-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The concept of charity most people have in mind is “serving the people’s physical needs.” How do religions stack up in performing this work? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), which touts its charitable work, spent 0.7% of it overall revenue on charitable causes. Compare that figure with the American Red Cross which spends 92.1% of its revenue on the physical needs of those it helps.
The other side of this coin is the estimated $71 billion in annual government subsidies that are granted to religious establishments.
The $71 billion doesn’t include property taxes from which religious institutions are exempt. States are estimated to subsidize religion to the tune of $26.2 billion per year on property worth $600 billion.
The $71 billion doesn’t include religions’s exemption from investment taxes (such as capital gains taxes) on their investment portfolios. For example, the Presbyterian Foundation manages $1.9 billion in assets.
The $71 billion doesn’t include the exemption from sales tax when religions purchase goods and services.
The $71 billion doesn’t include the “parsonage exemption.” That’s where ministers are allowed to deduct mortgage or rent, utilities, furnishings, upkeep, etc. from their taxable income.
The best of the worst appears to be the United Methodist Church which allocated about 29% of its revenues to charitable causes in 2010. Any secular charity that posted a 29% rate would be given a score of “F” by CharityWatch.
Religions are quick to point to their “spiritual charity” that addresses the spiritual needs of their parishioners. However, “charity is the giving of something, not the exchange of something for something else.” Addressing spiritual needs is what religious functionaries are paid to do. The fundamental nature of a priest’s or preacher’s job is to provide the spiritual services in exchange for pay and benefits.
These tax breaks are laws and clearly directed at religious institutions and establishments in violation of the First Amendment.