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This is one of those facile headlines that everyone from anti-God fanatics to thoughtful Constitutional students bring up when talking about the First Amendment. It's based on the premise that the wording of the Amendment, when it says no law "respecting the establishment of religion" means exactly that - rather than any particular religion such as the Anglican Catholic religion of England in 1789 or the Roman Catholic religion of France and Spain.

Since then, of course, religion has stapled itself into the Constitution and the tax code to the tune of over eighty billion dollars a year, according to a University of Tampa professor, Ryan Cragun. The Washington Post reported the study, along with this interesting addition:" 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)." More follows.

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So, when the Westboro Baptist Church burns a cross or two, the costs are shared with the American taxpayer because nobody has (or should have) the right to define what a "right" relligion is. When Kirby Hensley ordained an entire graduating class as ministers in the Universal Life Church, they could claim immunity from the military draft during the Vietnam War. Wine and cheese companies, schools, shopping malls and over a million acres of land are only a small chunk of church-owned real estate that you're helping to pay taxes on, whether you're religious or not. Was this what the Founders had in mind?

"Americans spend $80 billion each year financing food stamps for the poor, but the country has no idea where or how the money is spent." says the anti-administration Washington Post. This means that eliminating church deductions coud pay for all those food programs that are keeping lots of poor people from starving to death and perhaps the planning to improve it. In addition, feeding the poor sounds pretty religious to me. I'd also guess that more citizens might be in favor of things like improved nutrition or better health care than letting people write off their gifts to fix the rectory. I believe religion does a lot of good work, but making every American support it might be a bit of a stretch. The same argument might be made about organizations like Elks, Masons, Eagles, Lions, Moose, Rotary or any of the other valuable organizations that siphon off money from the national treasury. I say this because there is no argument that when a buck is written off somebody's tax, that buck has to be made up somehow and this is equally true when you're talking about eighty billion.

I realize this diary will be attacked as being anti-religion or anti-diety. I disagree.  I feel that giving to religious or non-religious charities is part of being American. I feel it would be even more American if we didn't have to rely on a tax deduction for doing it. When we pay our taxes, we are supporting the people who are protecting us- the armed forces, police, firemen, etc. Personally, I do this gladly since I don't consider the government we elect my enemy. However, I'd prefer to have the liberty to pick what other organizations I want to support without depending on someone's idea of which ones are or aren't the most important.

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Originally posted to boguseconomist on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 04:45 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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