The assault on America’s churches has begun, with commentators like Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post and Matthew Yglesias of Slate calling on the government to tax churches. “Whichever faith you think is the one true faith, it’s undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines,” Yglesias wrote on Thursday. He added, “upgrading a church’s physical plant doesn’t enhance the soul-saving capacity of its clergy.”
This is part of the new assault on religion in America that has seen its apex in the New Mexico Supreme Court decision to force religious photographers to cover same-sex weddings, and the California legislature’s bill that would strip non-profit status from any religious organization that “discriminates” on the basis of factors including religion or sexual orientation. The fundamental basis for this assault lies in the left’s core belief that religion in America is a net negative, and that the state has no interest whatsoever in forwarding the religion broadly throughout the country. Yglesias’ theory that religions are mutually exclusive misses the point – Judeo-Christian religion fosters morality among members of the public. The founders understood that truth, Americans historically understood that truth, and the left wishes to undermine that truth. Separation of church and state, according to the left, means that the state not only must be banned from fostering religion of any sorts, but that the state must override private religious practice on behalf of secularism.
The Post‘s Matthews quickly followed up on Yglesias’ piece by suggesting that Americans are dupes for handing their charitable contributions over to their churches. Matthews wrote:
The full scale of subsidies religions get is pretty staggering…When people donate to religious groups, it’s tax-deductible. Churches don’t pay property taxes on their land or buildings. When they buy stuff, they don’t pay sales taxes. When they sell stuff at a profit, they don’t pay capital gains tax. If they spend less than they take in, they don’t pay corporate income taxes. Priests, ministers, rabbis and the like get “parsonage exemptions” that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent and other living expenses when they’re doing their income taxes. They also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes (and benefits).
Matthews estimates the total amount voluntarily given to religious organizations in America at $82.5 billion per year. No mention is made of the amount seized from the American population by the states and federal government, which often amounts to in excess of $2 trillion, or 24 times as much cash each and every year – and that doesn’t even come close to the amount of debt racked up by the government, which will eventually be made up by seizing more Americans’ wealth.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).