Why Should Churches Enjoy Tax Exempt Status?

Erik Stanley has written an excellent post on why churches ought to continue to be tax exempt. First, he asks, can you give any reasons why churches should be tax exempt? Sadly, he notes, most people can’t.

Tax exemption for churches is a corollary of religious freedom as specified in the First Amendment. Still, this is a freedom that is under fire in today’s society. Stanley ought to know. He is an attorney who stands up for religious freedom every day. He is Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

Here is a taste:

But there is also a constitutional reason why churches are tax exempt. Our history is one of an unbroken practice of exempting churches from taxation. Churches were exempt from the very first time the tax code was passed at the federal level, and have remained exempt in every iteration of the tax code ever since. Every state in America also exempts churches from property taxes. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case regarding the property tax exemption of churches, called Walz v. Tax Commission, it stated that providing a tax exemption for churches was a less intrusive option under the Constitution than requiring churches to pay taxes.

That makes sense when you stop and think about it. As the Supreme Court said in a very early case, “The power to tax involves the power to control.”  Taxation is, in essence, a very strong assertion of control by a sovereign over its subjects. Exempting churches is a way to ensure that the state cannot control churches.

Here is the rest of the post.


One response to “Why Should Churches Enjoy Tax Exempt Status?

  1. I usually see this addressed from a different perspective. The tax exempt status limits what the church can teach. Churches avoid making statements that may seem overly political for fear that they will lose their tax exempt status. So "tax exempt" exerts control, where "taxed" would leave them more free to speak on any matter they wanted.But never mind that all the money the church gets was already taxed before it ever got to our bank accounts for us to give it in the first place. But I'm sure you don't need me to go into my distaste for the current tax system again.

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