A new study, conducted by the Secular Policy Institute (SPI), has revealed that churches, mosques, synagogues and all other tax exempt religious organizations in the United States are costing the country’s taxpayers up to a whopping $71 billion a Year.
The SPI is a think tank organization of thought leaders, writers, scholars and speakers with a shared mission to influence American public opinion and promote a secular society. The group holds that governmental decisions and public policies should be based on available science and reason, and free of religion or religious preferences.
According to the SPI, collectively, all religious organizations in the United States are taking up to $71 billion in tax credits from the American public. The group detailed the breakdown of the $71 billion going into the coffers of these faith-based organizations as follows: $35.3 billion in federal income tax subsidies, $26.2 billion in property tax credits, $6.1 billion in state income tax credit, $1.2 billion of parsonage, and $2.2 billion in faith-based initiative subsidies.
SPI said if these faith-based organizations were taxed like for-profit organizations in the country, up to $71 billion per year in tax revenue could be generated.
Further reports said if even churches alone were merely held to the standards of other non-profit agencies, like the American Red Cross, $16.75 billion in annual tax revenues could be generated. The study estimated for the total subsides enjoyed by religious organizations, but don’t account for tax credits like sales taxes, local sales, donor-tax exemptions and the income taxes volunteer labor subsidy.
The study revealed that the Mormon Church, for example, spends roughly 7% of its annual income on charity. An average of 71% of the church’s total revenues is said to go into its operating expenses.
Commenting on the study, some observers said although religious organizations in the country are not-for-profit, the government can still grant some exemption, as well as closely monitoring their activities to ensure that leaders of these organizations do not exploit their members and the American public for their own benefit.
It is said thousands of new churches are opened every year in the United States. At the same time, many churches are closing down due to lack of interest from members.
The Hartford Institute has estimated that there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States. The estimate relies on the RCMS 2010 religious congregations census. Out of this number, it is said about 314,000 are Protestant and other Christian churches, and 24,000 are Catholic and Orthodox churches. Non-Christian religious congregations are estimated at about only 12,000.