The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Churches should be taxed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/23/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,631 times Debate No: 23119
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




'It is said that death and tax are the only two certainties in life, it's ironic the church dodge both these, the latter quite literally.
R John'

The anti-theist group I am part of on facebook posted this quote and it really made me want to find out your views on the fact churches are not taxed! I would like to make it clear that I am refering to American churches when I say this.

I shall be Pro; Chruches should be taxed.

Please no trolling, thank you.


I accept the debate challenge, arguing for the CON side (Churches should not be taxed).

I define "tax", as "A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions" (Marriam-Webster)

I will wait for the Pro to make their case before posting my own.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting this debate, I will first lay down my points of why I am pro, I would like you do to the same for con, before countering my argument.

Assuming Churches count as NPO(non-profit organisations) they should be taxed in the same ways. All other organizations (like corporations, including non-profits) pay taxes on everything, profits, franchise tax, business license tax, property tax, payroll tax.

Churches are often a big part of communities in America, they typically use a lot of the communities resources, occupying large areas of land and real estate that they do not have to pay tax on. The amount of property owned by churches is vast compare to any other single co-operation, if the churches were to pay only this tax alone the personal property taxes you and I pay would go down considerably, many tons and cities property tax rates would drop and lets be honest, the government would have a LOT more income.

Not only are churches using vast amounts of land they are not paying tax for, they also use the services paid for by tax payers, why is it fair churches get the same treatment by police, fire departments and schools that us ta payers do, when they provide nothing towards it?

However you may claim churches to be non-profit, they still collect money and revenue in many forms, donations, events, fund-raisers, trips, selling merchandise (whether they pay sales tax on this I am not sure, I think it may vary church-to-church and depending on the merchandise) at the end of the day, successful churches such as those run by the Baptists and Catholics make millions, many churches in my area have their own gyms, libraries, day cares and swimming pools, they also seem to afford excessive trips and camps. Where does all this money come from and why is none of it going back into the economy? You may claim that it is being put to good use for the churchgoers to use these facilities, but what about atheists like me, or people from non-Christian organisations? Religious affiliations only remain tax-exempt if the government sees the religion as legitimate.

At the end of the day everyone would benefit from Churches paying tax; they are such a huge part of the American society and the gain a lot of revenue (whether they are meant to or not!) Every other organisation has to claim their earnings, there is no reason churches should be exempt.



Background information

In order to understand why churches should be tax exempt, we must first outline which taxes that churches already pay, and which taxes they do not.

In what way are churches tax exempt?

1) Federal income tax

According to the IRS, [1] "Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions."
For this to occur, the church must meet ALL of the following criteria:
■ the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other
charitable purposes,
■ net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
■ no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
■ the organization may not intervene in political campaigns, and
■ the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy

2) Property tax

Churches do not pay property tax under the legal precedent of Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, 397 U.S. 664 (1970). The court upheld the tax exemption status for churches on a 8-1 decision. In defense of his decision, Justice Douglas quoted: "We do not mean to say that religious groups and the press are free from all financial burdens of government. We have here something quite different, for example, from a tax on the income of one who engages in religious activities or a tax on property used or employed in connection with those activities. It is one thing to impose a tax on the income or property of a preacher. It is quite another thing to exact a tax from him for the privilege of delivering a sermon. State aid to places of worship, whether in the form of direct grants or tax exemption, takes us back to the Assessment Bill and the Remonstrance. The church qua church would not be entitled to that support from believers and from nonbelievers alike."[2]
The court gave the following four reasons for their decision [3]:

1. The First Amendment tolerates neither governmentally established religion nor governmental interference with religion.
2. The legislative purpose of tax exemptions is not aimed at establishing, sponsoring, or supporting religion, and New York's legislation simply spares the exercise of religion from the burden of property taxation levied on private profit institutions.
3. The tax exemption creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state, far less than taxation of churches would entail, and it restricts the fiscal relationship between them, thus tending to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other.
4. Freedom from taxation for two centuries has not led to an established church or religion, and, on the contrary, has helped to guarantee the free exercise of all forms of religious belief.

3) Other taxes

Churches are also exempt from other minor state taxes, but seeing as this is on a state level, it would be too difficult to outline each and every one.

Should churches be tax exempt?

In short, yes. As you can see from what I have outlined above, churches and non-profit organizations pay the same taxes. This is because the same reasons that apply to non-profits also apply to churches as well.

Churches are vastly known as a positive thing in the United States. An article in America Magazine defends this stance by saying: "At least where most Catholic nonprofit organizations are concerned, I would say there should be hope: Catholic nonprofit organizations are second to none when it comes to predictably and reliably producing benefits for nonmembers, wider communities and the public at large."[4] Even as an atheist myself, I acknowledge that churches bring together a community of generally good people who want to do the right thing to please whatever God they worship. Although they are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, it is still the right thing nonetheless. Putting a tax burden on these churches would be completely redundant because it would discourage future good work done by the churches, and diminish the amount and the quality of good work that a church community could accomplish, leaving that extra slack to be picked up by the government or not picked up at all.

I acknowledge that there are negatives to allowing churches to be tax-exempt. If I had to, I would argue a more progressive approach by saying that churches should pay a little more than what they do now, but applying an extreme solution (such as abolishing the tax-exemption status entirely) to a minor problem (possible abuse of the system) will be both counter-productive and redundant.

Thus, I negate.


Debate Round No. 2


IntelligentFemaleAtheist forfeited this round.


Even though my opponent forfeited, I'll still see what I can pick apart from her arguments.

Notice that not once throughout my opponent's main arguments did she ever distinguish between a church and a non-profit organization. In that light, she also failed to provide you a single reason to vote Pro.

As I said in my opening argument, churches are like non-profit organizations, which provide benefits to the community as a whole without being taxed for it. My opponent didn't even try to argue against this in her opening argument, possibly because she, as well as I, acknowledge all of the good that can come out of a local church.

The problem with my opponent's case is that she doesn't realize that taxing a church will simply discourage it from providing these benefits to the community. People who work at churches or even people who volunteer are already taxed at an individual level. This poses a problem for taxing the churches, as Professor Dean Kelly writes in his book "To tax them again for participation in voluntary organizations from which they derive no monetary gain would be ‘double taxation’ indeed, and would effectively serve to discourage them from devoting time, money, and energy to organizations which contribute to the upbuilding of the fabric of democracy."[1] And what does this mean? If churches spend less time helping the community, who picks up the slack? Either the government does so, which ultimately means more taxes for all of us, or nobody picks it up at all. Both situations are undesirable and completely avoidable by not taxing churches in the first place.

Looking at my opponent's arguments, all I can really see are complaints about what the churches have. So what if churches own land? So what if they have facilities on this land? Pro hasn't given you a single reason as to why these are even bad things, except for that some people feel like they can't use those facilities.

The last sentence the Pro says is the most fallacious of all: "Religious affiliations only remain tax-exempt if the government sees the religion as legitimate." Looking at my opening argument, you can see this is blatantly false. The IRS outlines specific guidelines that the church must follow in order for it to remain tax exempt. Believe it or not, there ARE churches that are not tax-exempt, because they choose not to follow those guidelines. But what my opponent said about churches "making millions" was REALLY true (and we have no reason to believe this without a proper citation), they wouldn't qualify for tax-exemption in the first place.

Thus, this resolution has been negated.


Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Scorbie 6 years ago
Lol this is america IntelligentFemaleAtheist "if the churches were to pay only this tax alone the personal property taxes you and I pay would go down considerably," If you give the government more money they keep it they won't lower taxes lol.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited, leaving con's arguments untouched.