Don’t Tax the Churches
[September 5, 2023. I wrote this essay a couple of years ago, but I recently had a back-and-forth with a guy on Formerly Twitter who said I was wrong. My interlocutor got me thinking about some things that maybe I ought to have included in my piece from 2021. Below I have added an Update to my essay.]
What are taxes? Here are some definitions:
“A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer by a governmental organization in order to fund government spending and various public expenditures.” (Wikipedia)
“Taxes are mandatory contributions levied on individuals or corporations by a government entity — whether local, regional or national. Tax revenues finance government activities, including such public works and services as roads and schools, or programs like Social Security and Medicare.” (Investopedia)
“[A] tax is an amount of money that you have to pay to the government so that it can pay for public services such as road and schools.” (Collins Dictionary)
Now, what does “separation of church and state” mean? Here’s an excerpt from a letter that that President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. It was his response to the Association’s concern about their state’s constitution and its lack of protection for religious liberty.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Here’s Merriam-Webster on “separation of church and state”: “the act or state of keeping government and religion separate from each other.” To be sure, there has always been some encroachment by religion into governmental matters (“some” is putting it charitably; see the considerable influence of evangelical churches), but what many “tax…