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"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
“The appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, [is] contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.’”
“Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthed itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?” —James Madison (1751-1836) Fourth U.S. President—
The first entanglement is that every state exempts churches from ad valorem taxes. Those are taxes assessed against the owner of real property. These taxes are usually assessed by county, and the money raised is used to fund local education and city/county services such as fire and police. There may be other government beneficiaries of these taxes such as street and sewer maintenance.
The truth is, churches own a lot of real property, and that property is not being assessed to pay the taxes that must be borne to sustain government services. Since the churches don’t pay property taxes, the burden of county and local government services is passed on to the other real property owners.
A second entanglement is the deduction for donations to churches. The Internal Revenue Code allows donors to take a deduction for money they give to their churches. This means that church donors pay fewer taxes because of the deduction, thereby passing the tax burden of government on to all the other taxpayers who do not donate to churches and do not get a similar tax deduction.
According to www.america.gov... $96.82 billion dollars was donated to churches nationwide in the year 2006. That is the latest year for which figures are available.
This is truly amazing as it means that people who don’t give money to churches are required to pick up the tab for over $96 billion dollars. With that amount of money, the voice of religion grows louder.
Now, let’s top this off with President George W. Bush’s faith-based tax giveaways to churches. Congress has passed a law that churches can discriminate in hiring.* This means your tax dollars are given to churches for the supposed purpose of social services, but if you are not a member of that church, they can discriminate and not hire you. Thus, they keep the free money among their own members.
...under the Internal Revenue Code, churches are not required to file a 990 tax form, or any other form. The IRS is prohibited from inspecting the books of churches to determine where the contributions go or how the churches spend the money.