The Instigator
bladerunner060
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Khaos_Mage
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Should churches be taxed (v2.0)?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/1/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,515 times Debate No: 28816
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
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bladerunner060

Pro

Con requested I challenge him after my original post got trolled. I thank him for the opportunity to actually debate this topic!

The motions are:

Pro: Churches should be taxed.
Con: Churches should not be taxed.


My opponent may feel free to make opening arguments and/or rebuttals in his rounds.


I have gone through and clarified some of the points I originally made (or possibly made them less clear...enough edits and I sometimes get myself all twisted).


Although I did not explicitly state these premises last time in the original post, I mentioned them in my argument, and feel it would be best to place them here, in the beginning.

1. Taxes as a concept are applied to all in a country, in principle.
2. Exceptions are made to that for various reasons.
3. Churches are an exception, and this debate is about whether such an exemption should exist in the context of philosophy (does it have a good reason to exist) and legality (is there a constitutional reason or argument for such an exemption to exist). Such a reason must exist for the exemption to be justified.

**Note: The original debate stated "the burden of proof shall be shared", however, I realize that I said that with the intention of establishing 3, above. Rather than do that in the argument, I figure it should be posted as a premise, since I cannot imagine that Con will disagree with it. However, if Con does, I am more than willing to discuss it, and possibly edit accordingly prior to acceptance.**

My initial point is that there is no reason not to tax churches, except to give churches special treatment based solely on their being churches.

Thus, the decision not to tax churches, and to therefore afford special treatment to these "Houses of God", violates the principle of the First Amendment's establishment clause, and discriminates against citizens who are members of sects that don't "qualify" for the status, including atheists.

It costs the government billions annually, and forces citizens to support religions they may not even like by collectively shouldering the burden that would otherwise be shouldered by the church. [1]

The reasoning for making them exempt has always relied on the notion that ""[I]ntentional governmental advancement of religion is sometimes required by the Free Exercise Clause." (Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia)", which is patently absurd. [2]

[1] -- http://www.secularhumanism.org...

[2] -- http://taxthechurches.org...

-------------------------------------------------------------------

As my opponent has had the benefit of seeing my first round argument from the previous debate, I'll also post that, with apologies for a long opening remarks round:


Churches have been exempted since 1894 from income taxation.[3] There was also no income tax at all until 1862, and it was mostly dormant until the 1890s, only achieving the amendment to the constitution in 1913[7]) There are many exemptions and deductions to these taxes, and sometimes that results in little to no taxes paid. These exemptions (except in the case of religious organizations) are based on some perceived benefit to society that offsets the cost of the tax break.

Churches are granted 501(c)(3) exempt status simply by virtue of their religious nature, and do not have to follow the rules that other 501(c)(3) organizations do.
The government imposes restrictions on what's allowed of religious organizations who wish to avoid taxes; ordinarily lawful behavior is prohibited by the government through the threat of monetary penalty.[5]

The Church of Scientology qualifies as tax-exempt, solely on its religious nature, while atheist organizations often must qualify for other reasons than their religious stance; this is discrimination. The Texas Comptroller Office once tried to prevent Unitarians from getting exempt status because they didn't require belief in "god, gods, or a higher power" [4]. He eventually backed down, but a fight was necessary. It was necessary because of the perception that religion gets a special place in taxation law. This is directly against the intention of the 1st Amendment, particularly in context of the "wall of separation" philosophy.

To quote the IRS handbook on the subject: "Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law". [5] Churches are afforded special rights above ordinary citizens just for being churches, and this goes against the fundamental principle that the state should not be interfering one way or another in any church.

Even as it stands, the tax law contradicts its own principles, as it limits what these churches are allowed to do (no matter how much they want to, churches are prohibited from campaigning for or against candidates or laws). Of course, many facets of the laws are essentially unenforced, "the payment of unreasonable compensation to insiders, and transferring property to insiders for less than fair market value" having never been enforced to my knowledge against any church; still, it is the state imposing rules on religious activities.

Other common requirements the IRS imposes to qualify as a "church" in the eyes of the government are:

a distinct legal existence and religious history,
a recognized creed and form of worship,
established places of worship
a regular congregation and regular religious services, and
an organization of ordained ministers

[6]

All of these require the state to decide what "counts" as a "church"...things which the government should not be doing in the US.

There is an argument that churches should not be taxed because of the "wall of separation". However, it falls flat, as churches are not being separated from the government, they are being elevated above the citizenry (who must pay their share of taxes). If the "wall" metaphor were applied in that manner, that argument, applied to its logical conclusion, would require churches to forgo all benefits of being in the country, as well. For example; if a church was robbed, the US police should have no jurisdiction over the robbery. Churches would have no right to use public lands. But the advocates of the argument only look at the "responsibility" side of the government, not the "benefit" side.

I believe that tax-exempt status of churches is AT BEST a privilege, like all other tax-exempt statuses, as opposed to a "right" of religious organizations. As such, it must be defended. I believe that such a defense must be something other than "it's religion".

A common argument is that churches are often charitable organizations, but I would point out that there are already exemptions in place for organizations that are charitable. Further, churches are treated as a special case, with far less regulation, and there is no requirement for them to be charitable.

Without the "But they might do good!" argument, which, to repeat, fails based on the fact that they aren't required to even try, I feel that there is no other legitimate reason to give tax subsidies to churches; combined with the First Amendment's clauses on the subject, I agree with Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court, who wrote in his dissent of Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York that "A tax exemption is a subsidy", and "one of the best ways to 'establish' one or more religions is to subsidize them, which a tax exemption does." [8]

Thank you!



[3] -- http://churchesandtaxes.procon.org...

[4] " http://www.religionnewsblog.com...

[5] -- http://www.irs.gov...

[6] -- http://www.legalzoom.com...

[7] -- http://www.infoplease.com...

[8] -- http://ffrf.org...
Khaos_Mage

Con

I would like to thank my opponent for this challenge and apologize for my delay; I work three jobs. On to the debate…

Even an atheist should agree that churches bring benefits to society that government cannot: piece of mind (meaning/purpose of life), absolution for transgressions committed, a moral standard for a community, and generally, charity. For example, I know not of a single church that does not teach the value of honesty.

The overall point is the 501c3 is not exclusive to churches. Due to character limit, I am opting to rebut.

Thus, the decision not to tax churches, and to therefore afford special treatment to these "Houses of God", violates the principle of the First Amendment's establishment clause, and discriminates against citizens who are members of sects that don't "qualify" for the status, including atheists.

Atheists are not religious by definition, so they cannot qualify as a church. Regardless, there are plenty of other tax-exempt entities, such as grassroots, literacy, and charity. The special treatment in this debate is not exclusive to churches.

It costs the government billions annually, and forces citizens to support religions they may not even like by collectively shouldering the burden that would otherwise be shouldered by the church. [1]

The cost is irrelevant, as only the income, if there is any, would be taxed by the IRS. If a church were to be a non-profit entity, which they must be for 501c3 status [1], there would be no federal income tax applied anyway. This cost is a burden to the states in lost sales and property tax, which is their decision.

[Tax history]. These exemptions (except in the case of religious organizations) are based on some perceived benefit to society that offsets the cost of the tax break.
The history is not important, but gives background. Pro states there is no benefit from churches, but does not state why.


Churches are granted 501(c)(3) exempt status simply by virtue of their religious nature, and do not have to follow the rules that other 501(c)(3) organizations do.

This is partially true and partially irrelevant. The fact that churches have special rules is not the issue, and if the church is a recognizable one (Catholic or Protestant), it is given automatic exemption. However, this is also true of subsidy non-profits and grassroots [1].

The Church of Scientology qualifies as tax-exempt, solely on its religious nature, while atheist organizations often must qualify for other reasons than their religious stance; this is discrimination. The Texas Comptroller Office once tried to prevent Unitarians from getting exempt status because they didn't require belief in "god, gods, or a higher power" [4]. He eventually backed down, but a fight was necessary. It was necessary because of the perception that religion gets a special place in taxation law. This is directly against the intention of the 1st Amendment, particularly in context of the "wall of separation" philosophy.

C of S qualifies due to its religious nature, but it still must qualify on its own merits, as you evidenced. A charity like the United Way does not need to meet the same criteria, as it is not a church. All churches must meet the same criteria for a church, while other 501c3 entities meet other criteria. Does a charitable 501c3 need to meet an educational criteria like an educational 501c3 would need to?

To quote the IRS handbook on the subject: "Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law". [5] Churches are afforded special rights above ordinary citizens just for being churches, and this goes against the fundamental principle that the state should not be interfering one way or another in any church.

If only this were true. The state should not be establishing any religion; this is a far cry from interfering. Tell me, can a church sacrifice virgins? Engage in polygamy? Of course it can, but it won’t be protected/recognized under the free exercise clause.


Even as it stands, the tax law contradicts its own principles, as it limits what these churches are allowed to do (no matter how much they want to, churches are prohibited from campaigning for or against candidates or laws). Of course, many facets of the laws are essentially unenforced, "the payment of unreasonable compensation to insiders, and transferring property to insiders for less than fair market value" having never been enforced to my knowledge against any church; still, it is the state imposing rules on religious activities.
Churches are afforded no other “rights” as any other 501c3. The government is not interfering as the church is willingly petitioning for this status, and willingly accepting any restrictions imposed. The United Way cannot pay unreasonable compensation, either.


All of these require the state to decide what "counts" as a "church"...things which the government should not be doing in the US.
Of course the government needs to do this, in limited scope, and does this in other facets.

I cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, nor can I shout racial slurs at people in a public park; these limit my speech, and must be judged if they are truly “protected” speech.

A more direct example is deciding if seeking spiritual guidance (another benefit) is privileged communication. If the church is not recognized, or the clergy is not recognized, does this protection exist?

The bottom line is, a church can operate without tax exempt status, and that protection in the first amendment is not affected, whether the Church of Khaos-Mage is denied the status or I fail to apply for it.


A common argument is that churches are often charitable organizations, but I would point out that there are already exemptions in place for organizations that are charitable. Further, churches are treated as a special case, with far less regulation, and there is no requirement for them to be charitable.

Nor is there any requirement for a specific religion to be charitable; that is not the benefit a church brings to society, although most churches do do good (soup kitchens, orphanages, teaching literacy or other things).
1. http://ctb.ku.edu...

The overall point is that churches are not exclusive to tax-exempt status.
Churches are affected by government regardless of their tax-exempt status.
Churches are offered special treatment in regards to the IRS, but this is not the issue, as the issue is whether the church should be taxed.
Pro bemoans the IRS's decision to "judge" a church, but the IRS makes distinctions all the time. Examples: employee vs. independant contractor, hobby vs. business, and church vs. non-church.

Churches should not be taxed because they do offer benefits to the community, as much as any other charity, literecy, or education entity does.

Debate Round No. 1
bladerunner060

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for his response!

To rebut the rebuttals:

"...an atheist should agree that churches bring benefits to society..."

I disagree vehemently.

From this atheist's standpoint, churches bring harm to society: they butcher critical thinking and encourage the type of lapdog obedience to authority that allowed the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal to become what it became. The "charity" of many churches comes with the strings of proselytization and bigotry. The moral standard for the community can, due its nature of rejecting reason in favor of authoritarian arguments, encourage throwing acid in young women's faces as it can helping old ladies across the street.

I certainly don't argue that no church does any good ever, but rather that the benefit is far outweighed by the harm, and that some things touted as "benefits" are, in fact, harms.

"I know not of a single church that does not teach the value of honesty..."

I do, though most churches are not so self-destructive as to recommend members be treacherous and dishonest to each other.

Some churches teach the value of lying and cheating to people that aren't of their faith. Look at the Scientology policy of "Fair Game", which allows people to be "punished and harassed using any and all means possible", ""Deprival of property, injury by any means, trickery, suing, lying or destruction have been pursued throughout and to this day with the fullest possible vigour." [1] Various churches of Satan have achieved 501(c)(3) status, as well (see example at [2], NSFW)

"The overall point is the 501c3 is not exclusive to churches."

It was never up for debate whether 501(c)(3) was exclusive to churches. Rather, my point was that churches are treated specially within the 501(c)(3) system. They do not have the same requirements as non-religious organizations, including not having to prove their "non-profit" status through a 990 statement. "Non-church groups receiving tax exemptions must annually file a detailed 990 statement itemizing where the money has gone. The IRS automatically waives the 990 requirement for churches." [3] While that, alone, is not an argument to tax churches, it demonstrates the "special place" churches are getting, that puts them "above" the "normal" 501(3)(c).

Hard to hold them to the "non-profit" standard when you don't know where the money is.

"Atheists ... cannot qualify as a church."

Which makes it discrimination wholly based on religion, and therefore patently unconstitutional.

"there are plenty of other tax-exempt entities, such as grassroots, literacy, and charity. The special treatment in this debate is not exclusive to churches."

Yes, it is, as has already been noted.

"If a church were to be a non-profit entity, which they must be for 501c3 status, there would be no federal income tax applied anyway."

There is more to 501(c)(3) than non-profit status alone, and if a tax-exempt status is not achieved, then taxes would be applied. [6]

"This cost is a burden to the states in lost sales and property tax, which is their decision."

And this debate is over whether that is the RIGHT decision. While my argument may have focused primarily on income tax, the debate here is about ALL tax-exempt statuses that churches get solely on the basis of their religious nature.

"Pro states there is no benefit from churches, but does not state why."

Churches give no inherent benefit. Some churches MAY give a benefit, but that is not inherent to their being churches. Remember that even Churches of Satan qualify for exemptions. They may qualify for exemptions if they do serve charitable purposes, but at present that is not a requirement to maintain their exemptions. Other 501(c)(3) organizations must establish why they fall into the category in which they do; churches are presumed to be "good", which, as already noted, is patently unconstitutional. The government should not be saying that churches are "good" based solely on their being churches.

"All churches must meet the same criteria for a church, while other 501c3 entities meet other criteria. Does a charitable 501c3 need to meet an educational criteria like an educational 501c3 would need to?"

No, but there is no constitutional proscription against establishment of education or charity, either, and the 501(c)(3) exemptions are generally agreed upon...except for religion.

"...can a church sacrifice virgins? Engage in polygamy? Of course it can, but it won"t be protected/recognized under the free exercise clause."

Irrelevant. Sacrificing virgins impacts the rights of the virgin in question, which is why it's prohibited. Whether polygamy should be banned is an entirely different debate.

"Churches are afforded no other "rights" as any other 501c3."

They don't have to file 990s. That alone is something no other 501(c)(3) can do.

"I cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, nor can I shout racial slurs at people in a public park..."

You can shout fire if there is a fire. And I am aware of no laws preventing you from exercising your free speech rights in a park. At a certain point, nuisance laws may come into effect, but in the US you are perfectly free to be an jerk, as the Westboro monsters demonstrate. [4]

"A more direct example is deciding if seeking spiritual guidance (another benefit) is privileged communication. If the church is not recognized, or the clergy is not recognized, does this protection exist?"

I don't think it should. But it is irrelevant to taxation.

"The bottom line is, a church can operate without tax exempt status, and that protection in the first amendment is not affected, whether the Church of Khaos-Mage is denied the status or I fail to apply for it."

Different taxation rates are discriminatory. By your logic, the government could tax everyone that wasn't a member of the First Church of the Divine Elephant, because they're still able to "operate" despite the tax.

"Nor is there any requirement for a specific religion to be charitable; that is not the benefit a church brings to society."

Whether a church brings benefit to a society is at best a secondary argument. The government in the US should not be discriminating in favor of or against any religion.

"Churches should not be taxed because they do offer benefits to the community, as much as any other charity, literecy, or education entity does."

Churches do NOT offer benefits to the community "as much as any other charity". "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), which touts its charitable work, spent 0.7% of it overall revenue on charitable causes. Compare that figure with the American Red Cross which spends 92.1% of its revenue on the physical needs of those it helps." [5]

The government should not be subsidizing churches, unless they qualify for a reason other than their churchiness, and if they do qualify under those reasons, they should be held to the same standards.

[1] -- http://en.wikipedia.org...(Scientology)
[2] -- http://www.satanicchapel.org...
[3] -- http://taxthechurches.org...
[4] -- http://www.popehat.com...
[5] -- http://jonathanturley.org...
[6] -- http://www.irs.gov...
Khaos_Mage

Con

"...an atheist should agree that churches bring benefits to society...”

“I disagree vehemently…[I claim] that the benefit is far outweighed by the harm…”

Nevertheless, you agree there are benefits. Your arguments seem to focus on charity, and while some churches do more than others, there are other benefits to the community. For example, a moral standard cannot be addressed by law, like no lying, adultery, anger is bad, or being humble or even kind. There may be churches that go against these specific “normal” teachings, but as long as those churches fit the definition, they are to be treated as such. Otherwise, it is discriminatory. If it doesn’t fit the definition, it is not considered a church for tax purposes.

Other benefits are: use of property for public events (storm shelter, polling station), sense of community, clemency/piece of mind, burial plots, soup kitchens, and guidance without fear of prosecution. I do not deny there are pitfalls, but the fact is, there are benefits. Besides, if we look at it cynically, wouldn’t the government want to promote a group that erodes critical thinking and promotes an appeal to authority among the masses?


The government cannot discriminate because it doesn’t like one group’s creed, as long as they have one and meet the other criteria for churches. To do otherwise is not only discrimination, but an exercise in establishing a religion (by exclusion of others).

"The overall point is the 501c3 is not exclusive to churches."

“[Churches get special treatment via 990 waiver]; Hard to hold them to the "non-profit" standard when you don't know where the money is.”
The special treatment is irrelevant to taxation.

It is important to note that a non-profit entity is a bit of a misnomer, as they can indeed have a profit at the end of the year. The difference is, this profit is not taxed, AND it MUST have a designated, often pre-authorized, purpose, such as the purchase of assets like a fleet of cars or a new building (i.e. re-investing in the entity to further its purpose). [2]

"Atheists ... cannot qualify as a church."

"Which makes it discrimination wholly based on religion, and therefore patently unconstitutional."

How? An atheist has no creed, nor a following, nor a place of worship. It does not meet the criteria for a church, or even a religion. If this is discrimination, what isn’t? I am single and have no kids, is it discriminatory to deny me head of household, qualified widow, or married filing status on my tax return? To deny me this will cost me more. Of course not, because I don’t meet the definition for such tax treatment.

Atheists can organize and educate people on the pitfalls of religion. For example, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a 501c3. [6]

What is your legal definition of discrimination? Mine is to treat similar situations differently, like a white guy getting a lesser sentence for the same crime as a black guy, assuming other factors are equal.


"...can a church sacrifice virgins? Engage in polygamy? Of course it can, but it won"t be protected/recognized under the free exercise clause."

“Irrelevant…”

This is not irrelevant, as you said the government ought not interfere. Restricting behavior is interference, it should not matter if the interferer is the IRS or the local sheriff.


"I cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, nor can I shout racial slurs at people in a public park..."

You can shout fire if there is a fire… in the US you are perfectly free to be an jerk, as the Westboro monsters demonstrate.”

The point is, the government limits speech when it affects others. Shouting a fire when there is none is not protected, nor is being a jerk to the point that someone takes a swing at you. Westboro walks that fine line between protected speech and “fighting words”.


"The bottom line is, a church can operate without tax exempt status…"

“Different taxation rates are discriminatory...”

If taxation rates are discriminatory, why is my tax burden different if I: have kids, am married, make more, have income via hobby vs. business vs. employee, or have income via capital gain vs. social security vs. welfare vs. normal earnings?

"Nor is there any requirement for a specific religion to be charitable; that is not the benefit a church brings to society."
“Whether a church brings benefit to a society is at best a secondary argument. The government in the US should not be discriminating in favor of or against any religion.”

It is not discriminating if it treats all religions the same. The IRS treats hobby income different than business income, both in the form used to file and the deductions allowed. Is this discrimination, when one gambler may be treated as a professional business (no other income, travels for poker, plays 20 hrs/week) and another as a hobby, who bought $20 in lottery tickets, once? The most noticeable difference between these two is that the professional can have an actual loss for the year, while the one-time gambler cannot.

"Churches should not be taxed because they do offer benefits to the community, as much as any other charity, literecy, or education entity does."

“the Mormon Church spent 0.7% of it overall revenue on charitable causes. Compare[d to] American Red Cross 92.1%.”

How can they know this if there are no filings for the church?

Furthermore, Red Cross is not as charitable as you let on. While it is true administration is about 8%, over half of their contributions to various categories are to wages and benefits to those “working” in the fields. This means that over half of money raised is not being spent on the physical needs of others, it is admissions and salaries, not services and goods. [4]

"The government should not be subsidizing churches, unless they qualify for a reason other than their churchiness, and if they do qualify under those reasons, they should be held to the same standards."

The fact they don’t have to file Form 990 is not unique to churches, nor is it relevant to the issue of if they should be taxed. [3]

Churches are not qualified based solely on their churchiness; there are requirements which Pro laid out in his first round [1]. If I were to operate a church out of my garage, chances are I would not be approved, but I could have a foundation or grassroots operation. Neither would I be approved if I just started my own church, as I have no established congregation. Nor can a 501c3 church exist if there is no creed (belief system); however, I know not of any belief system that Planned Parenthood must adhere to. [5]

So, a 501c3 must prove its legitimacy as a church to be considered a church, which has a different set of standards than those 501c3 entities exclusively providing charity, education, or literacy, which must meet their own set of standards. This is not discrimination, because churches are treated equally as other churches among the 501c3 community, while non-churches that fail to meet this criteria are treated differently, just like a felony carries a different sentence than a misdemeanor. Discrimination is treating two EQUAL things differently; the equality measure here is the TYPE of 501c3, not the status of being any. For example, a hospital that doesn’t perform surgeries might lose its exemption, but I doubt Goodwill needs to perform any to keep its status.

  1. http://www.legalzoom.com...
  2. http://www.boardsource.org...
  3. http://www.irs.gov...
  4. http://www.redcross.org...
  5. http://www.plannedparenthood.org...
  6. http://ffrf.org...
Debate Round No. 2
bladerunner060

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for this debate. On to final rebuttal and closing.

"Nevertheless, you agree there are benefits."
My position was that they are a net harm.

"Other benefits are..."

Not a single one of the things listed is required of churches, and there is no guarantee that they will offer them to society at large. Further, things like "burial plots" are neither offered for free nor discounted by the churches.

"wouldn"t the government want to promote..."

This might conceivably be a reason that there is supposed to be a separation of church and state. You're advocating what I would consider a morally repugnant position.

"The overall point is the 501c3 is not exclusive to churches."
A point I never argued. Except that I said that within 501(c)(3) they are treated as a special class.

The reason for the point was that they are not treated the same as other 501(c)(3)s, and so cannot be completely lumped with them.

"If this is discrimination, what isn"t? I am single and have no kids, is it discriminatory to deny me head of household, qualified widow, or married filing status on my tax return? To deny me this will cost me more. Of course not, because I don"t meet the definition for such tax treatment."

Those are all forms of discrimination. That's what choices of preferential treatment are. However, there are no constitutional provisions barring the government from discriminating in favor of those with kids; there are constitutional provisions barring the government from establishing religion.

"An atheist has no creed..."
"For example, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a 501c3..."
"What is your legal definition of discrimination? Mine is ... a white guy getting a lesser sentence for the same crime as a black guy, assuming other factors are equal..."
"It is not discriminating if it treats all religions the same..."

The FFRF does not receive the same benefits as a church, wholly because it does not have a religious component. They have to pay extra to comply with regulations that churches do not, which is part of the complaint in the American Atheists lawsuit.
[1]

While many people say that "Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color", at the same time, if there were laws discriminating against bald men, would you not see that as unfair? And that wouldn't even be a 1st Amendment question.

Con maintains it's not discrimination against nonbelievers, because they don't have a church. Using an analogy my opponent brought up, that argument's akin to giving a black guy a harsher sentence than a white guy for no other reason than his skin color, then trying to say it's not discrimination, because if the black guy was white, he would get the same lesser sentence.

"Discrimination refers to the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit." [2]

"Restricting behavior is interference..."
"The point is, the government limits speech when it affects others..."

One set quite obviously cannot violate the rights of another. Your right to free speech cannot include silencing me.

If you're sacrificing a virgin against their will, you are abrogating the virgin's rights, and the police have every right to step in in order to protect them.

Now, if the virgin is of legal age and consents, then I would argue that the state should NOT be stepping in. We already let kids let themselves die for religious reasons, it's not a particular stretch to let someone be sacrificed on the altar of their god, provided they consent. [3]

"If taxation rates are discriminatory..."
"Is this discrimination..."

I'm not dropping the argument, but I've already addressed that discrimination doesn't mean what you think you think it means.

"How can they know this if there are no filings for the church?"
Do you have a source of your own? Questioning mine, while possibly a valid criticism, is useless if you have no evidence of your own, and not actual evidence of a lack of validity. Point stands.

"Furthermore, Red Cross is not as charitable as you let on..."
Your source is a pamphlet from the Red Cross.

In that pamphlet, the words "wages" and "benefits" are only found twice, and the numbers produce nowhere near half their budget. [4] Further, even if it were true, the numbers would still be far better than the other example I gave.

"The fact they don"t have to file Form 990 is not unique to churches, nor is it relevant to the issue of if they should be taxed."

If you're going to make a point, you have to actually support it yourself. I shouldn't have to read the entirety of these pamphlets and figure out what you're talking about. For example, the only groups exempt from form 990 are, on page 4 [5]:

- religious organizations (no obligation whatsoever)
- governmental organizations (for fairly obvious reasons)
- Political organizations that are local or required to report under the Federal Election Campaign Act
- Organizations with limited gross receipts (50,000 or less)
- Certain organizations that file different kinds of annual
information returns.

Very tiny organizations, Organizations with their own special filing rules already, including political organizations, and governmental organizations. Those are the only groups that don't have to file a 990. Considering the government organizations is for obvious reasons, and political organizations are handled through other legislation, that only leaves very small organizations, which rarely have to file the longer paperwork of larger organizations in any area of tax code. That is not a point in your favor; linking to the form only shows exactly how much special treatment churches get.

"Churches are not qualified based solely on their churchiness..."

Con then points out where I listed the things which the IRS looks at to determine the validity of an exemption which are, entirely, based solely on "churchiness", and not at all based on any benefit to society. I have no idea where Planned Parenthood came from; regardless: the point is that the IRS discriminates in favor of BELIEF over NONBELIEF. That is discriminatory, and goes against the constitution, for the reasons I've already noted.

"This is not discrimination..."

Con's point here is that churches are given exemption based solely on being churches, and it's not discriminatory to create a class specifically to apply to churches because the churches within are treated the same, so long as they're churches.

Con's point is that churches are definitely given benefits based solely on their being churches. Con has yet to give a valid reason for the exemption to exist, and thus has failed in his burden of justifying its existence. He has yet to make a point in his own favor that cannot be trivially dismissed, indeed, I addressed the only points in his favor before he had even made his argument, in round one. I'll repeat it here as my closing:

Without the "But they might do good!" argument, which, to repeat, fails based on the fact that they aren't required to even try, I feel that there is no other legitimate reason to give tax subsidies to churches; combined with the First Amendment's clauses on the subject, I agree with Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court, who wrote in his dissent of Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York that "A tax exemption is a subsidy", and "one of the best ways to 'establish' one or more religions is to subsidize them, which a tax exemption does."

Please vote Pro

[1] -- http://atheists.org...
[2] -- http://definitions.uslegal.com...
[3] -- http://www.npr.org...
[4] -- http://www.redcross.org... , page 26 and 27, as far as I can tell.
[5] -- http://www.irs.gov...
Khaos_Mage

Con

Thanks for the debate, sorry for the delays and varying styles of debate. I am still new to formal debates, and haven’t quite found my style or voice yet.

Pro’s arguments stem from the idea that churches offer no net benefit to society, and that they qualify for 501c3 status solely because they are churches. What I have tried to establish, is that churches themselves are a benefit to society.

Pro seems to think that churches should be held to the same qualifications and obligations as other 501c3 entities, yet has no problem saying that a group like PBS should not be required to offer charity, or Planned Parenthood needs to address literacy. All 501c3 groups have their own criteria and purpose, and this is not discrimination for discrimination’s sake, but for practical reasons. The only thing I agree with is that churches should be required to file a form 990, or similar form, unless there are legal issues with such disclosure.

There are churches that appear to offer no benefits to society, possibly even harm it (scientology or Satan). However, there is no less a benefit than offering small grassroots campaigns or super-fringe political third parties (like the ones that aren’t even on the ballots on every state). Pro fails to realize that as long as the criteria are met, an organization is approved. To do so otherwise is discrimination.

Pro’s view of discrimination is that churches are held above individuals, but offers no contempt for other 501c3s that also received tax-exempt status. He is being selective in his outrage, claiming discrimination one place but being okay with it elsewhere, all the while telling me I am wrong about what discrimination is. Now, other 501c3s are not the point, but Pro brings them in by saying they provide benefits to society, so they are fair game.

Pro also states that churches are under no obligation to benefit society, under his narrow interpretation of this term. While it is true churches are not obligated to perform acts of charity, literacy, or education, neither is any one specific 501c3 required to do all three. However, what is unique to the church, is their requirement of a creed, ordained ministers, a congregation, and a separate place of worship. No other 501c3 is required to have any of these, nor is a church considered to be a church if they fail to meet this criteria. Churches have different criteria because they have a different purpose.

The church’s purpose is to offer religious services. This, generally, promotes community and virtues. These things cannot nor should not be legislated. Only the church gives a reason that one should not cheat on his girlfriend, as this is not a crime, nor a tort. This benefits society on an individual, intangible level that Pro dismisses, as religion is also a source of zealotry.

If a church fails in its service by not living up to its creed, or losing its followers, or having its place of worship foreclosed, it is no longer considered a church for tax purposes. Does any other non-profit lose its status if it fails at its mission?

Pro has never addressed my main contention that churches offer benefits to the individual at an intangible level (sense of belonging, piece of mind, etc.). His demand for benefits to society is on tangible services, like feeding the poor or building homes. While plenty of churches do this, Pro is right to state that no church is required to do this. However, he has never addressed the intangible benefits, except to generically dismiss them by saying they are outweighed by intangible pitfalls. I believe this point was largely dropped by Pro, and sense it was my main argument for the exemption (most everything else was about discrimination), you should vote Con.

Individual rebuttals:

The FFRF does not receive the same benefits as a church, wholly because it does not have a religious component. They have to pay extra to comply with regulations that churches do not, which is part of the complaint in the American Atheists lawsuit.

They do have the same benefit: tax-exempt. The cost associated with it is not relevant to this debate.

Con maintains it's not discrimination against nonbelievers, because they don't have a church. Using an analogy my opponent brought up, that argument's akin to giving a black guy a harsher sentence than a white guy for no other reason than his skin color, then trying to say it's not discrimination, because if the black guy was white, he would get the same lesser sentence.

Then PBS is getting special treatment as it is not charitable, unlike the Red Cross. For the analogy, the discrimination is the sentence, not the crime. The discrimination would be in meeting the criteria, but not getting tax-exempt status. The criteria/crime is the same for everyone, so the outcome (granting status/sentence) should be the same for similar applicants. The DNC is not a church, therefore it is not tax-exempt on that criteria.

"How can they know this if there are no filings for the church?"
Do you have a source of your own? Questioning mine, while possibly a valid criticism, is useless if you have no evidence of your own, and not actual evidence of a lack of validity. Point stands.

"Furthermore, Red Cross is not as charitable as you let on..."
Your source is a pamphlet from the Red Cross.

It is not a pamphlet, it is the annual report. This is one of the only two things offered to “outsiders” regarding the business’ activities.

In that pamphlet, the words "wages" and "benefits" are only found twice, and the numbers produce nowhere near half their budget. [4] Further, even if it were true, the numbers would still be far better than the other example I gave.
Total revenue was $3.6 billion, and wages, benefits, and overhead totaled $1.8 billion; $1.2, $311K, and $268K, respectively. The point is, paying someone to do a service does not guarantee the service is efficient or even performed (think of wasted man hours driving the blood van or employee meetings).

If you're going to make a point, you have to actually support it yourself. I shouldn't have to read the entirety of these pamphlets and figure out what you're talking about.

Fair enough, and I apologize. But, in the same vein, isn’t it hypocritical for you to disregard my criticism of your blog for how charitable the Mormon church is when no source was provided by it? In other words, I have to scour the whole internet to find a source that shouldn’t even exist by your own arguments (i.e. churches not being required to file 990), and when I can’t because you say it doesn’t exist, it means your sources stats stand. Normally, I would agree, but not when your arguments state that the source doesn’t exist.

Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by bladerunner060 4 years ago
bladerunner060
Con, your "intangible benefits" argument wasn't dropped. It was, in my opinion, addressed by the "separation between church and state" argument (and, of course, is now up to the voters to decide). The state cannot take a position on the intangible benefits that a church may or may not have. I also noted that I did not find some of the things you posited to BE actual benefits, but that's kind of neither here nor there.
Posted by bladerunner060 4 years ago
bladerunner060
I mean quoting where exactly in your source you're talking about. For example, I'm sure you found a place for your Red Cross math, but I have to not only find the numbers I think you used but also check the math; I might have conceded the point if I'd been able to be certain of what you were talking about.
Posted by Khaos_Mage 4 years ago
Khaos_Mage
What do you mean about making my point? Do you mean citing my reference? If not, please explain. If so, I did not think it important to cite the page number for the annual report as it was short and easy to find by scrolling, and the Form 990 states in its title that black lung benefit trusts and private foundations are not to file that form.

I do not think the instructions to tax forms are a frivilous source, as the only better source would be a publication, if one exists.
Posted by bladerunner060 4 years ago
bladerunner060
Khaos_Mage, I didn't see your post because I was still trying to get mine to format right in the stupid text box and I didn't notice there even was a comment.

I do still think that you have to make your point with more than a simple assertion and a link to general IRS guidelines, though. But I would have addressed it differently if I'd seen your comment (which, I'd like to point out to the readers, was posted an hour before I finally got my stupid reply up, so I SHOULD have had plenty of time to see it). If I hadn't taken a break I would have beaten the comment by a bit, but Teen Mom was on, and....
Posted by Khaos_Mage 4 years ago
Khaos_Mage
I did not source various tax info regarding filing status and income treatments, as they are common knowledge for me as a professional tax preparer. However, in case you need a source, irs.gov and look under publication, #17 will give you the full details in all its 200+ page glory, or at least reference other publications/forms.
Posted by bladerunner060 4 years ago
bladerunner060
I suspect that the wikipedia article has a messed up html tag, likely due to the stupid parenthesis. Google "Fair Game Scientology Wikipedia" and you should find it trivially easy to find. Sorry!
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