I’ve heard many arguments in favor of taxing churches. For instance, if they get involved in politics by preaching favorably, or not, for a particular candidate, then they are indeed helping to direct government policy. All Presidents like to say they are this religion or that religion and make a big show of attending this church or that church. Religion has played and still plays a large part in the direction of this country. Part of our moral code comes from the freedom to practice whatever religion suits us.
The founding fathers knew that religion had its place in any civilized society. There are numerous writings by these esteemed men on their opinion of religion. Indeed, many saw the Ten Commandments as the basis for every civilized nation’s set of laws (note I did not say it was Christian). That belief is still held today. Even if you are a devout atheist, the majority of the Ten Commandments still affect your behavior when interfacing with society as a whole. You don’t murder, you don’t steal, you don’t commit adultery, you don’t cuss in front of polite company, you don’t like working on Sunday, you try to take care of your parents, you don’t perjure yourself, etc. Indeed, without those commandments, morals would rapidly degrade and society would devolve into “might makes right.”
President John Quincy Adams described this succinctly.
“The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal code as well as a moral and religious code. These are laws essential to the existence of men in society and most of which have been enacted by every Nation which ever professed any code of laws. Vain indeed would be the search among the writings of secular history to find so broad, so complete and so solid a basis of morality as the Ten Commandments lay down.”
Religion in general is considered a “good thing” for these reasons. Well…if religion is so good, then why shouldn’t the government have a say in how it is practiced? If religion is good for society then shouldn’t the government promote it?
With all their religious beliefs and opinions on how religion should be practiced in a civilized society, the founding fathers still wanted the freedom to express their religious beliefs in whatever fashion they wished. They enshrined this belief in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is quite clear.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof […].
Were the founding fathers correct in that government should keep their noses out of our church houses? Government is great at promoting what it believes to be good ideas. In the military, we always had this “Good Idea Fairy.” This fairy would show up and start giving us new ways to do things without considering the unintended consequences of their actions. Taxes fall into that category.
What are taxes? Technically, taxes are used to generate revenue for the operation of the government, whether federal, state, or local. However, taxes have a much more sinister aspect. There are numerous instances where taxes and tax credits are used to manipulate public behavior. They are a social engineering tool. Social Engineering is the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behavior of a society.
The Good Idea Fairy is constantly coming up with ways to use the tax code to engineer our society. Government does not deny this (though they do refuse to call it social engineering). Examples include:
- Tax credit for buying electric cars
- Tax deduction for buying a house
- Tax credits for making a house more energy efficient
- Tax deduction for using mass transit
- Small business tax credits
- Taxes for having kids
- Taxes for being married
- Taxes for being single
Every one of these taxes or credits is designed for one thing and one thing only, to promote a specific behavior.
How would this type of taxation, this type of social engineering, be translated to churches? Imagine if you will a political party gaining power and working a deal with a bloc of churches to preach a certain message in exchange for favorable tax treatment. It isn’t too hard to imagine. You may think this would be a good thing…until the next election cycle puts a different party in power.
Large corporations currently lobby the government for favorable regulations. If churches are taxed, they now become for-profit enterprises; they’ll have no choice. And once every church in the nation enters the business arena by making money, they’ll soon find it profitable to hire (more) lobbyists to do their bidding in Washington D.C. What are the lobbyists going to promise in exchange for favorable tax treatment? The only thing they can promise: more of their product. And that product is a sermon in favor of whatever the government wants that sermon to be about.
Taxing churches may seem like a logical idea. But in reality, it would be a disaster for free will. All totalitarian societies either outlawed or strictly controlled religion. USSR, Nazi Germany, North Korea, all. If the federal government were to discover they could control the hearts and not just the minds of The People through the simple act of giving favorable tax treatment to certain churches, you can bet your bottom dollar it would happen.
And we would eventually be going to the Holy Voting Booth every four years to vote for the
Beloved and Chosen President of the United States, Leader of the Citizens, Son of Heaven, Lord of the Fifty States, and Protector of Democracy.