Properties owned by non-profits are exempt from paying property taxes for much of their real estate. This results in a shifting of the tax burden to the rest of us. According to the Washington State Department of Revenue there are approximately 5,000 churches from over 120 religious denominations in Washington. The tax shift is approximately $70 million in revenue that must be picked up by the rest of us property owners.
I do not mind certain organizations such as homeless shelters and hospitals getting a break on their property taxes because such organizations do work that would otherwise fall to government. But I abhor subsidizing the temple to another man’s god.
I do recognize that many churches house and feed the homeless, but that is only part of their function. The primary function of churches is and always has been proselytizing and perpetuating their beliefs. Property tax exemptions should be apportioned to churches based on services they provide society. On the federal level, the IRS requires a form 990 which is required of all non-profits except churches. If churches were required to complete the 990, along with transparency, there would be information that could be useful to apportion taxes.
The exemption for church property is also a clear violation of the establishment clause of the 2nd amendment. Associate Justice of the US Supreme court, William O. Douglas, in his dissenting opinion in Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, decided May 4, 1970, stated: "If believers are entitled to public financial support, so are nonbelievers. A believer and nonbeliever under the present law are treated differently because of the articles of their faith… I conclude that this tax exemption is unconstitutional."
In addition to supporting ideas and beliefs of others, we are supporting extravagant life styles for some pastors of large congregations, especially the mega churches and the televangelists. The average annual salary for pastors with congregations of 2,000 or more is $147,000 and some earning up to $400,000. Many of these ministers own multi million dollar mansions such as Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church who own several mansions in Georgia and a $2.5 million Manhattan apartment.
Others can believe in any fiction they want and build monuments and temples to any god they wish, but please do not make me pick up the burden of their taxes.