The Instigator
Lordgrae
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
Khaos_Mage
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

Churches should be taxed the same as private non-profit clubs.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Khaos_Mage
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/7/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,645 times Debate No: 48656
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (35)
Votes (2)

 

Lordgrae

Pro

1. By churches, I mean any religious building or organization. It can be a Christian church, but in the context of this debate, it shall apply to Mosques, Synagogues, or anything of like quality that is relevant.

2. The only difference between how non-profit clubs and churches is property taxes. Non-profit clubs pay these taxes, but churches do not.

3. This position would include tax deductions. If a church did enough charitable actions, they may end up paying no taxes at all.

4. I am not calling for the destruction of religion. I am an atheist, but whether or not any religion is true shall not be the topic being argued. For the sake of debate, we will assume that none of these religions or true, or that we cannot determine whether one is true.

5. This debate is not a debate about taxes in general. This is a debate over whether churches, which are largely exempt from taxes (some counties tax them and some don't., but most do not) should pay them. Namely the tax being discussed is property taxes, which most non-profit clubs (not charities. Charities are usually taxed the same as churches) must pay. (Again this differs as property taxes are handled at a more local level.)
Khaos_Mage

Con

So, I will let Pro start.

I am offering the following definitions:
"Private non-profit clubs" - will be known as social clubs, and subject to 501 (c) (7) categorization.
Churches will be categorized as a 501 (c) (3).

Con stipulates that laws vary from state to state, which means that in some states, a church may or may not be treated differently. For the purposes of this debate, we shall assume there is indeed different tax implications for each category.
As such, we will focus on the federal (IRS) definitions of these non-profits for this debate, since if the IRS says they are tax-exempt, they are for state purposes as well (whatever that entails).

The debate is over whether social clubs ought to be treated equally to churches for ALL tax purposes.

Good luck to Pro.

If Pro does not agree to these terms, say so in the next round, and we will quickly end the debate in a tie, thus allowing Pro to issue a new challenge without revealing his hand.
Debate Round No. 1
Lordgrae

Pro

Lordgrae forfeited this round.
Khaos_Mage

Con

Since my opponent forfeited, I"ll be brief.
The reason they should be taxed differently is because, unlike social clubs, churches are charitable. This is evident in the requirements for their respective classifications.

Whether you agree with the benefits derived from the charity the church makes (missions, absolution, peace of mind, counseling, soup kitchens, etc.), they still have a mission to improve the world, in their eyes. Social clubs do not have that pre-requisite, therefore, they are not the same, and should not be compelled to be treated equally.

http://www.irs.gov...
www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Exemption-Requirements-Section-501(c)(3)-Organizations
Debate Round No. 2
Lordgrae

Pro

Okay, I'm really really sorry. I had a big English project, then I got a little sick. and I lost the charging cable for my laptop...... let's just say that it has been an interesting week. If my opponent would like to continue after we run out of rounds, maybe in the comments section, or in a new debate, then I would be willing to do so.

I would just like to restate that this is only over property taxes and tax deductions. These are the only major tax differences between churches in non-profit clubs that is worth discussing.

"The reason they should be taxed differently is because, unlike social clubs, churches are charitable. This is evident in the requirements for their respective classifications."

I think we have to examine what counts as charitable. As a charitable organization or a government agency/public service (like a library or county courthouse or a soup kitchen) money given to them is tax deductible. Similarly, a religious organization is also on this list of tax deductible organizations. Also on this list is 2 types of private organizations. Domestic Fraternal Societies and non-profit cemetery companies. However, restrictions are placed on even these. For the fraternal society, the entire amount you are claiming as a donation must be used for a charitable action, and for the cemetery company it cannot be used for a specific lot or mausoleum. *1

Now, I agree that a church may engage in charitable actions. This is clear to anyone. I was part of a synagogue for most of my life, and I remember every once in a while them passing around a collection plate or asking for canned food. I also remember them using that money to build a new Synagogue, because they didn't have one (they had services in other locations that they rented out or borrowed). Most religious organizations do not use enough money towards charitable actions to be considered a charity.

The purpose of declaring something a charity, and refraining from taxing it at all, and then giving deductions for donations is thus.

1. To convince people to use their own money to fund relief and support programs that the community as a whole supports more.
2. To not have to provide services being rendered by that organization.

Does a church do either of these? While the community as a whole might more support the church, is it really providing a relief to the community? Is giving my ten dollars to that church really going to do more, or even a comparable amount then if I had given it to a real charity? Should I get the same tax deduction from donating to a soup kitchen that I get from donating to a church?

Now I would like to separate religious organizations into 3 categories, to which I will argue separately.

The first will be charities that may affiliate with a religion, but function as charities. I have volunteered with the Jewish Relief Agency, which unless you live in the greater Philadelphia area and are Jewish, probably don't know about. It's a warehouse that packages boxes filled with square meals for the week and delivers it to mostly, but not exclusively, needy Jewish people (mostly recent Russian immigrants). They give the majority of their funds to the charity itself, and give a negligible amount (less then 10%) to religious practices. This is a charity and should be treated as such. There are other examples of things that are clearly more charities then religious organizations, though they may affiliate with some religious organizations.

Now there are standard churches that participate in large, or exemplary charitable actions. (as in, 30-70% of their income). These are not charities. Though they may partake in many charitable actions, they should be taxed. However, they can receive large deductions from their charitable actions, and may end up paying no taxes at all, or very little. This is great. They should be able to do this, and I, and most people, should applaud them for doing so. But, they are still a religious organization. My donation will do less then donating to a real charity. It should not be tax deducted equally, or at all like it would if I donated it to a charity.

The last is a standard church that participates in little to no charity (0 - 20% of income). They may receive a small amount of deduction, or perhaps none at all. Ultimately though, these are religious organizations. They cannot be considered charities. Their money only goes to benefit those who give the money, and do not give any benefit to the outside community (for religious people; remember point number 4 in round 1). I personally would argue that it gives no benefit to those inside the religion, but whatever. It is a social club that prays. That is all that a non-donating religious organization is.

We have separated these with private organizations. We have made it so that we do not tax charities affiliated with private clubs, and give deductions to the non-profit clubs so that if they are charitable, they may not have to pay taxes at all. Why can we not do the same with religious organizations?

Maybe we shouldn't tax non-profit clubs. I see rife abuse with that potential path, but maybe there is some merit that me, with my limited mortality and comprehension, cannot see. My arguments are based off of equality. The only difference between a church and a non-profit club is that one prays and the other might pray. And yet one gets massive exemptions, while the other must struggle to do massive charity projects if they wish to pay no taxes, or do rigorous hoop jumping to get qualified under tax-exempt status.

1. http://www.irs.gov...
Khaos_Mage

Con

Apologies accepted, but no, formal debates are hard for me, which is why I accept so few. We can continue in the forums if you wish.

[some churches are not charitable, seems to be Pro's main argument]

Not in the conventional sense, no.
However, a social club "may not hold itself out as providing goods and services to the general public" (my first source), thus, it is not a charity, ever. Further, social clubs require membership, as opposed to churches which ask for donations.

We have separated these with private organizations. We have made it so that we do not tax charities affiliated with private clubs, and give deductions to the non-profit clubs so that if they are charitable, they may not have to pay taxes at all. Why can we not do the same with religious organizations?

How can you expect an organization to pay property taxes if there is no revenue? It's not like they can increase tithing?
Conversely, since social clubs "must be supported by membership fees, dues, and assessments", they can raise the necessary money, or go under.

Lastly, churches have limits and restrictions on how they lobby, while social clubs do not.

These differences categorically make the institutions unequal, and since they are unequal, similar tax treatment is not required.

"Maybe we shouldn't tax non-profit clubs. I see rife abuse with that potential path, but maybe there is some merit that me, with my limited mortality and comprehension, cannot see. My arguments are based off of equality. The only difference between a church and a non-profit club is that one prays and the other might pray. And yet one gets massive exemptions, while the other must struggle to do massive charity projects if they wish to pay no taxes, or do rigorous hoop jumping to get qualified under tax-exempt status."

I would argue the biggest difference between a church and a social club is that you have to pay to benefit from the club, where you are not assessed a fee to pray.

Also, I am not sure what Pro is arguing about exemptions and what his source has to do with anything regarding tax treatment of these groups. Pro's source has to do with limitation to the amount given, not what is done with that money. In both cases, regardless of how the money is spent, the revenue is not taxed.
Debate Round No. 3
35 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Lordgrae 2 years ago
Lordgrae
Both a church and a private club can have open house events, as in, events where non-members can participate (such as services where they do not require membership, or a charity dinner), but a membership church would have some events or services only available to a member, who would in turn pay some sort of dues.
Posted by Khaos_Mage 2 years ago
Khaos_Mage
Define membership church, I don't know what that is.
Posted by Lordgrae 2 years ago
Lordgrae
These serve fundamentally different purposes. And some of the things you listed are government run.

I have a single question for you. What is the fundamental difference between a membership church and a non-profit club that calls for them to have significantly different tax codes in general, and not in specific instances of individual variation?
Posted by Khaos_Mage 2 years ago
Khaos_Mage
In that case, Lordgrae, let's equate labor unions to soup kitchens, and political parties to schools. These are all non-profits, after all.

The difference is nuanced, and makes all the difference.
As I said in the debate, social clubs are forbidden from acting as a charity, both in their identity and their source of revenue. However, in that regard, charity and churches are similar, which is why they are both 501c3, and why there are different classes of non-profits.
Posted by Lordgrae 2 years ago
Lordgrae
Well I think that is fundamentally related, since currently they are (mostly) taxed the same as charities.
Posted by Khaos_Mage 2 years ago
Khaos_Mage
Juan, for the record, this debate wasn't if churches should be taxed as charities, it was if social clubs should be taxed the same as churches.

They are not the same class of non-profits.
Churches and charities are, thus that would be a different debate.
Posted by Lordgrae 2 years ago
Lordgrae
"Some churches are also downright poor and I think it would be unfair to tax churches that don't really get good financial support from the community. In my personal view an exception should be made for these churches, even if they're minimally charitable, so they're not taxed like a private non-profit club."

I think this would be a necessary concept if this was ever put in place (which it won't be). It is at the heart of a progressive tax system. Of course a megachurch that makes 60,000 a weekend in donations and has a preacher making millions should be taxed more then a small, one room inercity or rural church that functions as a community meeting house as well.

Something that I forgot to bring up: The states need a certain amount of money. No matter how they decide to get it, they will get it somehow. If they cut taxes but don't reduce spending, then they will simply take the money from somewhere else. More fees for going through voluntary legal procedures like the DMV, public toll roads, special areas taxes, like on houses. So, in a way, because the church is not paying the tax, I am paying their tax for them, and indirectly funding an organization that I may not agree with.

I ask this; What is the fundamental difference between a church, and a non-profit club? Is praying being essential to one and not the other a difference important enough to give special tax privileges? Do you want to pay the taxes of private clubs that you do not agree with?

In the end this is a very murky issue. Of course not all churches would be taxed evenly, even if they do no charity. And for the most part, this only applies to property taxes (which they must pay in some places), so a large church with a lot of property will pay more then the small, one room inercity church.
Posted by JonathanDJ 2 years ago
JonathanDJ
@Sagey,
Churches don't have massive wealth. Get your head out of the 19th century and check back in to reality. The Catholic church probably has the most but it's all in fine art and real-estate. Needless to say, none of it is liquid. Their wealth is entirely on paper. If you want something to bit@h about why don't you look into what your government spends in just one hour.
Posted by JonathanDJ 2 years ago
JonathanDJ
@ Hematite12
The reason it's illegal to tax churches is because it's a backdoor way of exterminating a religion. If liberals ever bothered to study a decent book on economics instead of the slop they lap up in the NY times they would know that taxes by their very nature are prohibitive. So, if you want the power to control religion then we get the power to control you. Another thing liberals don't bother with is studying a decent book on history. If you had you might actually understand what's behind the Constitution and what it means. We are against campaign finance not because we are in love with corporations which is the lie the liberals have spread. We know that the leftist profs in the colleges and in the media will have everybody pretty much brainwashed for their causes. We have to raise money and run adds on issues in order to promote our ideas and positions. To do that you form groups to raise that money. We have to be honest about it unlike liberals.
Posted by Juan_Pablo 2 years ago
Juan_Pablo
Correction:

"Okay. I wont vote because I see there was an interruption in the debate, which both Pro and Con allowed for and clarified should force the debate to be a tie!"
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by SeventhProfessor 2 years ago
SeventhProfessor
LordgraeKhaos_MageTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Both used sources, but only for definitions, so no points for that. Con showed that, by definition, social clubs are never charities, and churches cannot be taxed exactly as they are, args to Con. FF, so Con gets conduct.
Vote Placed by Geogeer 2 years ago
Geogeer
LordgraeKhaos_MageTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:34 
Reasons for voting decision: Lordgrae's forfeit ruined the flow of the debate. While he had the better argument in the end I will award the other points to con for the forfeit.