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Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:16 AM

There's one problem that the United States doesn't have

The United States has a lot of problems, but there's one problem that we don't have. You never hear the term "crumbling church infrastructure" used in a serious context here. Back when I lived in North Carolina, I was bored one morning and counted the number of churches and schools on my 13-mile commute. There were thirteen churches and one school, so that's a church every mile. It seems like we have really prioritized the construction and maintenance of churches in that area. So, I think we're good in that regard. We got this.

I do have to wonder though, are we perhaps diverting TOO many resources to this special interest? What if we could divert just a little of that massive pre-tax revenue stream to the schools? Roads? Bridges? Renewable energy? Would a shift towards prioritization of the natural world over the supernatural represent a better overall tradeoff for society?

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Reply There's one problem that the United States doesn't have (Original post)
Shermann Jul 24 OP
underpants Jul 24 #1
KPN Jul 24 #12
Walleye Jul 24 #2
KentuckyWoman Jul 24 #3
KPN Jul 24 #13
Zeitghost Jul 24 #20
Shermann Jul 24 #22
Zeitghost Jul 24 #23
Shermann Jul 24 #24
Zeitghost Jul 24 #26
Shermann Jul 24 #28
Zeitghost Jul 24 #29
Shermann Jul 24 #30
Zeitghost Jul 24 #31
Shermann Jul 25 #32
Zeitghost Jul 25 #33
Shermann Jul 25 #34
Zeitghost Jul 25 #35
Shermann Jul 25 #37
Brenda Jul 25 #38
KentuckyWoman Jul 26 #40
live love laugh Jul 24 #4
Sky Jewels Jul 24 #5
Zeitghost Jul 24 #21
Mysterian Jul 24 #25
Zeitghost Jul 24 #27
ProfessorGAC Jul 25 #36
Zeitghost Jul 25 #39
flying_wahini Jul 24 #6
Hugin Jul 24 #7
lastlib Jul 24 #17
Hugin Jul 24 #18
Sympthsical Jul 24 #8
Shermann Jul 24 #11
Sympthsical Jul 24 #14
KPN Jul 24 #15
Igel Jul 24 #19
czarjak Jul 24 #9
flying_wahini Jul 24 #10
Shermann Jul 24 #16

Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:20 AM

1. Yeah but it's their money.

As far as I know, other than military bases, tax funds donít go into building churches. I will say the Gov. George Allen did build an off-ramp to Pat Robertsons Regent University.

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Response to underpants (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:02 PM

12. Yeah, but it's our money when they enjoy federal and State non-profit tax exemption benefits,

including property tax exemption in many States, while at the same time engaging in political campaign activities supporting or opposing candidates, contributing to any candidates campaign, hosting a candidate appearance at a non-profit function/event, as well as lobbying activities that exceed certain thresholds (% of overall exempt-purpose expenditures). There's more than plenty of that going on among religious institutions in particular.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:20 AM

2. Ever notice how many churches there are in Brooklyn. But at least they're there's a lot of diversity

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:23 AM

3. I've long advocated taxing churches.

Let them deduct the money for charitable works. They should also get deductions if they agree to have the property used for civic functions and emergencies.

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Response to KentuckyWoman (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:06 PM

13. I agree. That would at least limit tax exemption to the actual tax

exempt activities and purposes, theoretically.

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Response to KentuckyWoman (Reply #3)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 04:38 PM

20. Tax them on what?

Every dime they spend is a write off, just like any other organization (salaries, bills, program costs, building upkeep, etc.) and they don't return profit to ownership so there is nothing to tax like you would a business.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #20)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 04:59 PM

22. No other charity could just reinvest all their donations back into their organization

They are required to spend a certain percentage on actual charitable work in the natural world. The rest can go to legitimate business expenses including salaries.

Churches get away with doing what they are doing because they operate in the supernatural world. Their good deeds can't be quantified in real world terms.

These donations are really entrance fees. Prostitutes sometimes try to characterize their fees as "donations" (I'm told), but it never works with the cops.

Failing to pay your church "donation" can result in your eternal damnation.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #22)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 05:36 PM

23. Thats exactly what most charities do.

Money goes into overhead and program costs.

I run a volunteer non-profit youth organization. Our income covers overhead like insurance and other bills as well as program costs. Our program is often meetings, were we meet in a big room and listen to people talk, learn skills, play games, sing songs and enjoy the company of others. I don't see a fundamental difference between that and a church service, at least not one that could be legally categorized for tax purposes.


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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #23)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 06:17 PM

24. Well, I don't see a youth center at every mile marker

When the spending outstrips any actual demonstrable need for it, then it is illegitimate.

It can be hard to legally differentiate between a legitimate business and a sham business, whether it is for-profit or non-profit. But we do it all the time, even if it boils down to a judgement call.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #24)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 06:41 PM

26. We make judgement calls based on our gut feeling, the IRS does not

There are very specific rules that need to be written and enforced or they will be tossed in court. Churches follow the same rules as any other non-profit. If we want to tax them, it can not be on religious grounds, that is discriminatory. You'll need to write laws that tax their income the same as a secular group doing similar things.

I think the problem people are having is trying to differentiate churches from what they see as worthwhile charities. It's easy to compare a big over the top mega church to the local womens shelter. But there are charities that are organized for all sorts of things, many of which most people would view as unimportant or maybe even detrimental. Basically, as long as the activity being engaged in is not a profit making endeavor being used to funnel money back to ownership, you can form a non-profit to manage it.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #26)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 07:19 PM

28. No, the IRS has special tax rules just for churches

Why do you suppose those are needed then?

Churches don't follow the same guidelines as other tax-exempt not-for-profit companies. They easily qualify for tax-exempt status as follows:

- the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other charitable purposes;
- net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder;
- no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation;
- the organization may not intervene in political campaigns; and
- the organizationís purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

Once you get under the "advancement of religion" tent, you are set.

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf

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Response to Shermann (Reply #28)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 08:19 PM

29. It says right in your post

"operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other charitable purposes;"

You seem to have stopped reading a bit short in the sentence.

That's a pretty broad umbrella. My wife, a wine maker, belongs to a professional association that operates as a non-profit. Vendors donate and the organizations put on dinners where presentations are given and they network around the dinner table eating and drinking good wine. The organizations mission is to facilitate the exchange of information and contribute to professional development and education of wine makers in the region it serves.

It's essentially a bunch of long time friends throwing dinner parties and talking shop... And if they could come up with the funds, they could throw in "educational" trips to France or New Zealand or any number of amazing locations, plenty of similar groups do.

I point these things out not to defend them but to explain how the system works, non-profits aren't just soup kitchens and animal rescues and that's a big part of why it's not nearly as simple as "tax the churches". The rules are already incredibly detailed and still allow for more or less anything short of outright scams and fully for profit endeavors.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #29)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 09:19 PM

30. If wine tasting charities brought in over 100 billion, I'm sure the IRS would take a second look

That's really an absurd false equivalence.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #30)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 09:44 PM

31. It's not at all

The size, scope or budget of an organization or group of organizations of the same type have nothing to do with their ability to be non-profits. It has more to do with organizational structure than anything else (the lack of an ownership class that can collect excess income as profit).

You want to group together millions of non-profits based on religious affiliation and treat them differently than similar secular organizations. That is never going to be allowed and rightfully so.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #31)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 06:44 AM

32. Sure it can be

The carve-outs for churches and religious organizations should be removed and replaced with verbiage that states that "tax-exempt status shall not be granted to organizations whose primary goals are supernatural in nature". Stated in a non-coddling way, that almost seems...reasonable? Then the churches can compete for the same after-tax dollars as other pay-to-play grifts like the vitamin industry.

The only thing blocking that from going through is the indoctrinated portion of the electorate.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #32)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 10:29 AM

33. "The only thing blocking that from going through is the indoctrinated portion of the electorate."

And the Constitution...

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #33)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 05:47 PM

34. So, you've moved on from false equivalencies to dubious Constitutional references

Both of which are right-wing debate tactics I might add.

The problem with the Constitutional reference is the Establishment Clause. While churches may not be getting checks made out to them from the Federal government, they are benefitting from tax exemptions. These are on a massive scale that no non-faith-based organization of questionable value could ever get to. So that is tantamount to direct support in my book. A dollar diverted is a dollar given.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #34)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 05:57 PM

35. Like it or not

The current interpretation by both conservative and liberal justices prohibits government discrimination based on religious grounds. You know this. You might not like it, but you are surely aware of it.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #35)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 06:06 PM

37. SCOTUS would not be onboard

No argument there. Whether or not this mess could be reined in in a Constitutional way is a debate for another thread.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #34)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 06:07 PM

38. Bravo

Great thread. Imagine how much better society would be if everyone paid their fair share and charlatans were busted and did hard time.

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #20)

Tue Jul 26, 2022, 01:21 AM

40. Yes.

Technically speaking Joel Osteen's house is owned by his church. A deductible expense to the church but not income to Osteen.

No payments to support to local needs. It is all tax free. No actual charity needed.

You are correct. My idea is that should be reconsidered

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:24 AM

4. Churches are free entities.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:27 AM

5. Tax the churches

Use the money for something useful.

For those who say, "Well, churches help the poor," etc., I say: "That should be government's job."

It's sickening how much grifting there is in religion. Proclaiming that you believe in magic and superstition sure gives you a lot of advantages in this country.

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Response to Sky Jewels (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 04:48 PM

21. Walk me through taxing churches like businesses:

They collect money and spend all of it eventually since there is no incentive to pass it on to owners.

Organizational expenses like salaries (no matter how excessive), big buildings, program costs, etc. would all be deductible just like they are for a business. So what are we going to tax?

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #21)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 06:30 PM

25. Any money spent on private jets taxed at 50%

There's a good start!

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Response to Mysterian (Reply #25)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 06:43 PM

27. And this rule would apply to all charaties

on all non-commercial airline travel?

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Response to Zeitghost (Reply #27)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 06:00 PM

36. I Say Yes

If one works for a nonprofit, I'd think they should expect to forego some of the luxury perquisites of executive status.
Want to fly nonpublic? Work for a major corporation.
You really think people take jobs with charitable organizations expecting the same compensation as in the for profit world? I think the vast majority are much too aware to have any other expectation.
Besides, the vast majority of business travelers fly commercial no matter the business. If the company, foundation, or church is covering the travel costs, what harm is done by flying commercial.
As someone who's gotten to fly private 6 times, I get the appeal. But, I don't see why it's justified for a nonprofit.

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Response to ProfessorGAC (Reply #36)

Mon Jul 25, 2022, 06:11 PM

39. I understand your reasoning

Last edited Mon Jul 25, 2022, 07:13 PM - Edit history (2)

But consider for a moment, that roughly 25% of private air travel is philanthropic in nature. Private jets are used to fly sick children around the world to areas where they can receive treatment, they fly Doctors to third world nations where they can provide care. They provide emergency aid during disasters. I could go on, but you get the idea.

There are also other reasons why executives may fly private. The main reason is usually time savings. Flying across country commercial can involve multiple connections and takes all day. Flying private allows the exec to get to where they need to go and make it home for dinner. Not the greatest reason I know, but when your trying to attract top level talent to run a multi billion dollar top level charity, it helps and it makes it a legitimate organizational expense. Also consider things like BLM executives stating they flew private for security reasons.

At the end of the day, trying to get the American people behind taxing private air travel for non-profits while not taxing it for big business is a losing proposition and not one I would suggest the Democratic party get behind. At a minimum it's bad optics.

Just some things to consider.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:30 AM

6. Tax the churches. It's way overdue.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:33 AM

7. There you go again talking me into forming a church...

Wait, thereís God speaking to me now!

The big kahuna is saying birth control is a sacrament and minding your own business is a virtue.

Also, something about keeping 420 sacredÖ I donít get that, maybe someone does?

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Response to Hugin (Reply #7)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:50 PM

17. I heard there was a commandment--

"Thou shalt partake of the herb of fire and spirit..."

(something to that effect...?)

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Response to lastlib (Reply #17)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:58 PM

18. Probably.

It would sure be nice if the highest of powers would jot these down on... I don't know. Some stone tablets or something.

My memory isn't what it once was.

They would also make some nice brick-a-brac for decoration in The First Church Yet-To-Be-Named.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:35 AM

8. People will spend their money however

We could make a complaint about a billion things that we personally think people shouldn't spend their money on. I guess today the topic is churches. Sure. I don't spend my money on churches, so I'm set.

I think people spend too much money on wine. Guys, it's grape juice. It's just grape juice. Acres and acres of land in a drought climate so you can impress your friends and dates with the completely useless knowledge of how many variations of ass the grape juice tastes. If you actually had the skill of discernment you claim, you'd be employed in Russia as a food taster.

And I can say this, because I live next to Napa.

Trader Joe's. $3. Go wild. You'll get just as drunk, promise.

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Response to Sympthsical (Reply #8)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:57 AM

11. Generally you can't deduct your expenses as a wine consumer

It's the pre-tax spending on church infrastructure that's really the issue here. I did mention that but could have been clearer.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #11)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:10 PM

14. Church property is probably the weakest example, though

Using pre-tax money on upkeep of property is probably the closest religious organizations adhere to beneficial use.

It's all the other stuff that needs re-evaluation.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #11)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:12 PM

15. And for those who choose to spend on churches, those pretax expenses are tax deductible to boot.

Tax churches and allow them deductions for the tax exempt activities they perform rather than for all the donations they receive.

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Response to Shermann (Reply #11)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 04:06 PM

19. Unless you itemize,

you can't deduct your charitable expenses, either--whether your local Baptist church, the food pantry, or your public radio station.

I haven't been able to deduct my charitable expenses since Reagan-era tax code revisions rolled it into the list of deductions you can itemize; before that, you donate $5 you'd be able to deduct that $5.

There was a category of social group that was non-taxed early on, as soon as income taxes became a thing. If it's a group of people that pool their funds for a purpose other than making money and returning investment income to the "investors," it was non-profit.

Associated Students of UCLA back in the 1990s was such a group--organized before groups had to register to be tax exempt, it was grandfathered in. It was a kind of coop--bookstore, student services. As a student coop, if you bought a cinnamon roll and coffee in Kerckhoff Coffee House in the morning the cashier would obligatorily ask, "Are you a student?" Say yes, you weren't charged sales tax; say no, and you were--because, well, it was a voluntary (in some sense of the word) collective. You pay your dues and you're a member of an organization that exists to provide you services but make no profit.

Unions were the same (but some SCOTUS placed it in the "super dooper" social group category).

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:45 AM

9. Getting butts in pews is a serious problem. I've been told.

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Response to Shermann (Original post)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 11:50 AM

10. We have a Johnny come lately church in Texas called 'Cowboy churches".

They have been around for several years (30-40yrs) and used to be be fairly small.
(People bring their horses and can ride the property during church hours.) Lately the one in Aledo Tx has grown significantly. Probably 20/30 acres or more. Canít tell from road.
There are huge hanger looking Ďchurchesí with lots of stalls and trails. If you drive by on a Sunday there could be 30 to 40 horse trailers out there.
They have lots of Horse events (some competitions can charge around $100) during the week.
You can pay to keep your horses there.


I was thinking so the Owner/Minister gets a tax free place to keep his horses and the whole land/stable complex is also tax free. He lives on site in a big home.
I donít really have any problems with the schtick but the tax free part for wealthy people rubs me the wrong way.

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Response to flying_wahini (Reply #10)

Sun Jul 24, 2022, 12:43 PM

16. That one has a manure smell to it

Why not just deem horses to be sacred? There's already a historical precedent for animal worship.

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