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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

From the title of the discussion you can probably tell where I am going with this. The US debt is through the roof and it's on fire. So let the mother fucker burn.... Nah. I just had to say the lyrics, but anyway. I will tell you who has all the money and I bet you can guess it. Give up? It's all the churches and those who lead them! Well, I bet you probably have already heard this, but do you know how much money is involved? I will give you a clue. It's in the billions. About 71+ billion that is. Yep. 71+ billion dollars in tax money is being hoarded by the churches and preachers because, as you know, they have tax exemption abilities, and I thought there was such thing as separation of church and state. What does that mean? I thought is meant that the state will have nothing to do with religion. Am I wrong with this? If you want to read more then click on the link. If that doesn't work then let me know.


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I should preface this by saying i am in favor of removing the special tax status granted to organizations purely for being religious. That said, i think the article you linked doesn't really understand what charity is! (or at least what it can be and often is!)

Almost ALL non-profits have people on staff that get paid for what they do. The difference is usually where the money comes from. Rather than directly paying for a service, the money to pay for the service comes through some kind of third-party donor. That allows people to benefit from a service who wouldn't normally have access to it.

And beyond that, anything that seems to improve someone's life can be game for charity. 

And that includes the kind of work they mention in the article, stuff that "professors and social workers" do.

Heck! That was even how i started out in non-profit work. I used to teach at a university and i started volunteering for a non-profit teaching tech to low-income folks for work retraining. Eventually i ended up actually getting paid by non-profits to provide tech-support to low income families, do IT work for small businesses and non-profits. My time was paid (albeit below market rate) but we were able to give tech services to people and organizations who wouldn't normally be able to afford it.

Likewise i have friends who continue provide other non-tangible goods through non-profits: substance abuse counseling to homeless folks, facilitating support structures for homeless LGBT youth, support and counseling for survivors of sexual assault, etc. I think most would agree that our community is better off for these services and would want to continue to support the non-profit status of these organizations. But by the definition of "charity" being proposed by the article, they wouldn't count :-(


None of this detracts from the main point of the article you linked -- it IS unnerving how much religious institutions cumulatively get simply for being religious institutions(!) -- but if we are going to argue for eliminating their tax-exempt status we need to argue for the right reasons or else we give the impression that all these other valuable services should also be denied their non-profit status as well. 

From the article:

The American Red Cross spends 92.1 percent of its revenue directly addressing the physical needs of those it intends to help; only 7.9 percent is spent on “operating expenses. If you use a generous 50 percent cutoff for indicating whether an institution is primarily a charitable organization or not (that is, they spend more than 50 percent of revenue on charitable work addressing physical needs), we doubt there is a single religion in the world that would actually qualify as a charitable organization.

I think only the actual (audited) proportion of their revenue that goes to charitable work (salaries, expenses, goods) should be tax-exempt. Churches, temples, and clergy not being included in those exemptions.

I might go a little further: i don't see the point of having a tax-exempt status for churches "because they do charitable work." In the U.S. we already have criteria for charitable organizations (the non-profit) and either they fit those criteria directly or they don't. Most churches don't, and most (not all!) of their charitable org offshoots do a very good job either.

I think part of the issue is that non-profits are supposed to service public interests of a diverse population. While most churches only service the interests of those who are in their faith or who might potentially join. This kind of religious bias in target demographic being serviced would be considered very unprofessional in any other charitable organization! 

It's noteworthy, for instance, that churches are exempt from many aspects of anti-discrimination legislation in most jurisdictions. They are so determined by be selective on who they are willing to serve that we need to distort our civil rights laws around them!

oops. just realized a big typo!

"most of their charitable org offshoots DON'T do a very good job either"

On a different note: i don't think percent operating expenses is a good metric for the quality of an organization or their ability to service its community. Organizations that provide non-tangible goods like education, direct labor, mental health services, etc. are usually ALL operating expenses for the most part. 

Example: Take one local non-profit that monitored hate -crimes and -groups and gave educational community talks to mobilize support for targeted populations. Office space, phone line, and staff time -- operating expenses -- was almost ALL of their budget. Markers and paper for forums were cheap! But many of us really appreciate the work they did -- they were tireless workers who dealt with f'd up stuff all the time and really helped make our community a safer place!

With pastors and priests taking a stand on culture disagreements that effect the politics of the country, I think that negates their tax exempt standing.  Pay to play.

Again, i'd ask folks when evaluating tax-exempt worthiness to consider whether this same criteria should apply to ALL tax-exempt organizations. 

Almost ALL charitable organizations have a sense of how public policy effects their mission statement, and will give public statements and help mobilize volunteers in order to encourage candidates and policies that help facilitate their goals. And this doesn't seem problematic to me, and in many cases communities benefit from these kinds of "action alerts"

Eg. If your non profit's purpose is to, say, monitor and reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in your community, and a particular proposed policy allows certain dangerous chemicals to just be dumped willy-nilly into someone's neighborhood, you'll probably alert people to this fact and try to mobilize public opposition to being poisoned.

Likewise, If a politician running for office has a great track record in upholding the rights of people not to have toxins dumped on them, it makes sense for you to issue a statement of support for that politician saying "We've really looked into this guy and he really gets this issue and has our back!" 

I'm hard pressed to think of any charitable organization whose efforts are not helped or hindered by public policy or the politicians that get elected. And people often look to charitable orgs as "experts" in the field of the area they are trying to improve public life. 

Of course if you are giving MONEY to politicians, that is a different matter. But like above, we already have a tax status for organizations that attempt to influence public policy through the monetary support of specific candidates. 

LOL! Since i seem to be saying a lot on this thread i should probably give a disclaimer:

i am not a cheerleader for non-profits by any means. I'm actually fairly disgruntled with them, while still recognizing a lot of awesome people use them to do some amazing work. But my experienes still echo INCITE when they say the revolution will not be funded.

Well damn. Since Brad Pitt gives to charity should he be fully tax exempt too? The main point of this was to point out people like the first person talked about in the article. He lives a tax exempt life and look what he gets to live in. Alright, so some churches give to charity. That doesn't mean that they should get away without paying land tax, tax for food, tax for anything else. If I have to then why shouldn't they? I was in line at Costco once and the guy in front of me had two 60" TV's. When he went to pay there was no tax added and why? Oh they were for his church. WTF!? Who says he wasn't going to use one at his home? Regardless of charity work these churches say they are giving to or any religion for that matter. The tax money still ads to a total great than 71+ billions dollars that they are not having to pay. So what does charity have to do with this? Lets looks at the big picture and not narrow it down to the namby pamby little amount of money they are giving to the poor or whatever. There is a greater amount floating out there and they are going out there and buying personal jest and million dollar mansions. Would they let a homeless person stay there the night? Probably not.

If you tax system is anything like Australia's tax system where you give money above a certain amount to a charity then you can claim it back on your tax return meaning that the amount of tax you pay that year is less than what it should be. 

So I am leery when someone that is making more money than the average person and the media trumpet that so and so gave half a million to some charity as it just means the amount of tax they have to pay is less than it should be for the income they derived through the year.


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