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Old 08-29-2013, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
41,120 posts, read 18,599,788 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
No one is suggesting that the state confer (il)legitimacy on religions.
Is that such a bad idea? I've written before on what I see as religious exceptionalism. It is found in the person whose identifies his cosmic beliefs as "sacred" as though this somehow or other generates greater credibility than other types of beliefs. It is found in people who have impressed you as being highly intelligent individuals....except for some reason they cling to mythological beliefs. And it is found in the above dynamic, where we make governmental exceptions by conferring benefits on some individuals without demanding any sort of evidence of the validity of the grounds for the exception.

Those who wish to receive unemployment benefits are scrutinized far more closely and the state asks that you prove that you have been looking for work. Welfare payments require applications and declarations and visits by social workers. There are mountains of paperwork involved for those applying for government grants.

But you want a tax exemption because you run an operation dedicated to a theoretical deity, you got it, all you need to establish is the belief, not the validity of the belief.


We may continue to enjoy freedom of religion without demanding that anyone prove their ideas are valid, but for purposes of demanding a tax exemption that others do not get, why shouldn't you have to prove that you merit it?
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Old 08-29-2013, 05:26 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,094,403 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
We may continue to enjoy freedom of religion without demanding that anyone prove their ideas are valid, but for purposes of demanding a tax exemption that others do not get, why shouldn't you have to prove that you merit it?
How would you decide the "validity" or "merit"? It's my view that no religion with the arguable exception of Buddhism has any empirical validity anyway.

So my solution is that you back into it from the opposite direction and ask, "what kinds of services do we want to encourage via tax exemption?" And I would assert that these would be services that meet the empirical, material needs of people that would otherwise need to be provided by government or families. Just get government out of the business of voting with its tax exemptions over subjective criteria. It isn't the job of government to make people feel good in the short run, it's government's job to build and maintain large scale infrastructure, provide for the common defense, and maintain a social safety net. I don't see that the core activities of religion (teaching religious dogma, administering religious rituals, enforcing religious behaviors) have anything to do with those aims. If some religion's beliefs motivate it to open a soup kitchen or homeless shelter or latchkey child program, and it's willing to do that because it's the right thing to do and not as an excuse to promote itself, then that particular activity can be spun off into a separate non-profit organization and can be made tax exempt. That has the additional benefit that the spin-off does not have to pledge fealty to a doctrine or umbrella hierarchy; it can be defined and judged purely in terms of its actual aims and whether it effectively and efficiently accomplishes those aims according to standards accepted by society as a whole. You won't have the spectacle of hospitals that decline to perform abortions or abortion counseling, or schools that don't teach evolution or that resist diversity.

Of course, again, I'm blue-skying here. This sort of thing will only happen very gradually over the coming generations, and probably with many setbacks.
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Old 08-29-2013, 06:48 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
41,120 posts, read 18,599,788 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
How would you decide the "validity" or "merit"?
Crom=good
All others...thumbs down.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:01 AM
 
Location: Middle of nowhere
20,332 posts, read 10,461,328 times
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IRS faces lawsuit for failing to enforce church electioneering ban | The Raw Story

Quote:
The Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening or participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.

But many churches have openly defied the ban without consequences. In an annual event called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” pastors from more than 1,000 churches have challenged the regulation by preaching about political topics. Some pastors even record their overtly partisan sermons and send them to the IRS.

The FFRF, which is also a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, said allowing churches to engage in politicking but not other nonprofits was unfair. The group alleged the IRS had a “policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions” when it came to churches and religious organizations.
Green light for FFRF

Judge OKs Atheist Group's Suit Against IRS Over Church Politicking Ban Enforcement
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Old 08-30-2013, 11:14 AM
 
Location: Vernon, British Columbia
3,020 posts, read 2,700,040 times
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Churches in Australia are also mixing politics and religion. There's nothing wrong with religious people getting involved in politics, but should it be coming from the pulpit if they are getting tax breaks?
Climate Change and Religion in Australia - YouTube
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:39 AM
 
Location: Hyrule
8,398 posts, read 9,898,680 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glacierx View Post
Good post, and the best argument either way so far. I think some posters on here have a very poor understanding of economics and finance, and thus cannot figure out the difference between a business and and a none-profit organization.

It was 50 years ago today that we had the march on Washington, and along the same lines I think some people can't see through their own hatred today. It's like arguing with a Truther that 9/11 was not an inside job in that no amount of reasoning will convince the prejudice that churches aren't leaches.
Missioning isn't charity work. It's selling God. Helping someone for a price. Finding the weak spot to aid in the deal. There is no difference in mining souls for ones own purpose. It's competitive, and it's as business as business gets.

Tax it!
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Old 08-31-2013, 09:03 AM
 
2,826 posts, read 1,867,882 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
Then if none of them are making any money, they would have nothing at all to fear from an income tax being leveled upon them.

Right, churches?

Look how every donated dime went to the poor...

As opposed to those spendthrift secular organizations...a homeless shelter
No, not every church behaves that way.

Churches have a number of expenses, from upkeep (uhhh, yea, every dime doesn't go to the poor in any organization, because someone has to keep the roofs fixed, the heat running, etc) to pastor's and other people's salary (sure you can try to tell the guy he's working for nothing, see how long that works; at the very least, you pay his room and board), and yes, then it can work toward charity.

There are in fact some churches that like to add to their building. We had a church in Culpeper that got a huge grant on someone's death. Well, here's the thing. Before her death, the church was charitable and active. After her death, however, people wanted to use the money for all kinds of things. This money is a curse. On the other hand, a church the same size as that homeless shelter? Probably works as a homeless shelter, donates to organizations like said homeless shelter.

Lemme talk about so called "spendthrift" secular organizations. They tend to get their money directly from the state. Less so, if they receive church handouts. True they can't keep the money, but there are some gross uses of the money in question, that do in fact drain the govt coffers (keeping people housed and fed tax-free for 10+ years without them working for anything). With a church, the only money that gets put in is the money people willingly put it. That is not state income, that is never state income (people are trusting it to the church to do good works with), and I'll be damned if that ever is state income. I seldom in fact donate to the church, because it is not an obligatory act. It is a gift. In this country, last I checked, the tax for gifts is imposed on the giver.

This is a church balance I found online. It's 10x what we make, but the even out is the same.



They have $210k in assets, but they aren't making that. They make $2k. If you taxed a church, it would go under, without doing any good for anyone (that said, this particular church is doing more for the dead than the living). Now, a church that is for profit...



Like this one perhaps. Maybe. But the surplus per year have to be more than 10% of the liabilities, and it must be done after balance.

Last edited by bulmabriefs144; 08-31-2013 at 09:33 AM..
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Old 08-31-2013, 11:12 AM
 
916 posts, read 1,766,398 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bulmabriefs144 View Post
No, not every church behaves that way.

Churches have a number of expenses, from upkeep (uhhh, yea, every dime doesn't go to the poor in any organization, because someone has to keep the roofs fixed, the heat running, etc) to pastor's and other people's salary (sure you can try to tell the guy he's working for nothing, see how long that works; at the very least, you pay his room and board), and yes, then it can work toward charity.

There are in fact some churches that like to add to their building. We had a church in Culpeper that got a huge grant on someone's death. Well, here's the thing. Before her death, the church was charitable and active. After her death, however, people wanted to use the money for all kinds of things. This money is a curse. On the other hand, a church the same size as that homeless shelter? Probably works as a homeless shelter, donates to organizations like said homeless shelter.

Lemme talk about so called "spendthrift" secular organizations. They tend to get their money directly from the state. Less so, if they receive church handouts. True they can't keep the money, but there are some gross uses of the money in question, that do in fact drain the govt coffers (keeping people housed and fed tax-free for 10+ years without them working for anything). With a church, the only money that gets put in is the money people willingly put it. That is not state income, that is never state income (people are trusting it to the church to do good works with), and I'll be damned if that ever is state income. I seldom in fact donate to the church, because it is not an obligatory act. It is a gift. In this country, last I checked, the tax for gifts is imposed on the giver.

This is a church balance I found online. It's 10x what we make, but the even out is the same.



They have $210k in assets, but they aren't making that. They make $2k. If you taxed a church, it would go under, without doing any good for anyone (that said, this particular church is doing more for the dead than the living). Now, a church that is for profit...



Like this one perhaps. Maybe. But the surplus per year have to be more than 10% of the liabilities, and it must be done after balance.
That's a balance sheet, not an income statement. It doesn't show $2K in net income; it shows $2K in equity. (That really should be called 'net assets', not 'equity', since the books of churches are prepared using non-profit accounting rules.) Since their balance sheet doesn't show a retained income/retained net asset account, you can't tell whether they disburse everything they've made to their various funds, or even if they've ever had a positive net income ever. The account titled 'surplus/deficit' is mistitled; surplus is a balance sheet item, and deficit is an income statement item, so you really can't tell what it's supposed to represent there.

Without seeing the corresponding income statement, you can't tell what their income tax payable would be. And if they had $2K in taxable net income, their income tax payable would be small, since income tax is a percentage of income, not a flat amount. Plus, non-profit accounting rules make long-term assets like vehicles, land and buildings fall off the balance sheet. So you can't tell from their balance sheet how much excise or property tax would be payable.
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:23 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,094,403 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bulmabriefs144 View Post
Churches have a number of expenses, from upkeep (uhhh, yea, every dime doesn't go to the poor in any organization, because someone has to keep the roofs fixed, the heat running, etc) to pastor's and other people's salary (sure you can try to tell the guy he's working for nothing, see how long that works; at the very least, you pay his room and board), and yes, then it can work toward charity.
Churches generally maintain an auditorium and classrooms (for Sunday School type activities) that sit idle most of the week. That infrastructure exists primarily to provide a place for rituals / worship and religious instruction. It can be multipurpose and get rented out to outside groups or donated for community purposes (for example, housing concerts during a community festival of some kind) or even shared with another smaller congregation, but in its basic form, church buildings are extremely inefficient. Yes, churches have to keep the roof from leaking and replace the carpets periodically and so on, but if this is difficult it's only because of the fact that it's a lot of overhead for a relatively limited use, even if you grant for the sake of argument that worship and religious instruction are worthwhile.

In my view a church building exists mostly so they can say they have their own monument to themselves.

That part of churches has no right to effective government subsidies and if it can't survive without them then so be it.

Now if a church provides real, no-strings-attached community services, that part of it can certainly be tax exempt; it would meet the tax exempt criteria anyone else does.
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:26 PM
 
2,826 posts, read 1,867,882 times
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And no, I don't doubt it. I'm a preacher's brat, so I can believe it.

(Though it's not totally vacant, here's a sample calendar of events on the scrolling green sidebar)

They should neither get government subsidies, nor have to pay government taxes. If they can manage without the subsidies, they probably have the right to exist. If they aren't dependent on the government to survive, they also don't owe the government for success and don't have to pay them.
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