A conversation has been going over at Presbyterian Bloggers that has taken an interesting turn. The question initially had to do with the involvement of churches in political campaigns. A few cases have come up in which churches have been threatened with losing their tax-exempt status for involvement in one way or another.
I think that threat is what keeps churches from being prophetic and speaking truth to power. The best way to counter that threat is to give up the tax-exemption. Perhaps it is time for churches to stop feeding off of the government.
When I look at huge buildings being constructed I think either that it must be a bank or a church. Churches are more like businesses today. They operate on business principles, they should be treated as businesses.
Churches do not pay property tax or sales tax. Donations to churches provide a tax break to those who donate. Clergy, while considered self-employed, do not pay income tax on their housing allowance. Yet churches expect fire and police protection and other services a local government may provide. At the federal level, these church businesses siphon off billions of dollars that could go to government programs that would benefit all Americans rather than simply church going ones.
One may argue that churches do good things for communities. That may or may not be true. One could argue that businesses do good things as well. Great. That is beside the point. The only difference between churches and businesses is that businesses pay taxes. Churches would do far more for their communities by paying their fair share of taxes and not expecting a free ride.