Why are Taxpayers Subsidizing Church?

Happy Easter everyone! Have you ever noticed how — US Constitution notwithstanding — churches occupy a pretty special place in our society?

Just consider the upcoming holiday. If there’s a Christian church in your hood, chances are, you might see a street cleaned up or closed for a parade, or a police officer assigned to mind parishioners.

That work’s done by public workers, by the state - which is to say, it’s paid for out of taxes. But religious institutions don’t pay taxes. They’re tax exempt, remember?

So who pays? We do.

We subsidize the church by paying more than our share, even if we never step foot in a place of worship.

Churches don’t even have to apply for tax-exempt status the way the rest of us do by filling out lengthy, complex forms like other nonprofits. Places of worship get non profit status simply by virtue of declaring themselves. They get special dispensation to discriminate too, against women and fire people on moral grounds that wouldn't stand a chance in any other court.

The Supreme Court’s currently considering a case, called Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which purports to turn on the question of whether public workers should have to contribute to the union that represents them if those unions engage in political activities the members don't endorse.

But you and I subsidize churches every day, whether we like it or not. Lots of congregations provide valuable services, I understand, but we the taxpayers don’t get to choose the soup kitchens over the homophobes… We subsidize both every day.

The point is, if you think church and state in the US are happily distinct. Think again. Oh yes, and Happy Easter. 


You can watch my interview with novelist and activist Sarah Schulman on cities and why we love them, on The Laura Flanders Show on KCET/LINKtv and TeleSUR and find all my interviews and reports at LauraFlanders.com To tell me what you think, write to Laura@lauraflanders.com.

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