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Gov’t Bending Regulations for the Pious

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Posted on Oct 10, 2006
Religious missions
From the NYT

The management of Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, a retirement community in South Bend, Ind., is arguing in court that the development should be exempt from property taxes. The county tax board of appeals disagrees.

Check out part three of this four-part N.Y. Times series on ways in which the religious enjoy special tax breaks and exemptions from regulations that their secular counterparts do not.

Calling Sam Harris…

N.Y. Times:

As religious organizations of all faiths stretch their concept of mission far beyond traditional worship, should their traditional tax exemptions expand as well? Increasingly, government at all levels is answering yes.

The property tax exemption is one of the oldest tax breaks granted to religious organizations, but it is not the only one. Lawmakers and judges have also approved what amounts to special tax treatment for religious organizations and some of their employees, including exemptions on personal-income and payroll taxes, and have made it easier for them to get tax-exempt construction loans for purely religious projects.

Like the exemptions from federal and state regulations that have proliferated for religious groups in recent years, these tax breaks are widely defended both as an acknowledgment of religion’s contributions to society and as a barrier to unjustified government limitations on the liberty that religious organizations enjoy under the First Amendment.

But in some communities like South Bend, tolerance of religious tax breaks is fraying as local governments struggle to provide basic services with limited resources.


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By Jefferson's Guardian, October 11, 2006 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m in total agreement with R.A. Earl (Comment #28170). The constitutionally granted freedom of religion has proliferated beyond what our founding fathers could ever have imagined. Many (most?) churches, evangelists, and other purveyors of “the faith”, have stepped over the boundary purposely designed to separate themselves from the “state”—or more accurately, designed to protect them, and their religious practices, from interference from government intrusion. But, it’s a two-way street. The government (i.e., conceivably, “The People” - in a perfect world) has been unduly influenced by the power of organized zealotry. There should be a price for crossing that line.

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By R. A. Earl, October 10, 2006 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Religious organizations are nothing more than PRIVATE CLUBS, at least to everyone but their exclusive members. You only get to join when you believe what they believe and act according to their rules and regulations, and pay your “dues.”

In return for these “dues,” the “organizations” arrange to massage your guilt which, for the most part, they’ve induced by their assorted/distorted philosophies in the first place.

If any “club” can PROVE the money it collects and earns, by any means, is actually paid out in charitable works, then fine, extend a tax exempt status on those sums.


The real estate holdings and other “business” dealings of religious organizations should be taxed as any other commercial venture. These clubhouses enjoy all the services and protections in a community… police, fire, utilities, garbage collection, snow removal, etc. etc. Why should I be paying so they can get a free ride?

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