Should religious organizations be tax exempt?

At a time when ordinary people are being told to tighten their belts and to expect massive reductions in public spending in order to repay the huge government debt incurred as the result of the financial crisis, there are two groups of people who continue to live it up:

1 – The greedy and incompetent investment bankers who caused the financial crisis in the first place and who, nevertheless, continue to use the governments’ recapitalization handouts to pay themselves obscene bonuses.

2 – Religious organizations.

While the United States and the European Union are responding to the bankers’ abject failure to show self-restraint by imposing restrictions on their bonus payments, they have done nothing to redress the fact that religious organizations are ripping the rest of us off by not paying any tax. [1]

So while decent, hard-working families struggle to make ends meet, televangelists such as Creflo Dollar continue to swan about in their brand new Rolls-Royces [2] and Catholic priests carry on living the life of Reilly in their tax-free, all-expenses-paid parochial houses. [The YouTube clips are humorous, of course, but there is many a true word said in jest.]

And how many hard-working, God-fearing family men can afford to hire young sex-workers to accompany them on luxury, ten-day tours of Europe? Not many, but Baptist Minister George Alan Rekers can. [3] That’s partly because he doesn’t pay any tax. (In the interests of full disclosure here, by the way, I should point out that Rekers denied knowing that his companion was a male prostitute, even though he hired him from

To put this matter into perspective, The Church of England (CofE) rakes in £1 billion ($1.52 billion) every year tax-free and yet its own website states that even though “over £200 million is given tax-efficiently each year through Gift Aid” and “a further £60 million is recovered from the Inland Revenue in tax.” [4]

In other words, the CofE not only avoids contributing to the public purse, it is actually taking £60 million pounds a year out of it!

And things are even worse in Germany where citizens are subject to the ‘Kirchensteuer’ (Church Tax) which nets protestant priests over EUR8 billion (£7 billion / $10 billion) every year. [5] A similar situation exists in Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Iceland where citizens are also forced by law to give a percentage of their income to the church.

It seems to me that, with religious observance on the decline to a point where, according to the CofE’s own figures only one million people – just 1.6% of the British population – go to church on Sundays [5], the church is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s more enlightened society. And yet the churches are still growing fat at the expense of ordinary, hard-working citizens who have to make up the shortfall in tax receipts.

This is a scandalous and outdated state of affairs and I believe it is high time that churches paid their way and, therefore, I duly affirm that religious organizations should no longer enjoy their tax-exempt status.



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