The Outline

Dear God, Let us Pray on Whether to Tax Churches

Churches have been exempt from paying property taxes since the colonial days, a tradition inspired by medieval English law. In 1864, U.S. churches were officially lumped in with “charitable” organizations, exempting them from income tax as well. The Internal Revenue Service grants all churches 501(c)(3) status, like other U.S. nonprofits. In addition to property and income tax exemptions, taxpayers subsidize clergy housing and perks like free parking.

There have been a few voices of protest about the exemptions over the years, but nothing major. According to Ram Cnaan, the director of the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, politicians never stand on a church-taxing pedestal for long.