Taxing Church Property
Literary Digest, reprinted in The American Cooperator
The exemption of church properly from taxation is generally defended on the ground that the church is not a money-making institution, and that it contributes to the good morals and good order of the social state. The validity of this reasoning is disputed, however, by Mr Duane Mowry, a writer in the well-known lawyers' magazine, The Green Bag (Boston, September,) who maintains that since there are many good citizens who sincerely deny the claims of religion, they ought not to be required to contribute to that which their own judgment and conscience repudiate. "Is it possible, too," he adds, "that a large contingent of the population prefer to contribute of their means to works of benevolence, charity, or education, in some other manner than that indicated or outlined by the various church organizations of the country. If their means are diverted into other channels, and certainly an increased tax caused by exemption of church property is such a diversion, then the voluntary act of this class of persons is made impossible, either in whole or in part — to the extent of payments extorted by the strong arm of the law for taxes." The following five reasons are given to show why church property should be taxed:
- "First. Because the church performs no public office or function known to the laws of the land which entitles it to immunity therefrom.
- "Second. Because the policy of exemption from taxation of church property involves a union of church and state at variance with the fundamental principles of our government and wholly un-American.
- "Third. Because such exemptions are inequitable in that they favor a portion of the community, statistics showing that about one-third of the population are church-members or communicants, only, at the expense of others not interested.
- "Fourth. Because the policy of exemption of church property from taxation involves a liability to the accumulation of great wealth, to be held in mortmain by never-dying corporations, independent of the state, and which may be used against the best interests of the public.
- "Fifth. Because the exemption of church property from taxation is wholly inconsistent with and totally opposed to the cardinal idea of the church, viz., that all means contributed for its support, as well as all efforts in its behalf, shall be given freely and voluntarily, a tax imposed by government never being given, voluntarily, in the sense in which church offerings are contributed."