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The Contender
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Churches of all religions should be taxed by the government.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/15/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 935 times Debate No: 46008
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)




In this debate, both individuals will argue that churches should or should not be taxed like other organizations. The debate is to be determined by whichever person has outlined better points for their case.

Round 1: Acceptance (Only type that you accept the challenge)
Round 2: Argument (State your point / No referencing or rebutting Pro's Argument)
Round 3: Rebuttal (Rebut each others Round 2: Arguments)
Round 4: Conclusion (Conclude your argument)

I wish my opponent the best of luck.


I accept the challenge. I will pursue the position that Churches of all religions should not be taxed by the government.
Debate Round No. 1


Churches should receive donations tax free. However, this should not exclude them from the various other forms of taxes.

(Image via The Washington Post)

I. Property Tax

Churches are not required to pay property taxes on their land or buildings. A pastor in Weddington NC purchased a $1.4 million mansion in October of 2013. The mansion features 16,000 square feet with 7 ½ bathrooms, according to building permits. The land cost another $325,000, for a total cost of more than $1.7 million. In the year 2013, this luxury home managed to skip out on roughly $344,690.00 (Calculated via in property tax.

(Picture of pastor's home in Weddington NC. Via WCNC News)

II. Sales Tax

When churches buy stuff, they don't pay sales taxes. From a $2 box of pencils to a $3,000 big screen television churches are not required to pay one cent. Lets take the television and do the math. At an 8.25% sales tax, the $3,000 television would equal to $247.50. Lets be realistic however, what church only has a television inside of it? Take this time to use your imagination. Think of the average American church, and ponder at how much money in sales tax is being avoided.

(Picture of the inside of a church)

III. Capital Gains Tax

When they sell stuff at a profit, they don't pay capital gains tax. A Mormon mall named the City Creek Center, located in Salt Lake City (2 Billion Dollar Tax Free Project) is one such place that profits from a lack of capital gains tax. It does not take someone with a degree in finance to fathom how much money a super mall like this profits, again tax free.

(Picture of City Creek Center)

IV. Why these numbers matter

The substantial amount of money that churches across the country avoid via taxes, is mind blowing. A recent study conducted by the Council of Secular Humanism, compiled numbers into an easily readable chart.

72 Billion Dollars a Year in tax exemptions. You could feed 3,600,000,000 starving people a day, or 9,863,013 people for an entire year! Did I mention that is three square meals a day?

V. Why churches should pay taxes?

To simplify, churches are earning astonishing amounts of money through various flawed tax exemptions. Churches do not have to account for where their money is spent, unlike any other organization. Blatantly, churches are given extra brakes and exemptions that no other organization is offered.

Separation of church and state does not mean that religious establishments should go unchecked. No, separation of church and state is to protect religious beliefs from governing our politics. Tax exemptions should only be applied to donations to the church.

Thank you.


Why churches of all religions should not be taxed by the government.

I. The Constitution

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." and Article VI specifies that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (

Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. First and foremost, the establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. The implications of such a law to protect the interests of a country that is known for mixing cultures, traditions, and beliefs are more important than ever.

The free exercise clause prohibits the government, in most instances, from interfering with a person's practice of their religion. How is this related to taxation? A local pastor in the Western Appalachian Mountains builds a one-room log cabin near his small mountain community made up of local miners and traders. He is a man of God and desires to share his faith with his small community, a congregation of roughly 15-20 people. Knowing he doesn’t collect much from those who can barely afford to pay he opens his mail to find that the State and Federal government are now taxing him for his one-room church. The price is simply too high to afford and thus he is forced to close the doors or suffer the wrath of the IRS. In this instance, not only did the government shut-down his freedom to express his religion, but it crushed the possibility of giving this small community a safe place where they might hear words of inspiration.

Without the Constitution, where would we be as a Nation? Would we truly have come to take these freedoms we have now for granted? Let us not forget that we fought against the Monarchy to set ourselves free from oppression from governmental entities who abused their power. We have fought for the right to build our temples for worship, we fought for the right to stand on our church stages and preach our beliefs to the masses without the government standing over our shoulder telling us what or what-not to say. If we truly relinquish the power back to the governments by allowing taxation, what more does that accomplish other than handing over one of the last safe-zones we truly have in this Nation of ours? Freedom from Governmental control and impressions.

II. Safe-Zones

As an American who is now living in a society engulfed in Post-9/11 paranoia, I’ve always taken comfort in one thing: The fact that if another great world war consumed our planet, that there will always be one building left standing- The Church. It is now a well-known fact that no matter how great the tensions or however great the animosity was between warring nations, the unspoken agreement to avoid churches during bombing raids was carried out and practiced. No matter how differing these nations were in terms of cultural traditions and beliefs, we were able to find a common ground upon which everyone could agree that in the game of war, churches were not to be touched.

But why weren’t the churches bombed? For some reason, the most untouched buildings in every country throughout the time of WW2 was that of religious organizations. Firstly, unlike political ideologies or cultural traditions, churches and religions transcend beyond the scope of political influence. Secondly, I believe the morality in soldiers during a time when churches meant more to them than the enemy should not be ruled out – even soldiers feel empathy or a personal respect garnered within them since childhood if they themselves grew up with the tradition of attending church.

III. Most churches are used as places of worship for religions that predate modern government.

Respect your elders. While one can argue that most churches were built after the American government was formed, the fact remains that the church buildings built represent something far older than any form of our federal government. If we look at all the main religions practiced in America today we have:

  • Christianity – A tradition continually practiced for about 2,000 years.

  • Judaism – A tradition continually practiced for about 5,700 years.

  • Buddhism – A tradition continually practiced for about 2,500 years.

  • Islam – A tradition continually practiced for about 1,400 years.

  • Hinduism – A tradition continually practiced for about 7,000 years.

  • American Federal Government – 227 years old…

The fact remains that a majority of church buildings we see today are built upon the foundation created by these age-old religions. In medieval Europe we see the destruction brought about by letting the church gain so much influence that it, in theory, was able to control the direction of the society at that time. With that being said, the balance that has seemed to work in our own modern society is one of equality and separation. By remaining free from governmental influence, the majority of world religions have been able to spread to provide a safety net for those fearful of the unknown. To provide individuals with the freedom to continue on their journeys throughout life knowing that they have a safe place to return if the pressure of life ever overwhelms them. This goes both ways, by remaining separate – the government has been able to remain in power over the influence of the people in terms of shaping the direction we head as a Nation.

History has proven that in order for a balance of harmony to be achieved between the church and state, in terms of dominating society’s direction of progress, a separation is necessary. The issue we face now is being able to learn from the mistakes we made as a collective throughout history. We have broken the cycle of war for influence between the two and in doing so, we have been able to achieve more technologically, scientifically, and emotionally than ever before in history. To repeat the mistakes would make us no better than those who have come before us, in the name of progress we have finally found a synthesis between the two that actually works, and I will forever stand by my position that we should continue on this path of separation if we are to continue on our path of forward progress.

IV. Desperate times call for desperate measures?

I like to call it how I see it: The American Government spends more funding on War-time efforts than the next 10 most powerful nations combined. With that said, what good does handing more money over to the government really achieve? Do you honestly believe that money will be used for rebuilding our infrastructure? Do you really believe that money will be used by the government to feed the homeless or help the poor? On September 10, 2001 Donald Rumsfeld came out to a press conference and made a startling, if not, horrifying revelation: The Pentagon had lost 2.3 Trillion dollars. That’s right, not billion – but TRILLION. This isn’t “lost” as in, profits lost, but rather “lost” as in *poof* it disappeared with no apparent traces to follow. I will provide the link so you might hear it from the horse’s mouth directly: (Please see Youtube video).

It is not uncommon for a church to host community events – for instance, as a young child growing up in a Baptist church one of my fondest memories was heading to the local housing projects with my fellow church members and giving the families there free Thanksgiving turkeys so that they would be able to enjoy a meal for the holiday. The money used for such a charity event came from nowhere but the weekly contributions we made to the church.

We cannot deny the fact that a majority of churches use their profits for good rather than selfish reasons. A majority of the time, these profits are spent on either people of the congregation in need or the church itself if repairs to the building or renovations are necessary. We musn't forget that churches are business’s as well, if they can’t receive funding from the government, why on earth should they be left with nearly nothing after the proposed taxes? I do not believe the corruption of the majority of churches outweigh the corruption of the federal government. The profits the federal government would make with the taxes would be better spent by the churches who would truly be able to help their local communities with the additional funds.


It will be up to the audience to determine whether our nation has stooped so low in its economic woes that we must now tax the only organizations left in our world that truly supersede that of our own government in terms of personal guidance and safe haven. By opening the door to government oversight, we are allowing our houses to be raided by a foreign entity. The moment our churches are taxed, we forfeit our right to use them as neutral zones if there was ever another great war to break out. We forfeit our right to speak our minds and practice our faith in the security of closed doors. We cannot allow our only common ground with the nations of the world to be raped of its dignity by allowing government influence to enter its realm of authority. Remember, it is our freedoms that we fought for that allows us to develop thoughts freely without governmental control. We won our right to remain separated from government influence- at the cost of countless human lives, all of whom we are descendants from. To allow the taxation of church would mean that all their lives lost would have been in vain. Taxation is nothing more than a quick fix to a problem that requires a much greater, long-term solution. We must stop being enablers with these quickfix tax solutions and fix the issue at the root cause - responsible spending.
Debate Round No. 2


Gish forfeited this round.


It seems my opponent has failed to provide any form of rebuttal against my arguments.

Very well, I will proceed.

I. Property Tax

The Walz decision

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, upheld the tax exemption of churches in Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970). Walz, a self-described Christian who did not belong to any church and owned real estate in Richmond County, N.Y., sued the tax committee over property tax exemption for churches. Walz claimed he and other taxpayers were forced to indirectly subsidize churches.

The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Burger, held that the tax exempt status granted to all houses of worship is the same privilege given to other nonprofits organizations:

"The legislative purpose of a property tax exemption is neither the advancement nor the inhibition of religion; it is neither sponsorship nor hostility. New York, in common with the other States, has determined that certain entities that exist in a harmonious relationship to the community at large, and that foster its 'moral or mental improvement,' should not be inhibited in their activities by property taxation or the hazard of loss of those properties for non payment of taxes. It [397 U.S. 664 , 673] has not singled out one particular church or religious group or even churches as such; rather, it has granted exemption to all houses of religious worship within a broad class of property owned by nonprofit, quasi-public corporations which include hospitals, libraries, playgrounds, scientific, professional, historical, and patriotic groups.


Importantly, my opponent failed to inform the audience that the so-called luxury home was built using the pastors personal money that he earned from book sales and paid personal appearances around the world. The pastor himself is known as a "rock star" of the community with a congregation of roughly 14,000 every week. Furthermore, even though his private home has absolutely nothing to do with the property tax exemption argument my opponent is trying to make, his church has contributed over ten million dollars to the community. This is all within the last eight years. Not only does the amount of ten million dollars in eight years dwarf the amount my opponent is trying to use as an argument, but it also is far more than that community would have received via government spending going-back-to-the-community.


II. Sales Tax

A sales tax is something that can be avoided by most non-profit organizations, not just churches. So to claim "avoiding" a sales tax as necessarily a bad thing, perhaps we should also be targeting the boy/girl scouts, or the local gardening club or even our local charity fundraisers. Furthermore, sales tax exemption is a very fine line usually defined on the State level of politics. This implies that your math is incorrect in the sense that not only is your portrayal of an 8.25% sale tax something that isn't verifiable without sources but also that not every state permits every church sales tax exemption. Furthermore, while churches might be exempt from sales taxes in certain states - depending on their legal status, they might be subject to paying a "franchise" tax. Thus, in reality, churches aren't always as 'tax-free' as my opponent is implying.

III. Capital Gains Tax

Once again, my opponent made the mistake of attempting to claim that when churches sell 'stuff' they don't pay capital gains tax. This tax law has several exceptions that even require churches to pay taxes in certain situation. For clarification on those situations I have provided some information:

Property used for exempt purposes
. Any gain or loss from the sale or other disposition of property used for the exempt purposes of the foundation is not included in figuring the tax on net investment income. If the foundation uses property for its exempt purposes, but also inci­dentally receives income from the property that is subject to the net investment income tax, any gain or loss from the sale or other disposition of the property would not be subject to the tax. For example, if a tax-exempt private foundation maintains historic buildings that are open for public inspection, but it requires a number of employees to live in these buildings and charges rent, the rent is subject to the tax on net invest­ment income, but any gain or loss resulting from the sale of these buildings is not subject to the tax.

However, if a private foundation uses prop­erty both for exempt purposes and (other than incidentally) for investment purposes, (for exam­ple, a building in which the foundation’s charita­ble and investment activities are carried on) that part of the gain or loss from the sale or other disposition of the property that is allocable to the investment use of the property must be taken into account in figuring the tax on net investment income.


Considering that the mall leases space to for-profit companies such as Forever 21, they will not be exempt from capital gains tax. The only real point my opponent can make in the case of the mall is that it was built property tax free, but as with the previous example - the money returned to the local community by the church itself has far outweighed the money 'lost' by tax exemptions.

IV. Absolute claims made by Opponent

In closing, my opponent made the bold statement: Churches do not have to account for where their money is spent, unlike any other organization. Blatantly, churches are given extra brakes and exemptions that no other organization is offered.

This is far from accurate. As I have shown above, it is not just churches that do not have to account for where their money is spent - but rather, most non-profit organizations enjoy the same benefits of tax-exempt status as churches. The claim made by my opponent is baseless and completely false.

While I can agree with my opponent that separation of church and state does not mean churches should go unchecked, it most certainly means that church and state are to remain separated. By allowing the taxation of churches we are doing nothing more than removing that degree of separation that has been necessary to maintain the balance between the two dominating forces. What history has proven, if anything, is that cycles of the past are unknowingly repeated - we must not allow that to happen once more. My only hope is that, once again, I have not failed in reflecting the importance of keeping churches tax free, and ultimately - free from external influence or governance.

Debate Round No. 3


Gish forfeited this round.


My opponent has once again forfeited a round. No clear rebuttal was made by my opponent. No closing argument was made by my opponent.

This is unfortunate as I believe this was an interesting and thought-provoking topic. With that said, I would like to thank my opponent for the initial argument and look forward to any and all challenges on the topic in the future.

In closing, I have provided my audience with what I believe to be a convincing argument for the position that Churches of all religions should not be taxed by the Government. Furthermore, I aimed to provide a convincing rebuttal against my opponents initial claims. In doing so, it is my hope that I have provided a convincing argument for my audience to ponder when personally deliberating this topic. I ask humbly that you please consider my opponents forfeits when casting your vote.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
Could someone please inform me or send me to a link that teaches you how to post pictures with the debate? I had several but wasn't able to copy/paste them over from my album. Also, forgive the YouTube video positioning. Obviously I didn't want it at the top.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
Basically the power to tax gives the power to suppress.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
I'm not sure what separation of church and state has to do with voting. This separation is guaranteed by the bill of rights (as later elaborated on by Thomas Jefferson) in order to protect our first amendment rights.

This debate was covering in Walz v Tax Commission of City of New York 1970.
Posted by Jifpop09 2 years ago
Came to the comments to say what keller did.
Posted by donald.keller 2 years ago
"I know its against the law to tax donations... but like, lets tax the church by anyways.."

Also... if you tax the church, you'd have to end seperation of church and state. You can't tax someone and then tell them they don't get a vote.
Posted by Mikal 2 years ago
If no one takes this, I may possibly accept it if you go down to three rounds
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.
Vote Placed by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Better conduct goes to CON since PRO forfeited. More convincing arguments go to CON as well, especially with the forfeit by PRO. However, PRO's arguments were unfounded and CON provided a good rebuttal. Sources also went to CON. CON provided strong sources while PRO only provided two sources. One was an image from a newspaper. The other was the IRS website which was used to calculate a unfounded example. Since I provided a comment earlier in the debate I feel that I should only award points for conduct since my comments could have influenced the other criteria. Good job CON!