About Those Religious “Victims”

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…


  1. I don’t know what the benefit is but, there must be one in this situation. The Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese only offers Anthem-Blue Cross/Blue Shield health care to employees. I have mentoned before that my daughter-in-law pays $450 monthly for their family plan (sounds good in today’s health care costs) BUT…it come with a $9,600 annual deductible. This means she is paying $450 monthly for NOTHING because they must pay all health care costs. Wish I knew the connection and exactly what and how the Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese is benefitting form this; their employees are getting no benefit and Anthem-Blue Cross/Blue Shield is getting richer.

  2. Very good Sheila. I have written several “Letters to the Editor” @ the Indy Star, in the past, trying to express to the believers how much religious freedom they enjoy. None have ever been printed. It is too bad that those believers will not read what you have written. And if they do, they will find all types of reasons to fault your logic.

  3. Thanks Prof. Proof positive that we should tax their butts off. They spread ignorance and hatred with tax exempt dollars.

  4. I watched that old favorite movie, “Planet Of The Apes” yesterday evening; have enjoyed it many times but viewed it in a new light last night. The “CEOs” were baboons and we have all seen the post that a large number of baboons is called a “Congress”; I find it fitting these days. The head-honcho baboon stated “…there is no difference between faith and science…” and they of course only believed in their religious facts. Had to laugh thinking about our current Congress and their religious base vs. scientific evidence proving otherwise.

  5. Several years ago, a well known lobbyist for religious interests (who has run for public office) proposed that any portion of a property used for a religious purpose should exempt the entire property from taxes. Hence if Castleton Square had a storage closet for religious publications, the entire shopping center would be tax exempt. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed.

  6. My older son loves to recount the true story from his years in the mid-1990’s as a college student in Charleston, SC. Evidently there was a strip club, the Club 2010, located in North Charleston, the seedier part of town, and the owner was tired of being the target of community complaints, spending his money on lawyers to represent him before this and that City/County Commission, so he changed his strategy. He closed Club 2010, got a mail-order minister’s license, installed some new signage, followed all the steps to establish a new church, the Church of the Fuzzy Bunny. This clever strip-club owner outwitted local ordinances designed to shut him down. Rather than a cover charge, the burly bouncer held a collection plate and the worshipers placed ‘love offerings’ in the plate before entering. The ‘minister’ would read a couple of scriptures every hour followed by a new parade of exotic fuzzy bunnies wearing thongs and pasties. He saved enough money from not paying property taxes to keep his lawyers happy and continuing to fight city hall for years.

  7. One who receives financial benefit from the business of religion is Cal Thomas. A good writer for sure but a turgid thinker who leads religion’s brand marketing effort.

    Most of his ads are presented as editorials, certainly an effective way to increase credibility and therefore effect, but are couched not as opinion, but as certainty. The victims of such pomposity are numerous.

    His oft, oft, oft repeated theme is that Christian culture is necessary for human survival. That apparently most problems are caused by non Christians and few by those who adhere to his and His cultural imperatives.

    A doddering old man or a shrewd businessman or one who just prefers culture to freedom of thought?

    I don’t know.

  8. I’ve never been a Catholic and therefor the Papal thing has always been a foreign culture to me but I have to say that the current one strikes me as a real spiritual leader. Good for the people who follow him.

    Impressive choice and significant influence in times where cultural icons are mostly destructive influences.

  9. If you enjoyed my son’s story, I can sweeten the story even more. He spent 5 years at The Citadel where he’d received a full athletic scholarship for his football skills. While there, he was red-shirted his first year; hence, he had 5 years on scholarship, enough to earn both his undergrad and graduate degrees in Political Science. He now teaches 5 periods of 12th grade Honors Government/Economics in a large South Carolina public high school where he always includes the Church of the Fuzzy Bunny saga in his Government classes.

  10. Besides evading taxes, we now have Vouchers for Religious Schools. I suppose this idea of not taxing churches, etc., has some roots in Medieval Times when the church owned land including land for monasteries, etc. Church was a state of its own.

    I had a Professor in History that covered the period during the Middle Ages up to 18th Century. One reason he gave for the success of the Reformation besides the obvious corruption in the Roman Catholic Church was Europe other Rome itself, home to the Vatican, was tired of seeing the wealth drained off to support the Papacy. He gave an example of Henry the VIII, seizing Catholic Church Property for the Monarchy.

  11. And, speaking of Cal Thomas — did you notice that he thinks both William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison were governors of the State of Indiana before becoming president? (Neither was — WHH was governor of the Indiana territory, but BH was defeated when he ran for that post.) This was in his column about Pence’s prospects for the top job.

  12. To that figure add the $81 million that the State of Indiana paid out in school vouchers last year. That figure was in a Post Tribune article (by the AP) that said this was just the beginning–of the end.

  13. We twa hae run about the braes,
    And pu’d the gowans fine;
    But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
    Sin auld lang syne.

    And here’s a hand, my trusy fiere,
    And gies a hand o’ thine;
    And we’ll tak a right guid willie-waught,
    For auld lang syne.

  14. As long as we allow Christians to frame the argument, we will lose the argument. Einstein was known to have said that there was too much order in the universe for it not to have been designed. What he did not explain was that the nature of order is defined by man.

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