No more religious exemptions, Montreal is taxing churches: For the first time churches in Montreal are being forced to pay taxes, and some church leaders are very unhappy.
CTV Montreal reports that churches and church space not being used explicitly for the purpose of worship is now taxable property, and is to be treated as any other property as far as taxes are concerned.
As one might expect, those benefitting from the tax exempt status enjoyed by churches are not happy. Again, CTV Montreal reports:
Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his institution first received a municipal tax bill…
“The indication is there’s not an exemption for the church as a whole, there’s only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it,” said Coppetiers.
And while some of those that benefit from the tax exempt status previously enjoyed by churches in Montreal are unhappy with the changes, others are celebrating the small step towards a more just and fair tax structure.
Indeed, subsidizing tax-exempt churches costs taxpayers money, a great deal of money.
For example, a recent report from the Secular Policy Institute shows that tax exempt churches cost U.S. taxpayers $71 billion every year.
Among the report’s findings: Each year religious groups receive $35.3 billion in federal income tax subsidies and $26.2 billion property tax subsidies. In addition, religious organizations also enjoyed approximately $6.1 billion in state income tax subsidies, along with $1.2 billion of parsonage, and $2.2 billion in the faith-based initiatives subsidy.
Discussing the problem with tax exempt churches, Bill Maher makes a powerful case for ending tax exempt status for religious institutions, noting:
Why, in heaven’s name, don’t we tax religion? A sexist, homophobic magic act that’s been used to justify everything from genital mutilation to genocide. You want to raise the tax on tobacco so kids don’t get cancer, OK. But let’s put one on Sunday school so they don’t get stupid.
Maher’s right. We should tax the church. There is no reason why the non-religious should subsidize religious superstition.
Perhaps more important, tax exemptions for churches violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Bottom line: Montreal is getting it right. Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing religious superstition. It’s time to tax the church.