Tax-Free Exemptions

The intended separation of church and state ensures religious freedom. However, with a closing gap between politics and one faith, religious freedom is essentially religious freedom for Christians. Religious freedom is allowed, but Christian beliefs are both implicitly and explicitly supported by government and money. Maintaining a flourishing church and state relationship is possible through the tax exemptions available to churches. Money is subtle, but an ever-present factor in the connection between the church and state. Tax benefits for religious organizations are categorized as tax-free donations, tax-free land, and tax-free commercial enterprises. Austin Cline, the Regional Director for the Council for Secular Humanism, notes that:

Churches, however, tend to benefit the most from the various tax exemptions available, in particular because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Non-religious groups [like Civil Rights groups] also have to be more accountable for where their money goes, while churches, in order to avoid possibly excessive entanglements between church and state, do not have to submit financial disclosure statements. (Cline, 2006)

To avoid “excessive entanglements” the church says the government can not interfere: meaning money goes wherever, whereas any other organization, like Planned Parenthood must account for every dollar. Where does church money go, and what does tax money given to the church get spent on? People just assume a church must be doing good things. Yet, the government is promoting the church institution by preferentially exempting them from protocol all other organizations are required to follow.

Tax-free donations “encourage people to give more and better support to such [religious] groups, which presumably are providing benefits to the community that the government now does not need to be responsible for” (Cline, 2006). The church is taking the burden of social welfare efforts off of the government. Tax-free land
exemptions from property taxes represent an even larger benefit to churches — there may be as much as $100 billion dollars in untaxed church property in the United States. This creates a problem, according to some, because the tax exemption amounts to a gift of money to the churches at the expense of tax payers. For every dollar which the government cannot collect on church property, it must make up for by collecting it from citizens; thus all citizens are forced to indirectly support churches, even those they do not belong to and may even oppose. (Cline, 2006)

Due to the tax system today, which hinders separation of church and state, as outlined in Amendment One of The Bill of Rights in The Constitution, all citizens must pay extra taxes because of the government’s offer of tax breaks for churches. The result of this preferential treatment for church-affiliated groups indirectly discriminates against civil causes. Civil causes, like Planned Parenthood and sexual health, are often deemed immoral. Which is a conflict of interest, whereby the church deems it immoral, and the government does not give it benefits.