OPINION: In Alaska, the Nome City Council is moving forward with a plan to end tax exemptions for churches, making it the first American town to tax the church.
With the city budget projected to run a deficit, the Nome City Council spent a one-hour work session last Monday looking at ways to increase tax revenue. After much debate, the council agreed to move forward with a draft ordinance removing sales tax exemptions from nonprofits and churches.
City Finance Director Julie Liew estimates the move could bring in about $300,000 a year for the small city of about 3,800 people.
However, the proposed tax changes are not yet law. KNOM.org reports the City Council is still several meetings away from a vote, and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in before the council takes any final action.
The next City Council meeting is set for Monday, Nov. 24.
Estimates vary, but studies show exempting religion from taxes in America costs the taxpayers between $71 billion and $83.5 billion a year, according to the New Civil Rights Movement. For comparison, America's food stamp program costs about $75-80 billion a year.
Giving churches special tax exemptions violates the separation of church and state. By providing a financial benefit to religious institutions, government is supporting religion.
A tax break for churches forces all American taxpayers to support religion, even if they oppose some or all religious doctrines:
No church property is taxed and so the infidel and the atheist and the man without religion are taxed to make up the deficit in the public income thus caused.
It is wrong to ask the public to subsidize religion in America. Maybe the place to start the important task of putting an end to this practice is Nome, Alaska.
This commentary first appeared in Patheos, a website aiming to engage a global discussion about religion and spirituality.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.
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