There is a petition making the rounds which is getting some real support, and that you should sign:
Enforce the tax code, and strip violating Religious institutions of their tax exempt 501(c) status.
Religious institutions across our great nation serve an important role in community building & out reach, helping the poor & disenfranchised, among many other noble actions.
Our forefathers had the foresight to see that for our nation to succeed, we would need to enforce an unparalleled freedom of religion. However, they also understood the imperative need for a legal separation between church & state.
In recent years, the IRS has turned a blind eye to offending Religious institutions that mix religion with politics. By not enforcing the qualifications & disqualification’s of 26 U.S.C. § 501(c) of the United States tax code, the IRS is doing a diservice to both the American people & the vision of our forefathers.
We ask that you enforce the letter of the law.
There are two things the petition does not mention but that you need to know:
1) Many religious institutions carry out activities that are generally done by businesses that pay taxes, and they compete. Mega churches are often conference centers. Churches often run supportive housing facilities that bring in profits, or build social service facilities that dome with guarantteed developers fees. I know of a church that got a government grant to build a housing facility, subcontracted the work, and had a guaranteed $500,000 profit for their effort, and now runs the facility in the black with no taxes to pay. There may be nothing wrong that any of that. You just need to know that the tax exempt status is worth mucho dinero for any church.
2) Many religious institutions carry out a defacto political policy even other than supporting specific candidates, so even churches that stay within the letter of the law are busy being very political.
Photo of megachurch by Flickr user rauchdickson.