The Instigator
Bitch_Goddess
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Wirbelfeld
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

Should Churches be Given Exemption from Paying Taxes?

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 0 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/24/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 528 times Debate No: 104124
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (0)
Votes (0)

 

Bitch_Goddess

Con

The first round will be definitions.
The rest will be arguments and rebuttals.

1. Church:
a building for public and especially Christian worship
2. Exemption:
free or released from some liability or requirement to which others are subject
3. Separation of church and state:
the act or state of keeping government and religion separate from each other
4. Tax:
a charge usually of money collected by the government from people or businesses for public use
5. Business:
a commercial or industrial activity or organization
6. Organization:
an organized body of people with a particular purpose

If there are definitions Pro or I have not included, it is fine to provide them later in other rounds.
Debate Round No. 1
Bitch_Goddess

Con

Pro has not provided any definitions, so I will continue on with my first argument.

I start with a singular question: why should they?

The whole point of separation of church and state fundamentals is to keep personal beliefs away from that of the modern-day societies laws and orders, there-so to maintain freedom of religion still, but not including itself with that of the said religion. So again, I ask, why should they be given exemption from taxes?
It completely disregards the separation of church and state, as well as gives privileges to those of that building of worship by not requiring such taxes of the building as done to every other place with such taxes.

By definition, a tax is "a charge usually of money collected by the government from the people or businesses for public use".
I then provide the definition for "business", which states that it is a commercial or industrial activity or organization. A church is indeed an organization; an "organized body of people with a particular purpose". That purpose is a place to have worship for their religion. Therefore, churches should not be exempt from such taxes due to the basic definitions and fundamentals of what these taxes are meant for.

I look forward to Pro's response and hopefully, a civil debate on this topic/issue.
Wirbelfeld

Pro

First, an issue with the definitions that Con provides: Con provides the literal definition of a business, but then does not honour the given definition. A church by nature does not serve a commercial purpose, and thus is not a business.

Churches provide public services. They serve as places of charity, often providing the same governmental services as many charities, NGOs, and non-profit organizations. Taxing churches causes two problems. First, taxing an entity that provides public services in order for public use does not make sense. Churches provide after-school care, provide food and shelter for the homeless, provide shelter for abuse victims, and provide other less tangible benefits to their community through religion. Taxing churches would place unnecessary strain on all these services, and churches may be forced to reduce these services. Thus if Con wants to argue for the taxation of all churches, because of the services churches provide, the government would have to tax all non-profit organizations and charities.

As for Con's argument about the separation of church and state, the nature of this separation relies on the government's minimal intrusion upon the operations of a church. In fact, this very argument was presented and argued in front of the supreme court in the case "Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York." In an 8-1 decision the court ruled that the tax exempt status of the churches did not violate the concept of separation of church and state. Furthermore, in the majority opinion, the court explained that allowing churches to be tax exempt provided less involvement between church and state than if churches were taxed. Taxation is one of the main methods in which a government can control its citizens, and by taxing churches, the government exercises control over said churches.
Debate Round No. 2
Bitch_Goddess

Con

Pro, I do indeed provide the literal definition. In which by that, I follow.
Did Pro not read my argument?
"I then provide the definition for 'business', which states that it is a commercial or industrial activity or organization. A church is indeed an organization; an organized body of people with a particular purpose'."
It does not say "Commercial and industrial activity and organization". It specifically states "or".
I do hope Pro understands what the simple word "or" indicates.

"Churches provide public services."
"Tax:
a charge usually of money collected by the government from people or businesses for public use"
As just explained, a church is indeed a business.

Churches are benefited from the Government and are primarily for a place of worship, not for that of a charity home. Therefore, it should only make sense they contribute to such sustaining the government.
Churches are given infrastructure from the government while paying no tax at all. Who do you think provides such taxes for those who are given exemption from paying? The citizens of those from other taxed organizations. It's completely unfair to those who live in such low status that has to go to charities and such. BECAUSE of the extra tax collects due to an exemption of Churches (and, of course, other things).

Churches should be given no special treatment just because they have a personal belief.

" Churches provide after-school care, provide food and shelter for the homeless, provide shelter for abuse victims, and provide other less tangible benefits to their community through religion."
Which is why Churches are given money by many donations in which they are able to do these activities. Yes, they would be taxed, however like many of us citizens in other organizations, we pay those as well. I might also add, Pro is generalizing all churches when many, MANY do not do any of this. For example, majority Mormon churches do not do this. Many Christian churches do not do this. We are discussing why churches should/shouldn't be exempt from paying taxes. Generalizing churches as a whole to make all seem very charitable is not a reliable argument. Especially since churches like WBC exist.
Of course, it would be beneficiary for those of the charitable acts to be tax exempt; the fact remains, though, that many do not use their money for just charities and bettering their church.

Tax exemptions to secular nonprofits like hospitals and homeless shelters are justified because such organizations do work that would otherwise fall to government. Churches, while [some] may undertake charitable work, exist primarily for religious worship and instruction, which the US government is constitutionally prevented from performing.

"As for Con's argument about the separation of church and state, the nature of this separation relies on the government's minimal intrusion upon the operations of a church."
Shall government take away their infrastructure then? Infrastructure is a huge part of churches, and henceforth should be paid for by those who use such sources. Not those who have nothing to do with the religious affiliation.
"Regan v. Taxation with Representation (1983): "Both tax exemptions and tax deductibility are a form of subsidy that is administered through the tax system. A tax exemption has much the same effect as a cash grant to the organization of the amount of tax it would have to pay on its income."
You speak of charity and such when, by invoking these exemptions, forces more taxes on citizens of other organizations and businesses. Including atheists, who believe in no religion at all.
"Taxation is one of the main methods in which a government can control its citizens, and by taxing churches, the government exercises control over said churches."
Tax should be invoked if sources are used from the government. It makes no sense to be using government sources and do nothing to earn/keep them. It's not controlling churches, it's taking in the money they should be getting due to the supplies were given to them BY the government. And the example I've been using: Infrastructure.
If one is not willing to pay for said privileges, one should not be given them.
Unless of course, the example I referred to about justification on exempt taxes on non-profit organizations like hospitals and shelters.
Wirbelfeld

Pro

Churches are by definition not-for-profit and thus cannot be identified as businesses. The legal definition of a business excludes churches whether the dictionary definition does or not. Churches are 501c3 organizations and thus cannot be taxed. If you tax churches, you have to tax all 501c3 organizations. Otherwise, you are taxing an organization based on religion.

Now lets look into what a non profit is. A non profit is, by definition, an organization in which there are no shareholders to benefit from 'revenues' because there are none. The individuals who receive salaries in non profits pay taxes, and property taxes are even ruled as constitutional by the Supreme Court. The only exemption churches receive is that churches do not receive taxes on their non-existent 'profits'.
Con claims that non-profits provide government services and thus should be tax exempt. I ask him to broaden his view of non-profits. Non profits include think-tanks, museums, and sports leagues. Do these organizations provide government services?

I believe con does not understand how taxes are levied. In order to tax an entity/business, you must first find a revenue to tax. Churches almost always rely on donations as their source of income. Imagine having a percentage of each donation you give to a church or any other non profit go towards the government.

Churches have two main areas where their 'revenue' goes: salaries and benefits for members, and the programs that Con claims should not be taxed. The former is already taxed, which only leaves the latter for taxation. Con's argument that churches should only be allowed tax exemption in these services thus falls apart here.

Con frames churches as some sort of business where there are consumers and producers. Churches do not sell services, and people do not go to church to buy products. Thus, there are no revenues to tax. To levy taxes on churches would turn churches into a business where investors invest and expect a profit. Churches would cease providing any charitable services and instead focus on pleasing their investors.

Taxing churches also brings up another problem. The IRS has tremendous power and discretion when it comes to taxation. Financial audits are a huge source of problems, and with the taxation of churches comes the power of auditing. The IRS would then theoretically have the power to audit any religious organization of their choosing, and have the power to impose huge penalties on any small error in accounting.
Debate Round No. 3
Bitch_Goddess

Con

A church CAN be a non-profit organization, however, that is not all churches (and so in many cases). In fact, many churches abuse this power of tax exemption.
Churches are given an automatic exemption, without even going through the due process that every other nonprofit organization must go through.
So basically, any organization that announces themselves as a church, they are automatically given 501(c) 3 status, meaning they don't even have to apply for tax-exemption but are given it automatically.
I might also add, churches are specifically made for the practice of a religion. There can be non-profitable events that go on, but the church itself is not a non-profit organization. It is a place of worship in the end. Not a charity.

"Con claims that non-profits provide government services and thus should be tax exempt. I ask him to broaden his view of non-profits. Non profits include think-tanks, museums, and sports leagues. Do these organizations provide government services?"
"Tax exemptions to secular nonprofits like hospitals and homeless shelters are justified because such organizations do work that would otherwise fall to government. Churches, while [some] may undertake charitable work, exist primarily for religious worship and instruction, which the US government is constitutionally prevented from performing."
The government can partake in "think-tanks, museums, and sports leagues". However, it is constitutionally prevented of the government to perform any religious activity that would otherwise be shown as favoritism of one religion.

"I believe con does not understand how taxes are levied. In order to tax an entity/business, you must first find a revenue to tax. Churches almost always rely on donations as their source of income. Imagine having a percentage of each donation you give to a church or any other non profit go towards the government."
Who is the one keeping the infrastructure of the entire Church building afloat? The government. So if I were to be giving a donation to the church, I'd expect some of that to be going to the ones who help keep the church up and going. And again, many churches abuse the power of being tax-exempt, which I believe you are completely ignoring.

Plus, something I have an issue with is that many churches discriminate on whether or not someone is valid enough to receive their "care" and "hospitality". For example, there are some Catholic adoption agencies that will only allow Catholic couples to adopt. A Catholic hospital might refuse to perform a medically required procedure that would cause an abortion. A church that provides social services will sometimes refuse to hire gays/lesbians or will only hire members of their own faith. It is not always an open public service because they pick and choose which people are acceptable. Which goes against the idea that the church is/can be for public use.

"Con frames churches as some sort of business where there are consumers and producers. Churches do not sell services, and people do not go to church to buy products."
Actually, you'd be surprised. I've been to a Christian church that even had a little gift shop that sold Christian items (such as baby Jesus, dolls, t-shirts promoting their Church, etc.

"Taxing churches also brings up another problem."
Not taxing churches brings up many problems, but I will get into those after my statements further.

" The IRS has tremendous power and discretion when it comes to taxation. Financial audits are a huge source of problems, and with the taxation of churches comes the power of auditing. The IRS would then theoretically have the power to audit any religious organization of their choosing, and have the power to impose huge penalties on any small error in accounting."
The IRS would have the power to remove their valuables if the Churches were to not pay their taxes. They aren't removing their belief system, just the things that they themselves have paid for with the government's money. It's not imposing on their religious beliefs, it's taking back the things that the Church did not pay for.

Now onto the issues of not taxing Churches.
Firstly, not taxing churches, as said before, leads to the higher taxation of those who do not induce in religion. Such as atheists. It is unfair for atheists to be paying for the Churches taxes when they are not at all a part of the organization.
Secondly, according to a University of Tampa study, the tax breaks for churches alone cost the United States an estimated $71 billion a year in uncollected taxes. That's an increasingly large amount of money the US could be making if they were to tax churches. And the IRS can only tax the people so much to try and make up for this lost money.
Thirdly, religious leaders who live in a home provided by their church are entitled to a parsonage exemption. They pay income taxes on their personal income, but the value of the housing is not added to their income as it would be for any other citizen. If the "parsonage exemption" were revoked, there would be an estimated half billion in taxes collected each year. The abuse is rampant among the ministers of the mega-churches. They live in multi-million dollar estates and avoid property tax by calling their home a parsonage. For instance, televangelist Joel Olsteen, senior pastor of the Houston based Lakewood Church, lives in a $10.5 million "parsonage" which boasts six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, five fireplaces, a guest house, and pool house.
They are misusing the entire point of tax exemption, all because they can.
Wirbelfeld

Pro

First, your argument that donations should go to upkeeping the church.
Financial information of non-profits, including salaries, are legally required to be public. If you are unsatisfied in where your donation money goes, simply don't donate.

Selling services and product for business is different for businesses and non-profits. Charities sell products often as well. This is inherently different from buying something from a retailer.

One of the most important points is the power the IRS has. The IRS has tremendous discretion when it comes to auditing and audits can be a tremendous burden on the individual or organization regardless of how accurate your taxes are.
This particular point is extremely important as this means that if churches could be taxed, the government now has the power to place undue burden on any church of their choosing. Audits are extremely costly for even the largest organizations and businesses and multiple audits could easily cripple a small church at the discretion of the IRS. The key thing here is the POTENTIAL for abuse.

Finally, con argues that there are some people who abuse the tax exempt status of churches. Con's solution to a small minority of people abusing a right, is to cripple the majority who are not abusive, who usually live on an extremely modest salary. 500 million dollars a year in taxes is a negligible amount of money compared to the amount of taxes that are collected annually. Even 71 billion dollars a year is a small amount compared to the total 6.6 trillion dollars in taxes that the federal government, not including local and state revenues.

A few people abusing a right is not justification for the revocation of that said right. If anything, the taxation of churches will lead to more megachurches, as the standard churches are shutdown and people turn to extremely large churches. The taxation of churches would disproportionately affect smaller churches who cannot bear the weight of taxes compared to large churches who receive enough funding.

The current model of standard churches checks itself. If the organization leaders pay themselves too much, they will simply receive less donations, and will simply be unable to do so. In this way, the members of the church can control the salaries of their religious leaders. In a profit driven model, the church simply works to increase the profits of the investors and shareholders with no input from the community.

The taxation of churches will turn churches into a business. A business with investors, and profits. I dont know about you personally, but to most people, religion is a sacred thing; something that should be kept away from the typical antics of capitalism. In a society where religion is treated like a business, religion loses its value. Only the churches focused on profits will survive such an environment, and men and women such as Joel Olsteen will become more frequent and hold more influence as people have no where else to turn. Joel Olsteen is rich not because churches are not taxed, but instead because he exploits the feelings and beliefs of vulnerable men and women, something that would be encouraged under a system where churches are treated as a business. Right now, there is no incentive to earn extra money in standard churches.

If you respond to nothing else, please respond to this question: Do you think a profit driven church would benefit anyone?
Debate Round No. 4
Bitch_Goddess

Con

I believe that Pro is completely ignoring the main fact that Churches are a place of worship. They are not solely based on non-profitable charity to the public. And like I explained, the entire point that they discriminate against those who do not hold their beliefs destroys the idea that the church can be/is for public use and shelter, but there only for those who share the same belief system.
"Tax exemptions to secular nonprofits like hospitals and homeless shelters are justified because such organizations do work that would otherwise fall to government. Churches, while [some] may undertake charitable work, exist primarily for religious worship and instruction, which the US government is constitutionally prevented from performing."

"Financial information of non-profits, including salaries, are legally required to be public. If you are unsatisfied in where your donation money goes, simply don't donate."
I was not indicating I would donate simply to help uphold the Church. My point was that if you are going to be receiving donations, it should also be going to those who help you in the first place: the government. It's ridiculous that Churches take no part in paying taxes because they are seen as "nonprofitable", and are completely tax exempt, even though they pick and choose who get's to receive their "kindship". Which, again, destroys the idea of Churches being a charitable cause.

"This particular point is extremely important as this means that if churches could be taxed, the government now has the power to place undue burden on any church of their choosing. "
They would be taxed, just like any other organization. It's not "undue burden" if they are receiving equal treatment as to that of everyone else with different organizations. They should not receive exemption just because they believe in God. It's a privilege to be exempt from taxes, not a right. And in this case, Churches are being treated like it's their right because even if your church isn't an actual church, so long as you title it that, you get a complete exemption from taxes. It's ridiculous. Having a personal belief does not make you any more special than that of other organizations. I know many churches that are even sponsored at events (some, which of do cost money). So they make a lot of money due to that.

"500 million dollars a year in taxes is a negligible amount of money compared to the amount of taxes that are collected annually."
Yes, of course to the TOTAL of annual taxes. Not even close, however, to that as much as someone else pays in a year. It's a tremendous amount in comparison. And it is an issue.
"Even 71 billion dollars a year is a small amount compared to the total 6.6 trillion dollars in taxes that the federal government, not including local and state revenues."
It would be a MUCH larger amount of spending money that could be used to improve areas and help cities/states. $71 billion can be used to create many PRIMARILY nonprofit organizations that are open to ALL the public, something many, many Churches do not do.

"A few people abusing a right is not justification for the revocation of that said right. If anything, the taxation of churches will lead to more megachurches, as the standard churches are shutdown and people turn to extremely large churches. The taxation of churches would disproportionately affect smaller churches who cannot bear the weight of taxes compared to large churches who receive enough funding."
That's unfortunate. It's life. If you can't pay taxes, whatever the government is helping you with will get taken away. That's that. If Churches don't have enough money to pay for their own stuff, they have no right to use it and say "INTRUSION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" when they are not paying for it.
And again (something you have continuously been ignoring), people or organizations that might even go against religious practices like this (such as atheists) have to pay more in tax money to help make up (a small portion, because we are talking about $71 billion here) for the Churches privileges. It is an "undue burden" they have to face because of the Churches special privilege.

"The taxation of churches will turn churches into a business. A business with investors, and profits. I dont know about you personally, but to most people, religion is a sacred thing; something that should be kept away from the typical antics of capitalism."
Again, this is a personal belief. Pro is inserting personal beliefs into regarding tax exemption of Churches.
If a Muslim says that Allah hates apples, are you going to stop eating apples because they told you it's bad? Believing that religion is a sacred thing is RELIGIOUS BELIEFS and has no place in the government (as in inflicting their personal beliefs upon the Gov.). They should be taxed because:
1). They are a biased "nonprofit" organization that only helps those that follow their beliefs (in majority cases, especially for Catholicism)
2). Abuse of power happens more often than Pro believes. And the abuse takes in millions, if not billions of money that they are not working for.
3). Again, Churches predominant uses are for religious worship. It should not be exempt just because they can't seem to make money off of a personal belief. If that were the case for everything, I could start a damn club and try for tax exemption, along with some free property and help from the government on infrastructure. And all for what? My own wants? I could even call it a religion, or simply put it up as a "Church". And presto, escaping taxes.

"Joel Olsteen is rich not because churches are not taxed"
That is exactly why he is rich. Everything he owns is because the government gave him an exemption because of a parsonage. So his home and every single addition to it has no value that he needs pay for because of this unjust exemption/parsonage.

"Do you think a profit driven church would benefit anyone?"
It would certainly give another reason as to why Churches shouldn't be tax exempt. Plus, it would allow the people of that religion to use their "charities" as a religion-based charity. Therefore, it would make it less discriminating towards those of whom are not part of said religion and are denied service because of it.
It would also decrease taxes for the people because the Church would no longer be tax exempt.
It is unruly to tax other people for the sole benefit and privilege of someone else.
Wirbelfeld

Pro

Con forgets that the only requirement of a non-profit is that there are no profits. If the law required all churches to be taxed, and did not allow them to apply for 501c3 status, this would be treating an organization different from others based on religion.

Con believes the point of non-profits is to provide some sort of service to the public, however, this is not the case. At no time during filing for non-profit status does the government ask what sort of public benefit you provide; this is just simply not part of the criteria.

"2). Abuse of power happens more often than Pro believes. And the abuse takes in millions, if not billions of money that they are not working for."
What number is millions if not billions? I dont know where you get this money from.

Joel Olsteen is not rich because churches are not taxed. Are you suggesting that Joel Olsteen would be dirt poor if the government took 40% of his income away? He would still be a millionaire, because people still donate to his church.

Con claims that this system creates discrimination against atheists, however, nothing is stopping atheists from creating their own church. Such a concept has already been implemented across the nation, with atheists gathering in their communities every sunday similar to churches.

"It is unruly to tax other people for the sole benefit and privilege of someone else."
I don't play sports and I don't watch sports. Why am I paying more taxes because sports leagues don't pay taxes? Is this unruly? People make money, sometimes tremendous amounts of money, off non-profits. There are far more millionaires and billionaires who make tremendous profits off other non-profits than do churches.

If you take nothing else away from this debate, take this: The government does not tax churches simply because they don't make profits; there is simply no other criteria for a non-profit organization. If all churches are forced to pay taxes, this is directly against freedom of religion which ensures religious organizations are treated the same compared to secular organizations.

Although this debate is over, I would really like con to respond to my main points in the comments. I'm quite curious about their potential response. I feel that I made too many points and was unable to defend each thoroughly. However, I appreciate the opportunity to debate Con on this issue.
Debate Round No. 5
No comments have been posted on this debate.
No votes have been placed for this debate.