I recently went through an article at Notes | We Are People 2, titled "Religion - The Parasitic Institution".
It discusses how churches are exempt from taxes and other forms of restrictions from the government but receive all the benefits that the government provides (usually at the cost of the non-religious taxpayer).
One could consider taxing churches, but they do provide services for their community that can't be overlooked like soup kitchens and schools...or so they claim. We only have their word to go by as the IRS can't physically check their expense books.
Would taxing them impose on their capacity to help their communities? Or is the 71 billion dollars they receive annually more than sufficient?
Of course churches are parasitic. The most important part of every service is the passing of the collection plate.
In answer to question #1. Yes.
In answer to question #2. No.
To follow up on what Dennis said, the collection plate is passed around more than a hooker when the 7th Fleet's in town. And, there are those religions (Mormonism comes to mind), where if you're caught skimping on tithing 10% of your income, the church leaders will bring down the wrath of god, the congregation and state legislature on you.
That's the amazing thing about religion. Their god is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, but for some reason he just can't balance a checkbook on the nose of a trained seal. And, that's why the rubes have to continually shell out their hard earned dollars. Just ask their minister, who's driving around in a luxury car wearing a Rolex watch.
I think churches have an effective and efficient way of getting money, not only from tithers, but from tax payers as well. They claim doing good deeds as a rationale for their expectation of entitlement to money.
Has poverty fallen because of churches? No! they benefit by emotional appeal to those sweet, hungry faces of the poor of the Earth. They take money from those who work for a living, use some of it for food or medicines or basic needs of the poor, but what about confronting those who exploit workers for their own benefit? What about getting to the root causes of poverty ... and don't blame the poor for being poor, that is not the basic cause of poverty.
Has slavery ended because of religion? No! they benefit by enslavement of human beings and feel entitled to be their owners.
Has domination ended because of dogma? No! they benefit by setting up an "us vs. them" mentality, claiming their god, their beliefs, their values are superior to all others. Get two competing gods in one area and chaos reigns.
Has family violence ended because of beliefs? No! they benefit by receiving sanctuary. Women and children who seek counsel caused by husband/father abusers too often hear the "Passive Gospel", yield, pray, obey, turn the other cheek, crucify yourself in imitation of the crucified Christ, and rejoice in your crucifixion.
Has sexual abuse ended because of faith? No! Sexual predators benefit too often by receiving sanctuary in a religious community. The welfare of the abuser trumps the welfare of children and exploited adults.
Not only should religious communities not receive Federal money for their programs, they should pay taxes on what comes into their coffers.
I don't mean to imply that all religious communities act out of greed and use their sense of entitlement to support their behaviors. I do mean that many religious organizations exploit the good wll of people for their own means. Let's get a firm wall between church and state, get rid of faith-based initiatives, and look seriously at how to provide living wages for all who work and financial security for those unable to take care of themselves, the too old, too young, disabled, war veterans, and stop this outrageous welfare programs supported with taxpayer dollars.
Regardless of whether churches do more harm than good, they should be held precisely as accountable in tax law and all other social conventions as any other claimed non-profit institution. Special exemptions for religious institutions for taxes and other laws (for example, child care, building codes and education standards) are blatantly unconstitutional. Christian institutions constitute by far the largest property holding block in the US, and they get a huge tax break that the rest of us don't. And there's no oversight -- all they have to do is claim a religious exemption and weak-kneed public servants grant it, even when it's beyond established law. To resist would be to throw away a career because it's impossible right now to go against well-funded (by us) religious lobbies.
Churches are parasitic. Ministers and priests are predatory. Churchgoers are deluded. Religionists manipulate and control politicians and politicians suck up to religious so-called leaders.
I say tax them. If they don't pay up, then confiscate the properties and use them for community centers, homeless shelters, and to feed the poor.