Speaking of religion and government–as I have been for the past couple of days–it might be well to consider just how much the pious victims of religious persecution are suffering financially in our (ostensibly) secular culture. An article in the Washington Post recently considered the fiscal relationship of church to state.
Well, sort of. The article actually reported on a study detailing the various tax benefits our religiously “neutral,” government extends to religious organizations, the vast majority of which are Christian.
When people donate to religious groups, it’s tax-deductible. Churches don’t pay property taxes on their land or buildings. When they buy stuff, they don’t pay sales taxes. When they sell stuff at a profit, they don’t pay capital gains tax. If they spend less than they take in, they don’t pay corporate income taxes. Priests, ministers, rabbis and the like get “parsonage exemptions” that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent and other living expenses when they’re doing their income taxes. They also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes (and benefits).
What is the value of all this preferential treatment?
The article quotes the authors of the original study, who calculated the total subsidy at $71 billion. But the original study didn’t include the cost of a number of subsidies, like local income and property tax exemptions, the sales tax exemption, and — most importantly — the charitable deduction for religious donations.
The charitable deduction for all groups cost the government approximately $39 billion dollars in 2014, according to the CBO. Since some 32 percent of all charitable donations are made to religious groups, the value of just those exemptions is around $12.5 billion.If you add that to the amounts reported in the original study, you get a religious subsidy of about $83.5 billion.
Next time someone whines about the war on religion or Christmas, or complains that government is insufficiently protective of “people of faith,” think about that.
I’d love to be “victimized” to the tune of 80+ billion dollars…