23rd August 2008

“Appraise the Lord: Tax church property!”

Anon.

4 Responses to “23rd August 2008”

  1. John Sutton Says:

    Many churches are historic buildings, built with public funds or donated for public use by our ancestors. I am an atheist but I still regard these relics as part of my inheritance. Just because I do not have the same world-view as the people who created them it does not mean I have to give up my legacy. In any case, modern Christianity is as far from earlier versions of the faith as my beliefs are from the views of today’s Christians so I can claim the same rights to property left to us all.

    There is a case for maintaining some of them from public funds, free of tax but only if they are of special historic significance. There is also a case for allowing their continued use by religious groups – as long as they are used and the proper taxes levied.

    And this is my point. Many churches occupy prime sites in the middle of conurbations taking up valuable space whilst making no significant contribution to the wider community. Most are part of the aforementioned legacy and we should be free to impose a commercial tax on them, put them to non-religious use or sell them for the benefit of the taxpayer. In many cases they will be listed building to be preserved and gain the same status as those with more secular roles. As it now stands most church buildings represent a shameful waste of valuable resources.

  2. Critic Says:

    All tax exemptions should be revoked – not just property taxes. Tax their income and do not allow donors to churches to deduct those donations from their income taxes. I would however let religious institutions claim a tax exemption for money spent on charitable work that is not associated with proselytizing.

    John – I agree that many of the historic church structures are a part of our heritage and should be preserved by government for historical and cultural purposes. But, there is a big difference between the beautiful monuments of human culture that took hundreds of years to construct (e.g. Notre Dame) versus the Walmart-like structures that litter the US countryside.

  3. John Sutton Says:

    Critic – my views are, as you imply, parochial. In Britain it seems we have ancient religious building every few miles along every highway – quaint but empty.

  4. Terence Meaden Says:

    I’d like to know which churches get away with tax-exempt status in Britain and the USA.

    And do property tax exemptions and charity considerations extend to the cerebral swindles that are scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons—devised in the last two centuries by confidence tricksters? L. Ron Hubbard’s alleged purpose in inventing a new religion was to show that it could make money. As the 19th century aphorism puts it (cf. Wikipedia for a discussion of the source of the expression): “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Does the ‘church’ of scientology (and the others) avoid property taxation too. If so, it is us–the wage earners who are paying for them.