My shared my post yesterday stimulus funds paying for porn on my Facebook profile. I received an interesting response from a guy I went to high school with. He and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. He responded:
Well, I guess we’re even: I detest my tax dollars spent (via loopholes; aka ‘deductions’) supporting institutionalized hate speech; aka ‘religion.’
I don’t even want to get into the “hate speech” meme… it’s just redefining what the word hate really means. In the minds of people who share this view disagreement = hate. If you want to accuse me of hate, I will say this. Yes, I hate sin, but the object of that hate is the sin, not the person doing the sinning. I hate the effects of sin on myself, my family, my friends, my church, my community and society at large. I hate sin within myself as well, does that mean I hate myself? Anyway, there you go. That’s not really the thrust of this post.
No it is really dealing with churches and taxes. He brings it up again when making a comment about real estate:
…there is value in the obviously commercial real estate that the city is allowing, free-of-charge. To say nothing of the commerce conducted on premises. That’s money the city could use, and is choosing not to. (I asked him to clarify what is “obviously commercial real estate”)… The obvious commercial value of church real estate is exactly that: obvious.
He claimed his comment was a rational argument to my post, that it was “identical.” The problem is that it is not “identical,” it’s comparing apples and oranges. He is comparing money that the government spends to who the government decides it will tax.
The government, by virtue of a budget has always been discriminating on what it will spend money on (some of us wish it would be more discriminating). Under the Mexico City policy implemented by President Reagan, kept by President George H.W. Bush and then reinstated by President George W. Bush determined that federal money going overseas would not fund abortions.
The Federal government has also determined that you can’t spend taxpayer money on religious activity. Where things changed with the Community & Faith Based Initiative is not how they money can be used, but who could apply. The government routinely discriminated against religious organizations applying for grants – even if that money wasn’t going to be used for expressly religious purposes (now they likely have religious reasons for engaging in those activities, but that’s irrelevant).
I think common sense will also dictate that taxpayer money isn’t used to commit crime – whether it is local, state, or federal. I’m sure it has been done, but it isn’t a matter of policy or clearly written in a budget. There are a number of things that taxpayer money is or is not used for and it changes with each new State Legislature, Congress, Governor and President.
We as citizens have to remind them whose money it really is, however. That is our right and obligation as citizens, and we can bring remedy through the ballot box if we wish.
What my friend is doing is treating money that the government doesn’t have as “theirs,” and it seems that the only property tax exemption or tax deduction that he wants to see impacted, are those related to churches and other religious organizations. That would be unconstitutional. Churches or other religious organizations are not given a tax-exempt status because of their faith, but because of their profit status. Because of that distinction it can not be considered a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
They don’t “make money.” They are entirely dependent on charitable contributions of their membership or donors (in the cases of organizations that don’t have membership). So to say we are going to assign a property tax to a church that has a building, but not the animal shelter across the street that would be discriminatory and would violate the First Amendment’s free exercise clause (as it could, unfairly, keep many churches from owning property). Not allowing deductions for religious organizations, but allowing them for other organizations could also hinder charitable contributions. I tried to offer a Fair Tax or Flat Tax option to him and then eliminate all deductions, but he didn’t go for that.
Now if tax deductions and property tax exclusion was given just to religious organizations, then he would have a point and that would be a violation of the establishment clause as it would favor only religious organizations. But that isn’t the case. So the only way for city and county government to get their precious revenue from the “obviously commercial real estate” is to get rid of property tax exemptions from everybody. Look at who that would effect though:
Government facilities – the State of Iowa takes up a lot of prime commercial real estate on the east side of the Des Moines River, and I’m sure Des Moines would love to have that tax revenue.
Public schools and universities.
Private schools and universities (I’m sure he’d be ok with this provided they were religious).
Hospitals (oh wait… most of those already have religious roots… my bad).
Animal Shelters… how many do you think would close if they suddenly had to pay property tax?
United Way – oh can’t have that!
Homeless shelters/soup kitchens
Domestic abuse shelters
Any other real estate held by secular non-profits
One would even argue whether or not property tax abatements should even be allowed in such an environment.
I don’t think most liberals would even go for this. What do you think? Did I miss anything in my list?