Tax-free Churches? There’s No Such Thing!

You pay what churches don’t! US churches* received an official federal income tax exemption in 1894, and they have been unofficially tax-exempt since the country’s founding. All 50 US states and the District of Columbia exempt churches from paying property tax. Donations to churches are tax-deductible, making for a double-dip loss of revenues by the government. They are not tax free. YOU pay their taxes.

Grant’s prophecy prediction (below) seems to be off by at least a couple hundred years. We can poke fun at that, or see if there’s any sense in the rest of the quote:

I would call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land before the close of the Nineteenth century. It is the acquisition of vast amounts of untaxed church property…. In a growing country, where real estate enhances so rapidly with time as in the United States, there is scarcely a limit to the wealth that may be acquired by corporations, religious or otherwise, if allowed to retain real estate without taxation. The contemplation of so vast a property as here alluded to, without taxation, may lead to sequestration without constitutional authority, and through blood. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation.” (Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President [1869-1877], Message to Congress, December 7, 1875; Congressional Record, Vol. 4, part 7, page 175; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 288)

Churches and corporations are artificial entities created by people and authorized by government. In a sense, an unrestricted religious or corporate leader could exercise multiple votes—his own, plus whatever he could influence from his employees or congregation from his power position. That said, why are religions allowed property-tax exemptions? I would suppose the threat of taxation had been expected to keep them from acting like ordinary people with an interest in the works of government, and so would prevent religious groups’ hands from interfering. It appears that cannot work without a government agent posted in every edifice during every meeting to assure complete adherence to the law. That would happen only at great expense and set a regrettable precedent.

The govern, itself, is an artificial entity created and authorized by its subjects. The various layers of government perform many necessary functions for which they prepare annual budgets. Many of those layers suffer deficits even while billions are handed out to religious and corporate enterprises for questionable reasons. Overall, our government seems senselessly generous with our money, with both political parties equally guilty. Allowing massive acreage to go untaxed while some favored enterprise holds the title is but one example. The government should maintain titles to all properties from which it does not collect full taxes, and collect rent otherwise.

The following quote inspires questions about how it leads to governmental interference in religion, still at taxpayer expense:

The government has leverage on religious groups because of the tax-exemption privilege. Church leaders, eager for the church to be free to be the church, should ask for the removal of this privilege. If there were no tax privilege for religious groups, hucksters and people who are using religion as a cover for political movements would be discouraged.” (William Stringfellow, lawyer and lay theologian, as quoted in the Dallas Times Herald, December 9, 1978, p. A-27, according to Alan F. Pater and Jason R. Pater, compilers and editors, What They Said in 1978: The Yearbook of Spoken Opinion, Beverly Hills, CA: Monitor Book Co., 1979, p. 447.)

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The Evolution of Evolution

Evolution presents a basically simple subject tainted with prejudicial and illogical equivocations and denials. The denials, whether from scientists or the religious, are expressed about whether we feeble-minded humans can understand certain aspects of how the universe developed, whether the Big Bang actually occurred, whether outside influences were involved, the age of whatever process(es) brought it about, conflation of some elements of it with others, the right to express an untestable guess and pose it where it can be compared to the grandfathered-in untestable guesses… on and on and on, the argument itself evolving with whatever wicked new hoax can buy its way in. Evolution is about one thing: development. Whether mechanical, cosmological, biological, anamorphosis or any other specific category, evolution is about the development of that subject within the confines accredited to it, perhaps relative to other categories but not to be conflated with them.

Conflation: Conflation results in equivocation, where data from one argument gets used to advance the other in an attempt to treat them as the same. Does not the greater portion of the disagreement cackled over evolution involve apparently purposeful equivocation between biological and cosmological evolution? “God exists; God created the heavens and the Earth” is a subject different from the development of biology. Whether a god named God yanked out Adam’s thirteenth rib to create Eve is a different subject from the Big Bang. To bounce back and forth to toss in arguments about both is conflation, that is wrong, and it happens from both sides. It happens on the religious side because they fear to not involve the god named God in their posits, and because some ancient guy thought the Bible recounted every single year of Earth’s history. It doesn’t. It only goes back to about when people figured out how to write, and how to make something other than a cave wall to write on. I suspect it doesn’t even go back that far.

Human behavior is as easily understood as observable events and processes as is anything else, and as subject to variable conditions that can be (have been) recognized and given data values. Desire, taste, pleasure, pain, stress due to imbalance, and any other sensory or emotion-based perception is as much a part of that as any other kind of stimulus. It is the results and the intentions that make something moral, immoral, or inconsequential. Rather than making contradictory statements, show why that one is wrong. Otherwise, accept it, draw some inferences from it, and then find some way to show them true or false. Don’t do like a dog chasing a rabbit around and around a tree. Stand still, and you will eventually “get it.” Stop, think, and the rabbit will run up your back.

As an evolved socially oriented species, we humans arrived in the present with intact, highly developed moral instincts that have become misdirected by powerful influences that have learned to turn us against our own best interests. We have been taught to suffer guilt and shame for innocent and innocuous actions and thoughts for which we intended no actions. We overpopulate our planet while millions starve to death for lack of sustenance because we inherited creeds that trample our innate sense of propriety to death. We have learned to reverse our understanding of good and evil and make it stick. We have learned live in ways that overwhelm the natural processes that govern biological support on our planet, so now we put ourselves at risk of environmental changes may go beyond our range of adaptability. That is a predictable result of global warming. When that occurs, the creedents will have lost the argument, but nobody will win.