The Instigator
bladerunner060
Pro (for)
Winning
19 Points
The Contender
InVinoVeritas
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Should churches be taxed?

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 3 votes the winner is...
bladerunner060
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,170 times Debate No: 28706
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)

 

bladerunner060

Pro

This debate is about only the question: Whether churches should be taxed by the government in the US. I will be taking the "Pro" position.

[Edited to clarify:]
Thus:

Pro: Churches SHOULD be taxed.
Con: Churches SHOULD NOT be taxed.

The burden of proof shall be shared.
[/edit]

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]

It is my position that the Founders did not intend to make churches tax-exempt, and the reasoning for making them such 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] -- quote pulled from http://taxthechurches.org...

My opponent may feel free to attempt rebuttal only, or to attempt points in their own favor.

Good luck!
InVinoVeritas

Con

I accept.

I will offer my rebuttals in round two, after my opponent has laid out all of his arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
bladerunner060

Pro

I confess to a bit of confusion as to why my opponent has chosen not to rebut or propose anything in the first round. I extend those arguments, and point out that I do not have to lay out "all of" my arguments; I feel that, without any rebuttal, my points stand as enough to win the debate so far (if you don't rebut, then any point can win a debate).

But I will restate some things and make some points, since I have plenty of space.

The burden of proof was established as shared in the initial statement accepted by my opponent.

I suppose some other basic premises should be stated, as well.

Taxes are paid, in principle, by all entities which exist in and do business in the US.
Churches exist and do business in the US.
Therefore, in principle churches would be subject to taxation.
Churches have, however, been exempted since 1894 from income taxation.[1] (while they were "unofficially" tax-exempt since the founding, 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 that made them in 1913[5]) 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 to.
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.

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" [2]. 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" [3] 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

[4]

All of these require the state to decide what "counts" as a "church"...things which the government SHOULD NOT BE DOING in the US.

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.

A common argument is that churches are often charitable organizations, but I would point out (should my opponent attempt to use that) that there are already exemptions in place for such organizations that do not rely on their religious nature, so it would seem superfluous if that is the ONLY reason to provide the exemption, particularly considering it is not a requirement of churches, and so therefore there are churches which do NOT provide any benefit to their community.

Without the "But they might do good!" argument, which, to repeat, fails based on the "But 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, 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." [6]

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

[2] -- http://www.religionnewsblog.com...

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

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

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

[6] -- http://ffrf.org...
Debate Round No. 2
bladerunner060

Pro

Ah. So trollery then?

Extend my arguments.

Thanks!
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
Hey, don't neglect the points that I brought up...
Posted by bladerunner060 4 years ago
bladerunner060
Perhaps if you read the debate, you would see that I addressed the fact that the opposite of that is true: "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."
Posted by CelticStar 4 years ago
CelticStar
No, unless people want to end the separation of church and state that is.
Posted by Khaos_Mage 4 years ago
Khaos_Mage
Hey, bladerunner060, send me this challenge and I will accept. I was going to accept, but the troll beat me to it.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by tmar19652 4 years ago
tmar19652
bladerunner060InVinoVeritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 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:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Clean sweep for pro. And I don't like trolls.
Vote Placed by Ike-Jin-Park 4 years ago
Ike-Jin-Park
bladerunner060InVinoVeritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 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 Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Nothing came from Con.
Vote Placed by The_Master_Riddler 4 years ago
The_Master_Riddler
bladerunner060InVinoVeritasTied
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 Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: no refutation by con pro had more sources than con con did not argue-conduct