Freedom of Religion

Discrimination Against Religion, and the “Churches Are Tax-Exempt” Red Herring

Tax exemptions are an argument for treating churches like other tax-exempt nonprofits, not for specially excluding them from benefits available to such nonprofits.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In yesterday's Discrimination Against Religion thread, a couple of commenters argued that churches should indeed be denied various benefits—such as historical preservation funds—because churches don't pay taxes.

Churches, though, generally get the same sorts of tax exemptions as do other nonprofits. Universities, schools, museums, concert halls, advocacy groups (except those branches of advocacy groups that participate in electoral campaigns or do a substantial amount of lobbying), hospitals, soup kitchens, and so on all get tax-exempt status. All these nonprofits don't pay income taxes, they generally don't pay property taxes, and their donors get to deduct the donations from their own taxes.

Churches do get slightly preferential treatment in certain circumstances (and I generally oppose such preferential treatment). But the bulk of the tax treatment that they get is the same treatment that's given to other nonprofits.

So if you think that all tax-exempts nonprofits should be denied, say, historical preservation subsidies, that would make sense. Or if you think that the subsidies shouldn't exist at all, that too would make sense.

But if you think that historically significant museums, opera houses, university buildings, and the like should get preservation subsidies, despite being tax-exempt, then I can't see how the tax-exempt status of churches should somehow exclude them from the same sort of subsidies.

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163 responses to “Discrimination Against Religion, and the “Churches Are Tax-Exempt” Red Herring

  1. Do museums and opera houses also have private jets to fly their bosses around in?

    1. Sorry, by way of context, I was referring to this one:

      US preacher asks followers to help buy fourth private jet

      The argument that other non-profits are also tax-exempt would be more convincing if it wasn’t so easy to dress up a for-profit church as a non-profit.

      1. I daresay that Sec. 501(c)(3) is one of the most abused statutes on the books. That you can find an extreme example of such abuse should not invalidate the argument that all that enjoy such status should be treated equitably under the law.

      2. In what way is that issue Religion specific? Non-profits are abused all the time.

        The whole concept of “non profit” is a bit of a sham. I’d do away with it entirely.

        1. The only argument I could see is if religious organizations are automatically treated as non-profits while other organizations are not.

        2. That’s something else I’ve always wondered: surely the whole point of a non-profit is that it makes little or no profit? If so, what does it matter whether that profit is taxed or not? Might was well spare yourself the hassle of having to make sure tax exempt status doesn’t get abused and do away with it entirely.

          1. That’s something else I’ve always wondered: surely the whole point of a non-profit is that it makes little or no profit?

            No, that’s not the point at all. The whole point of a non-profit is that the profit does not inure to the benefit of private individuals.

            1. Also, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status means that other people can donate money to the entity and deduct it from their taxes.

              1. Yes, but that’s a conceptually distinct rule from the question whether the recipient’s profits should be taxed.

            2. That’s not the point, either. The point is to free up money that would have been taxed so it can be put to use for whatever good things (as defined by law) the non-profit is up to.

              Granted some are scams so it seems more like what you said.

            3. “The whole point of a non-profit is that the profit does not inure to the benefit of private individuals.”

              The whole point of a non-profit is that the organization has a primary goal that IS NOT the accumulation of profit.

        3. This. Martinned might find it enlightening to look up the life and career of the late William Aramony of United Way.

      3. Megachurches are the exception though, not the rule. For ever millionaire pastor buying a private jet there are thousands of pastors who aren’t.

        And yes, like churches, a small percentage of museums and opera houses have private jets

          1. The National Museum of the USAF in Dayton has quite a few.

            And, yes, they also have one or two that are not exhibits.

            1. Those don’t sound like PRIVATE jets to me.

              1. I was surprised when I learned about their structure, too, but you would be wrong. While they were once owned by the government, they are now private in every sense.

                But again, I was being a bit flip about the exhibits. That doesn’t change the more relevant comment that they have several that are not part of their exhibits but which they use for their non-profit mission.

      4. “The argument that other non-profits are also tax-exempt would be more convincing if it wasn’t so easy to dress up a for-profit church as a non-profit.”

        A good example of a for profit entity dressing up as a non profit is PP. One of the reasons they fight so hard to preserve abortion is their abortion services are their major profit center. If PP was honest and wanted to serve and protect women’s health, they would have no qualms about spinning the abortion services off into a separate entity.

        1. “One of the reasons they fight so hard to preserve abortion is their abortion services are their major profit center.”

          This is what you’d call “not a fact”.

    2. “private jets”

      Probably not, but many colleges do.

      1. Oh, I’m sure there are museums with entire hangers of private jets. /snark.

    3. One may dress up many business entities as not-for-profit, if one can find just the right niche in the tax law.
      I work for a ‘non-profit’ midwest university, about a 10billion/year operation that behaves anything but charitably. Indeed, this university has the highest median family income of the students it so charitably educates of any university in the country. Similarly the non-profit hospital where I practice, charity is not in anyone’s mindset.

      1. Indeed, I’d question if most “non-profits” are really non-profit. More like “profit goes to upper management”.

        1. Non-profit just dictates how the disperse the profits. The organizations still seek to make a profit, but by regulation they need to direct the profits back into the organization. So a lot of “Foundations” (cough, CGI) can be and are complete scams for the wealthy by assigning themselves and family members highly-compensated jobs for administering the operation. It’s an accessible demonstration of how complex tax law (or regulation in general) favors the wealthy, because only the wealthy can afford the expertise to manipulate it. For the average person, setting up a non-profit to shell to launder their income is not something they have the time, motivation, or risk-tolerance to learn how to do.

        2. Brett – “Indeed, I’d question if most “non-profits” are really non-profit. More like “profit goes to upper management”.”

          That is true in many of the larger Non-Profit Organizations .

          The girl scouts are a good example. 75+%The annual cookie sales proceeds go the organization to fund salaries, very little goes to the individual troops. Management is geared to heavy recruitment of new girl scouts. More girl scouts means more girls to sell cookies which in turn funds management.

          1. Theoretically, the IRS will scrutinize no profits to make sure that management salaries are reflective of the work the managers are doing and aren’t disguised payments of profits to private I dividuals.

            1. Theoretically true – The IRS could audit the non-profit for excessive salaries, but it is rarely done. The IRS would be very unlikely to after a big name non profit, girl scouts, red cross, or most of the other reputable non profits.

              They havent even gone after some of the more egregious non profits – the clinton foundation, or the Climate non profit org out of George mason University (my appologies for forgetting the name) he was the professor who ran a non profit climate science education org and had salary in the 800k range along with employing several family members while only working part time.

      2. Yes, I’m sure lots of people found universities for the profit. O, wait, I can only think of the one…

        1. The guy they named Harvard after? Because Harvard’s endowment is worth $40 billion. It’s the largest academic endowment in the world.

          1. O, yes, Harvard is very rich. But who founded Harvard to make money?

        2. If you can only think of one for-profit university you clearly aren’t well versed on the subject. I can think of half a dozen without even getting to Trump

          1. I know. But the under-regulation of American higher education is a wider issue that I thought I’d leave for another day.

          2. clinton foundation is a good example –

          3. ” I can think of half a dozen without even getting to Trump”

            You’ll have to skip over Trump. He didn’t found a university.

    4. Martinned, if you’re seriously trying to learn, and not just spewing vituperation, google “university president private jets” and learn the answer. (Hint: it’s yes.)

      1. Pfft. Skip the university president. Google “football coach private jet” instead.

        1. Who is the highest paid employee of the federal gov’t? Every state gov’t? Every university with such a program? Same answer every time – head football coach.

    5. Outfits like the Clinton foundation do.

      99.99% of churches don’t.

    6. Perhaps residents sitting in the shattered glass house of the EU should spend more time asking about “nonprofit” organizations like IKEA.

      1. You mean the IKEA whose creative approach to taxation has been slapped down by the European Commission? http://europa.eu/rapid/press-r…..343_en.htm

  2. Harvard has a $39+ billion endowment. It just got a $100 million donation last week and got $1.4 billion in 2018 donations.

    Other than a modest endowment tax [maybe $50 million–12 days of donations] enacted in the 2017 tax bill, no taxes paid and that 1.4 billion is tax deductible.

    I wager every church in America does not have 39 billion in cash.

    1. “total” should be added to last sentence.

      1. Catholic churches are “churches” in “America”, so laughter should ALSO be appended to your thesis.

  3. I need someone to explain to me why extracting money from free and independent individuals to subsidize the political speech of public sector unions violates the First Amendment (I agree that it does), but extracting money to subsidize expensive religious displays/speech/property is not? And for anyone who says these are different issues needs to explain why the Janus decision (public sector union case), was based on original free conscience religious liberty principles: “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical”–Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

    1. “…but extracting money to subsidize expensive religious displays/speech/property is not?”

      You seem to be comparing apples to oranges. If churches were trying to legally force their members to pay tithes in the was public sector unions were legally forcing their members to pay dues, then yes, the courts would strike it down.

      If you trying to compare the force payment of dues with churches getting money for historical preservation then those aren’t remotely similar cases.

      1. He’s trying to claim that taxes are force, and thus any expenditure of collected taxes to an institution of religion is forced speech.

        1. Precisely. The Court recognizes this coercion/extraction when it is public sector unions but not churches and there is no justifiable explanation for his.

          1. The government spends my tax dollars on lots of things: Piss Christ photographs, radical Chicano Studies professors, etc. The courts have never considered spending tax dollars on expressive activity to be a free speech violation (though it might be an establishment clause violation). But union dues are not taxes.

          2. Union membership is voluntary, societal membership is not. People still pay taxes for programs they oppose on the basis of compelled speech. Janus dealt with unions collecting dues from non-member employees by force. The tax question for churches deals with the federal government collecting taxes from citizens. That’s the difference and why one is acceptable but the other is compelled speech.

            tl;dr fuck you we’re the government

          3. Because payment to a public sector union is for services rendered by that union, not an endorsement of that union’s political speech. If you don’t agree with a plumber who fixed some pipes in your house, can you not pay him if you disagree with his political views?

          4. That’s because if it were to rule that the dispensation of tax revenue to programs that benefit religious institutions is forced speech, it would have to concede that the extraction of tax revenue is force, which I’m sure very few in government are willing to parade around in a court ruling.

            Because then, the people might connect the dots and realize that taxation forces a LOT of expression.

            On the other hand, it’s far safer to chastise private entities like unions for doing similar things.

      2. Again, “for anyone who says these are different issues needs to explain why the Janus decision (public sector union case), was based on original free conscience religious liberty principles: “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical”–Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” The government is extracting money from the citizenry via taxes to subsidize religious speech. That is not different at all which is why Janus rested on free conscience principles.

        1. Well, no. Under this principle, you could get money to pay for rehabilitating your historical structure that just happens to be a church, but not to pay for missionary work.

          Sure, money is fungible, but the government pretends it isn’t all the time, (We’re not paying for abortions by funding Planned Parenthood!) and this is no different.

          1. Yep, I use this argument in PP discussions all the time, and people like to pretend it’s bad or not realistic to treat budgets as fungible. Which is fine, that’s their prerogative. But if our society is going to take that standpoint, then church budgets aren’t fungible, either.

      3. Also again, I put property in there for a reason. I fail to see how extracting money for public sector union speech is prohibited but extracting to make property enhancements to public sector union buildings, or for displaying public sector union monuments is okay. Madison was very clear that using civil support mechanisms to support religion always violated the free conscience of citizens, even if no taxpayer objected. To allow civil support was for Madison a contradiction to religion itself “for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world.” Civil support for religion also presented “a contradiction in terms” to Madison because it weakened “those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author.” In other words, Madison felt religion stood in no need of civil assistance, and to provide aid, even neutrally applied as it was in the assessment bill he was opposing (and how funding is justified today), ultimately undermines religion’s authority. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu…..ons43.html

        1. I fail to see how extracting money for public sector union speech is prohibited

          It isn’t. As Prof. Volokh noted at the time Janus was before the Court, states could get around it by sending taxes from the treasury to the unions. It’s only a specific mechanism that’s forbidden.

    2. Giving is more than not taking.

        1. If I refrain from breaking into your house and stealing your TV then I have not given you a free TV.

          1. If you refrain from taking my TV when you are legally entitled to do so you are giving me a free TV.

    3. I’m not sure how the Court distinguishes between public-sector union dues and taxes, but Eugene argued (to no avail) neither raises First Amendment issues.

      1. It was forced extraction, and the court held that when public sector unions forcibly extract money from individuals to propagate political opinions for which individuals did not endorse this constitutes “involuntary affirmation of objected-to beliefs.” Why should that same concept not apply to forced extractions that support religion?

        1. By the same logic – why isn’t the forced extraction of funds to pay for public education (which it would be hard to argue doesn’t propagate political opinions) not also wrong.

        2. Where your mistake comes from is assuming that this was a matter of principle. It wasn’t. It was political party A determining that they’d be better off if this didn’t happen, and political party B, which was benefitting from the process, not being powerful enough to block the other guys.

          It’s true that sometimes a union supports a candidate without asking every single member which candidate they’d like to support, and might even (gasp) support a candidate when one of the members prefers the other guy.
          Then again, sometimes corporations support one candidate, without running it by every shareholder.

    4. TBroker, I think you’re starting from a point that the rest of us aren’t up to yet. Am I correct in thinking that you are claiming that financially supporting historical preservation counts as a subsidy of the owner of the building? Am I further correct in thinking that your claim is that any support counts as a subsidy without regard to whether the money is generally available or not?

      If not, then please give us some specific examples of what you mean by “subsidize expensive religious displays/property”.

      1. He appears to be conflating tax emption with subsidy.

        If A is exempt from the income tax, B and C, who pay income taxes, do not thereby subsidize the donations A receives from his voluntary donors.

    5. OK, let’s see if I can help answer.

      1. The government can fund (via its tax dollars) whatever it wants, subject to certain restrictions (discussed in point 2). You’ll have a very hard time arguing that this impedes on your free speech rights (and so it can’t be done). For example, the government can fund ads for the military, even if you don’t like the military. It can fund political spending (via matching funds and campaign finance law), even if some of those funds end up being used for Trump ads. It can fund a public road that goes by a temple, even if that public road helps its members get to and from the temple, helping religion.

      2. What the government can’t do, is be “unfair” or discriminate. It can’t fund one political party, but not the other. It can’t fund one road to a temple, while making sure the road to the mosque degrades. These will lead to challenges.

      3. What’s going on here, is the government is directing a source of funding to a third party (without ever directly touching the funds), and the third party is using it in a discriminatory manner. That in essence “gets around” the discrimination clauses. And that type of go around is what’s wrong.

      1. “It can’t fund one political party, but not the other.”

        Where you’re going wrong here is forgetting that there’s more than two parties. What the government can do, and does do, is limit this sort of thing to only the two parties that have reps in the group handing out the money, and (sorry, everybody else… there’s only so much money to go around) not to any of the other parties, for whom it might make a difference.

        1. “Where you’re going wrong”….

          I know interpreting is tough for you, but I’m referring to matching funds for campaigns, which applies to more than two parties. Likewise, when referring to religions, there more than just mosques and temples.

          1. “I know interpreting is tough for you, but I’m referring to matching funds for campaigns”

            Not, apparently, as tough as it is for you, seeing as how I referred to matching funds for campaigns in the comment you replied to.

            ” Likewise, when referring to religions, there more than just mosques and temples.”
            No shit?

  4. It’s not just tax exemptions. Religious institutions claim exemption from laws that apply to other nonprofits. For example, exemptions from the ADA (see Hosanna-Tabor). If they don’t want to play by the same rules as the rest of society generally, it seems absurd to argue that it’s unfair when the rest of society decides not to subsidize their property.

    1. I think Hosanna-Tabor can be distinguished because not permitting a church to choose its ministers interferes with the internal governance of the church.

      1. What you’re saying makes some sense if we’re talking about religious discrimination (e.g., a Catholic Church requires its priests to be Catholic). But it doesn’t really make sense to me that once a church hires staff, it is then exempt from making disability accommodations just because it is a church. That seems like a special privilege, not a free exercise right.

        1. Hosanna-Tobar’s holding is limited to the hiring of ministers, not the entire staff. For example, the First Amendment protects the Church’s decision not to hire women priests, but not the (hypothetical) decision not to hire women janitors.

          1. That’d be more persuasive if religious schools and other institutions hadn’t responded by designating everyone but the janitor as “ministers”.

            1. All the more reason to repeal these laws.

          2. Religious organizations are also exempt from the public accommodation provisions of the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12187. This exemption also applies to “private clubs” but not to nonprofits generally.

            1. I’ve designed churches and they do have to meet the ADA however all historical buildings which some churchs are have some exemptions.

    2. I don’t know about Hosanna- Tabor but having done some construction recently I can tell you that the building code is applied to having to put a handicap ramp up to the Alter in a church (ie one has to do it).

      1. That’s probably a local/state building code issue. Religious organizations are exempt from the public accommodation provisions of the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. 12187.

  5. I will gladly wave goodbye to church privileges, for ALL churches. That means no more exemptions, grants, or subsidies or a single penny for any of the 1001 ways the 1001 tendrils of ‘progressive’ orgs suck off the public teat.

    No more mandatory union fees, purge schools of any faithbased teachings not rigorously derived from empirical or deductive logic such as the idea that ‘diversity’ automatically equates to ‘strength’ or that demographic imbalances in certain desirable areas automatically equates to conspiracies by evil old white men. End any direct or indirect public support for faithbased college departments. If someone wants to be a queer studies major they can do so on their own dime. End the monopoly of leftwing insitutions on ‘education’. If someone wants to start a career to feed their family they shouldn’t have to attend 17+ years of brainwashing camp learning Debbie has two moms in order to do so. Curb faithbased grants, especially to social ‘science’ and humanities ‘research’.

    It’ll be difficult since the prog cult, as the defacto state religion of modern Western society is so deeply embedded into society but if you want the truly fair system you claim to be after by abolishing church privileges it must be done. And I haven’t even touched on the state dollars other politicized sectors such as the entertainment and media get. So, yeah, we really need to get religion off the public dole.

    1. I’m inclined to agree, even leaving out the political complaint.

      From an economic point of view it’s highly doubtful that tax exemptions for charities promote public welfare. Even the most casual glance at reality reveals that the vast bulk of humanty’s welfare is provided by the non, or at least not necessarily, benevolent butchers, brewers and bakers that Adam Smith mentioned. Lower tax rates all round, financed by getting rid of tax exemptions for the currently tax exempted, would be much likelier to improve the lot of the huddled masses than tax subsidies for do-gooding.

      And that’s before you even get on to considering how much graft, tax evasion, cushy jobs for non profit management, and mere politicking is encompassed by the current tax exemptions.

      Which is not to say that there’s no place for do-gooding charities. There’s little doubt that they are an extraordinarily economically inefficient way of providing goods and services, and an excellent way of allowing otherwise unemployable spouses and other impedimenta to play Lady Bountiful. But if that’s what people want to do wth their spare cash, then fine. But there’s no reason at all why honest plumbers should subsidise it. Never mind art galleries and the opera.

      1. If the “do-gooding charities are an extraordinarily economically inefficient way of providing goods and services,” you must, I presume, know that government is incalculably worse.

        1. Oh I don’t know. I expect some clever boffin could have a pretty good go at calculating that.

          1. Thank you for enriching my lexicon with boffin. Good word.

  6. This would be more persuasive if we didn’t all know just how often “non-profit” was abused, and how many churches do engage in politics.

    As is, you’re comparing churches to a pile of obviously corrupt institutions and saying “see? They don’t pay taxes either!” as if that makes it okay.

    If non-profits weren’t so corrupt, if churches didn’t peddle in politics, if religious schools didn’t designate everyone above the janitor a “minister”, and so-on… then their tax-free status would be a lot more tolerable. But as is, we have decades of bad behavior on all sides. So sure, tax ’em all. Kill the “non-profit” with a stake through the heart and rebuild it better.

    1. The point of driving a stake through someone’s heart is to make sure they’re 100% dead.

      So where does the “rebuild it later” come in?

      1. The next generation, obviously.

  7. “if you think that historically significant museums, opera houses, university buildings, and the like should get preservation subsidies, despite being tax-exempt”

    When government gives money to organizations, it is endorsing them and the work they do. But we get a bit touchy when government gives money to churches… well, churches we don’t belong to, anyway.

    1. When the government makes money available to replace mulch or dirt with a better playground material, it is endorsing safer playgrounds.

      It should not matter whether the playground is at a public school, a private park or a church. As long as the money is made available for a specific purpose without regard for the status of the organization, the money is an endorsement of the purpose and not an endorsement of the organization.

      1. “When the government makes money available to replace mulch or dirt with a better playground material, it is endorsing safer playgrounds.”

        There’s no Constitutional amendment regarding establishment of safer playgrounds.

        The ban on establishment on religion can be read in two ways, strictly (any law regarding religion is find so long as it doesn’t have the word “establish” in it) or broadly (any law that does anything that can be interpreting as aiding a religious group is forbidden).

        Some people prefer broad interpretation to stay clear of any possibility of entanglement between church and state, and some people favor broad interpretation because of antipathy towards one or more religions or religious groups.

        1. But when your broad interpretation becomes so broad that it becomes antipathy, that is a de facto endorsement of atheism – which, counterintuitively, is a religion.

          1. “which, counterintuitively, is a religion.”

            In the sense of being in no way a religion?

            1. In the sense of being, in every legally relevant way, a religion – a point repeatedly acknowledged by our own government.

    2. So, when the government gives money to the GOP and GOP candidates, it’s endorsing the GOP and the work the GOP does?

      1. Yes.

        1. (duh)

  8. Correct, it is not their tax-exempt nature that causes a social concern with using tax dollars to assist parishioners with the costs of rehabbing their sanctuaries.

    I note that Mormon temples are closed to the public, but I don’t know why I just thought of that.

    1. Only the temples. The smaller satellite churches are open.

    2. I think I see the point your subconscious may have been making there, Scott. Like an increasing number of us, for better or for worse, I’m not religiously observant in any organized sense, and don’t pay weekly or even monthly visits to any church. Yet, again for better or for worse, many who do not regularly attend or pay for church are ceremonially religious, perhaps for Easter and Christmas, perhaps just for weddings or funerals. Perhaps just for funerals. At least in my experience, none of the churches or clergy or regularly tithing congregants are anything except welcoming to people who expect to waltz in to use churches for big life moments even though they have never contributed dime one into a collection plate. So, even if I agreed that you were right that a tax exemption is the equivalent of “using tax dollars to assist parishioners with the cost of rehabbing their sanctuaries,” most churches are willing to make sanctuaries not just theirs, but anyone’s. Whether, or the extent to which, or the mechanism through which, production of that public good (and other public goods produced by churches and other non-profits) should be incentivized through the Internal Revenue Code I leave to those with more time, ability, or both to plumb the elegance of the Code in achieving societally just results and the means by which it might be made even better. (Is there an emoji that means “not sarcasm” I can use for that last sentence?).

      1. Tax emptions are not subsidies.

        If A is exempt from the income tax, B and C, who must pay the tax, do not subsidize A’s Alpha Romeo acquisitions, his Palm Beach palace, or his purchase of a private jet. A is able to make such purchases because of his income, his inherited wealth, or the generosity of his family members and / or friends.

        1. “If A is exempt from the income tax, B and C, who must pay the tax, do not subsidize A’s Alpha Romeo acquisition”

          They subsidize the law enforcement that allows A to keep his automobiles and luxury homes while enjoying lavish vacations.

          1. No, they don’t.

            My proposition does not exempt A from paying the exorbitant Palm Beach real estate taxes which subsidize the outrageous salaries and benefits of Palm Beach LEOs.

            Besides, A pays for private security as private security is far superior to the public sector, no constitutional obligation to protect, minutes away when seconds count variety.

            1. “No, they don’t.”

              Yes, they do.

              (if your objection to public law enforcement agencies is that they have no constitutional duty to protect, why would private law enforcement be any better. Is there an amendment in there that says private security agencies have a duty to protect people?)

              1. You are demonstrably wrong.

                In my proposition, A lives in a Palm Beach mansion. He therefore pays real estate taxes. I did not articulate where B and C live. But, for the sake of argument, assume they live in Palm Beach mansions as well.

                Therefore, all three, A, B, and C do not pay any income taxes to the State of Florida as Florida has no income tax.

                Thus, how do B and C subsidize law enforcement for A?

                Just admit you are wrong.

                1. “Therefore, all three, A, B, and C do not pay any income taxes to the State of Florida as Florida has no income tax.”

                  Florida is one of the United States, is it not? Do people in the United States pay income tax?

                  “Just admit you are wrong.”

                  I’ll be holding my breath waiting for you to do so. I’m sure you’ll admit being wrong right away, just because you are, and there won’t be any bloviating, goalpost-shifting, or attempts to divert.

                  1. Do the people of the United States pay the salaries of the Palm Beach police?

                    You interjected the issue of financing the salaries of the police. You claimed that B and C subsidized A’s enjoyment of his mansion and automobile notwithstanding the fact that there was nothing in my proposition from which one could logically infer that to be the case.

                    In response, I asked how, given the fact that A pays real estate taxes, the taxes that finance policing, did B and C subsidize A’s enjoyment of his mansion and car. Instead of responding honestly and logically, you decided to double down on the puerile progressive pablum.

                    You, sir, are a moron.

                    1. “Do the people of the United States pay the salaries of the Palm Beach police?”

                      What the fuck does that have to do with anything?

                      “You interjected the issue of financing the salaries of the police.”

                      No, that was you. I don’t recall saying anything about the Palm Beach police, or Palm Beach, generally.

                      “You, sir, are a moron.”

                      You, sir, are not smart enough to be a moron.

          2. No, they don’t.

            My proposition does not exempt A from paying the exorbitant Palm Beach real estate taxes which subsidize the outrageous salaries and benefits of Palm Beach LEOs.

            Besides, A pays for private security as private security is far superior to the public sector, no constitutional obligation to protect, minutes away when seconds count variety.

          3. No, they don’t.

            My proposition does not exempt A from paying the exorbitant Palm Beach real estate taxes which subsidize the outrageous salaries and benefits of Palm Beach LEOs.

            Besides, A pays for private security as private security is far superior to the public sector, no constitutional obligation to protect, minutes away when seconds count variety.

        2. I don’t regard the tax exemption as a subsidy, but the topic du jour is direct transfers, not an exemption.

  9. I don’t see anything logically inconsistent with supporting governmental subsidies, via 501(c)(3), for secular nonprofits but not religious ones. We’re essentially paying public funds to get more of something with 501(c)(3). We might want more operas, better universities and more soup for charity kitchens, but not want to subsidize religion. I’m not saying we should do this as a matter of policy, but I see nothing unprincipled about such a policy.

    1. I give as much of an s’ about opera and funding transgender studies as proggies do about saving souls. This whole thing reminds me of the Net Neutrality debate. The talking heads and media are laser focused on one area ISPs/traditional churches, where relatively little is happening, while ignoring or even supporting the thing they’re supposedly against on a much larger scale such as deplatforming by Google/Facebook/Amazon etc or siphoning public monies through leftwing ‘schools’ and institutes. There is no real difference except your hypocrisy.

    2. I’m guessing that if it were put to a democratic vote (something liberals never actually want to do), churches would get a lot more votes than opera houses or Ivy League universities.

      1. I’d put my money on “none of the above”.

        Especially once someone pointed out that, legally, mosques are churches.

    3. So by the same logic perhaps “we” want more churches, but not more of any of the others. Therefore its also logically consistent to want to apply subsidies only to churches, and not to any other nonprofit

  10. Here is a novel idea, stop spending public funds for any of these non-government properties.

    1. Not levying a tax is not “spending public funds,” unless you assume all property belongs to the government.

      You see this when liberals say that the rich were “given” a tax cut.

      1. “You see this when liberals say that the rich were “given” a tax cut.”

        Tax cuts that don’t have associated spending cuts are actually tax increases, because the money borrowed to cover the spending must be repaid, with interest.

        Rich folks are “given” a tax cut when top rates are reduced or highest brackets are adjusted upwards, because most people do not pay the top rates. When the bottom bracket rates are reduced, then everybody gets a tax cut. For some reason, most tax cuts in this country are of the former type rather than the latter.

        1. Tax cuts that don’t have associated spending cuts are actually tax increases, because the money borrowed to cover the spending must be repaid, with interest.

          You are assuming that taxes must be increased in the future to pay principal plus additional interest, but the government could just as well reduce spending enough in the future to pay back both.

          1. “You are assuming that taxes must be increased in the future to pay principal plus additional interest”

            Yes, I’m assuming that facts are, and will remain, true.

            ” the government could just as well reduce spending enough in the future”

            Dimwit, if there’s no spending cut, then there’s no spending cut. Learn English or go back to your home country.

  11. Focusing on the narrow issue of tax exemptions is misguided. It is important to consider the broader tradition of separation between church and state.

    Eugene Volokh wrote in an amicus brief in Hosanna-Tabor: “the religious- freedom-protecting principle of church-state separation ? from the time of Becket to Blackstone, to Benjamin Franklin, to today ? has long meant, among other things, that religious communities and institutions enjoy meaningful autonomy and independence with respect to their governance, teachings, and doctrines. This autonomy has been recognized and vindicated in a long line and wide array of this Court’s decisions, and is entirely consistent with the appropriate exercise of the civil authorities’ regulatory powers.”

    In my opinion, the autonomy that religious organizations enjoy as part of the separation between church and state is a legitimate reason for churches to be treated differently than other kinds of nonprofits, when it comes to state subsidies.

  12. Most people who bring up the tax exemptions are idiots. I personally think nonprofits should pay the portion of property taxes allocated to police and fire, sewer, etc. but not schools and the like.

  13. Exempting religiins from taxation is entangling, but taxing them is more entangling, as failure to pay a tax could lead to seizure of assets, which is ultimately law interfering with the free exercise of religion, whicb is disallowed.

    But benefitting from some non-profit government grant? Probably shouldn’t happen for the same reason. On the other hand, they benefit from roads and so on, and this is just The People speaking with a voice to government: Build this stuff for us and we will use it, including to go to church, and you shall not drag your forbidden-to-touch-religion aspect into it.

    1. I suppose that is right. But I think there is a big difference between building a road which benefits a church (and everyone else), and giving a church money directly. Even if you are giving them money to maintain their building because their building is historic (or giving them money to surface their playground), that is money that they don’t have to spend for that purpose.

    2. I think the idea is that churches (and other nonprofits) give back to the community and the nation in general in other ways than paying cash taxes, and therefore “earn” their benefits from the roads without having to pay taxes

      1. If you want to look at it that way. My point is The People decided their religion (and their churches as part of that) is something they are here to enjoy the freedom of doing, and so set things up to stop interference from government. The church doesn’t have to justify its use of roads — The People drag it along with them. The government is the servant of the people, and whatever they do, not the other way around.

  14. A better analogy is while, under Janus, taxpayers are required to fund universities (grants and student aid included) for institutions that are so openly hostile to a great many taxpayers and their beliefs.

    1. I wonder if someone upended an image of Mohammed in urine, paid for by government dollars, if these same people would talk glowingly of how those in Islam needed to be shaken up.

      Ironically, yes, and for the same reason as the Jesus cross. But…would they say it?

      1. What if the guy who did the art SAID it was an image of Mohammed, or Jesus, or L. Ron Hubbard, or whoever, depending on who was in the tour group of the day? And then, the big reveal is, it’s actually a mirror?

  15. There is not an amendment to the constitution that forbids the government making a law respecting an establishment of a non-profit agency. There is one that specifically mentions religion. That in itself would seem to justify treating religious groups and institutions differently than other groups.

  16. Organized religion loves to play ‘heads we win, tails you lose’ with respect to privilege. ‘We can discriminate against others, but no one can discriminate against us.’ ‘This symbol is a sacred object when we want it to be, but really doesn’t mean much of anything when that suits us.’

    Some gullible people fall for it.

    1. Who are churches discriminating against?

      1. Different churches discriminate against different people.
        Jesus, of course, famously discriminated against the wealthy, but suggested that Samaritans, people his congregation hated with white-hot passion, might be decent folks.

      2. Infidels with respect to hiring, for starters. Religious institutions discriminate on the basis of religion with respect to employment involving everything from professor to counselor, secretary to bus driver, janitor to basketball coach.

        When I was a sports writer, a prominent college basketball coach asked me what I thought was the most important factor was in securing a good job in his field. Recruiting? Defensive strategy? Developing players? Game management? Relationships with players? Offensive strategy? Donor relations?

        He interrupted me as I considered the list: ‘It’s none of those.’

        ‘If you want a job coaching basketball, you want to be a Catholic.’

        1. Infidels with respect to hiring, for starters. Religious institutions discriminate on the basis of religion with respect to employment involving everything from professor to counselor, secretary to bus driver, janitor to basketball coach.
          >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          Hence, thats why they promote themselves as (religious) institutions. At least they’re honest unlike some other places. I doubt the FFRF is putting out a recruitment drive for devout Catholics and Muslims even for jobs they could theoretically do.

          >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
          ‘If you want a job coaching basketball, you want to be a Catholic.’
          >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          Well I guess nameless anonymous basketball coach wins the whole argument.

        2. Look up freedom of association, communist.

          1. Look up the CRA (1964). That “Freedom of Association” is compromised for most people.

            1. Very true. Doesn’t mean it should now be ignored or further compromised.

        3. “Infidels with respect to hiring, for starters. Religious institutions discriminate on the basis of religion with respect to employment involving everything from professor to counselor, secretary to bus driver, janitor to basketball coach.”

          How absurd. In my experience, the vast majority do not do this, other than for positions that involve the religion, like clergy or religious instructors. There are plenty of non-Catholic professors that teach at Catholic schools, for example. Not Catholicism, but certainly secular subjects of all kinds. And janitor or bus driver is completely off.

    2. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      to privilege. ‘We can discriminate against others, but no one can discriminate against us.’ ‘This symbol is a sacred object when we want it to be, but really doesn’t mean much of anything when that suits us.’
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

      So kinda like how some races can be racist but others can’t and you can swap the race or gender of a beloved character one way and its fine but if you do it another way its an outrage?

    3. To discriminate means to recognize a distinction or to differentiate among things. Everyone does this in their daily life.

      1. Right. “Discrimination” by itself is neutral. There are plenty of forms of discrimination that are perfectly legitimate. You can only practice law if you went to law school and passed the bar. That’s discriminating against those who did neither.

        It is only certain kinds of discrimination that are barred by either the Constitution or statute.

        1. “You can only practice law if you went to law school and passed the bar.”

          This is not necessarily true. Some states allow people to sit for the bar by “reading law” rather than by paying for law school, and some states allow people who graduated from certain law schools to skip the bar exam.

  17. Regardless of nonprofits generally, taxing churches would seem to be a violation of the 1st amendment.

    1. In what way?

      1. Though it hasn’t been directly addressed, one court case was a shot across the bow of would-be church taxers. Although exempting churches is entangling, taxing them is even more entangling. Imagine a church that didn’t pay its property taxes and so gets seized for sale. Now the peoplr are having their practice of religion interfered with.

        There is no exemption for tax laws from “Congress shall make no law”. Nor is “general applicability” a get out of jail free card for arbitrary hurt on religion.

        1. As for “We The People” choose to tax things, “We The People” spoke with a louder voice in the First Amendment.

        2. ” Imagine a church that didn’t pay its property taxes and so gets seized for sale. Now the peoplr are having their practice of religion interfered with.”

          Imagination is fun.

          Now imagine a religion whose tenets include seizing, by force, places of worship. And when the cops stop them from doing so, they are having their practice of religion interfered with. Now imagine a religion that includes worshipping the power to destroy lives on a massive scale. When the Air Force won’t let them congregate at the missile silos, their practice of religion is being interfered with.

          Jesus upset the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple. But when I blow up a couple of banks…

        3. Good response Krayt. Taxing the money that people pool together in order to have a building and worship services, which is usually meager, would quite simply seem to be a major burden on free exercise and excessive entanglement. Although it was a different point being made, I’m reminded of “A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.”

          1. “Good response Krayt. Taxing the money that people pool together in order to have a building and worship services, which is usually meager, would quite simply seem to be a major burden on free exercise and excessive entanglement. Although it was a different point being made, I’m reminded of “A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.””

            I don’t know what you are talking about. Yarmulkes are a specific item used by religious Jews, so a tax on those would clearly be targeted at Jews qua Jews.

            Some states charge sales tax on items of clothing (some don’t). I see no reason why that would not apply to yarmulkes. That’s because sales taxes don’t single out the item for being religious, they just apply to all clothing items (or all items generally).

            A real estate tax is a tax on buildings — houses, apartments, commercial buildings, factories, etc. While most jurisdictions do exempt churches (and other non-profit buildings), I fail to see how including them (meaning not exempting them) would be at all the same.

        4. “Imagine a church that didn’t pay its property taxes and so gets seized for sale. Now the peoplr are having their practice of religion interfered with.”

          No they aren’t. They are still free to pray, meet together in someone’s house, or for that matter raise funds and build or rent a new building.

          Requiring a church to adhere to generally applicable laws (whether paying taxes or something else) is perfectly consistent with the First Amendment.

        5. No, I meant in what way would taxing churches be a violation of 1A?

    2. That’s a pretty nice financial ratchet for churches. They get taxpayer funds, but the government is constitutionally prohibited from taxing them. Are you saying that taxing them would violate the free exercise clause?

      1. Where it gets interesting is the people who claim that God told them not to pay their taxes.

  18. Looking at the categories of institutions/entities that enjoy 501(c) status is … interesting. Click on a year (I looked at 2016.)
    Make sure to read the explanatory footnotes.

    https://bit.ly/2H41Xte

  19. If I give money to a new charity I generally check out the charity’s rating on one or more sites before I donate. I wonder if we could apply similar standards to non-profits and religious organizations. That is before the group is given tax exempt status it must meet some agreed upon standards. A simple test is how much of the money received is going into administration. I would like to see at least 80% to 85% of a groups donations going directly towards the groups goals before I would grant a full tax exemption.

  20. My basic disagreement with Professor Volokh is that whole Professor Volokh tends to view religious liberty as analagous different from freedom of speech, in my view the Religion Clauses make religion a sui generis subject with its own law, not necessarily analogous to and sometimes necessarily different from any other kind of law.

    Usually, this approach gives religion more latitude. But here, I think it justifies disfavoring religion. I think, in general, the “play in the joints” doctrine permits government to not fund religious institutions just because they are religious institutions, and doing so is not discriminatory. A state can, if it wants, interpret the Establishment Clause or state equivalent more broadly than the Supreme Court does.

    I find it rather obvious that a landmarks approach could result in Establishment problems. Favoring churches with old buildings tends to favor denominations that have been around for a while over new ones. Existing denominations get their buildings subsidized by the state, while new ones have to fend for themselves.

    A town that didn’t want a new religion or denomination in town could use landmarks as a ruse to help pay the building maintenance and preservation costs of existing denominations, helping defray general expenses and making their costs lower than new denominations on their own for their building maintenance.

    It seems to me this could tend to result in establishment.

  21. (Cont).

    I don’t think standard discrimination arguments apply here. An Establishment framework leads to its own, unique discrimination arguments. If not treating religion differently from other folks could lead to treating different denominations differently within religion, looking only within religion, then treating religion differently from everyone else is justified.

  22. I would argue exactly the opposite.

    Churches’ exemption from taxation, as I learned it, was a consequence of the statement in Marbury v. Madison that the power to tax is the power to destroy (and therefore should not apply to an activity protected by the Bill of Rights). I would extend that same logic to exempt all communications media, including reporters and other content creators, from taxes on those activities.

    1. I believe that quote actually comes from McCulloch v Maryland, and referenced states taxing federal entities – in that case, the Bank of the United States.

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