Religious organizations in America are subsidized by billions of dollars a year in uncollected taxes on property, operation, and other assets. In some areas, property taxes are strangled because much of the property is owned by absentee religious groups (the Mormons are huge into that racket, but they are not alone). And, in every city and county, churches and their properties occupy huge expanses of land, suck off the infrastructure of the state, and pay nothing or little. They are parasites. They sell a cultural product which is considered valuable by their own members, but noxious by people in other religious groups or the growing percent of the US population who does not value religion—and many of us consider it more of a public bad than a public good.
Religious groups are like any other cultural firm—strip clubs, craft stores, motocross parks, athletic clubs, private schools (yeah, that’s right…..no public access, no free ride for private schools, either), recording studios, etc. Indeed, religious groups can and do compete in these other cultural markets as well. In my humble college town the only children’s basketball and football leagues are Christian leagues. Many churches have basketball courts, and they also have day care facilities, and other private enterprises. All housed in tax free land. That’s unfair competition for REAL private enterprises that aren’t sucking off the teat of socialist subsidy. Gold’s Gym has to buy a facility and equipment and pay property tax, yet fundamentalist megachurches are allowed to have gyms for their members….and not pay taxes on the land or on the quid-pro arrangement granting religious members access to a private good. It’s an unfair system that costs the United States billions of dollars in tax revenue, and strangles communities, many of them struggling to maintain basic services.
All religious property and product should be taxed, the same as art, music, food, or any other cultural good.