paying taxes, the number of people wanting to tax churches would go way up.

    I know I'm an atheist, but I don't actually dislike religions. But as you say: let them right off their charitable giving just like everyone else. Of course, most of their giving is done as a form of PR. So maybe I'm not even in favor of that. When Doctors Without Boarders goes into an area and treats people, they aren't doing it to make DWB look good. When the Mormons do, it is all for making them look good. It isn't charitable giving; it is advertising.


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