DEBATE: Should churches be taxed?

There are still many local churches out there doing what they ought to do, giving to charity and meeting the spiritual needs of their people, but it is also high time that we start imposing taxes on churches, especially those that make a lot of money.

THE ARGUMENT ON TAXING churches is based on the so-called megachurches or television-based ministries as examples of abuse.

However, let’s not be confused by the few church leaders that are taking advantage of their flock to make money. I agree that not all religious institutions contribute to the common good, and that not all religious beliefs are inspiring, but also, not all religious believers are generous. 

If we tax churches, then churches will do what other businesses do—they’ll increase expenditures in order to reduce taxable income. What would become of the smaller churches that are on a shoe string budget?

There are still many local churches out there doing what they ought to do, giving to charity and meeting the spiritual needs of their people.

Churches operating in the true spirit of charity organisations which have little to do with the pursuit of wealth should, therefore, not be taxed, although it would be difficult to establish whether a certain church is operating for financial gain or for spiritual purposes.

Secondly, churches give—or should give, a big percentage of their money to charity. Taxing them would mean that they will be able to bring a smaller amount into charity.

It would also be in effect double taxation. Churches mainly rely on member patronage for income. Church members already pay taxes from their income, and use the remaining income to support their church, without possible monetary gain for themselves.

To single out churches and tax them would be absurd as there is no constitutional way to tax churches without taxing all non-profits.

People aren’t forced to give money in church, it’s a voluntary thing. If we make the church pay tax, we are mixing the Government with the church and to follow Jesus’ instructions, we should give Caesar what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.

What we pay, through tithes and offerings, enables the church pay to the ones who need it, maintain the building and pay their pastors.

How then can the church pay if we do not play our part? Smaller churches would face a relatively greater cost in order to comply with new regulations. The church is the people and we cannot just let the church give more money when they already do.

Let’s also not forget the role on evangelisation. A lower budget would lead to the probable closure of hospitals and schools that work with churches, with the aim of a peaceful and Godly environment.

Consider Bible studies, youth groups, and other extra events that lead to spiritual connectedness and how they would be affected.

The church and Government should be separated. Taxing the church is taxing God because we are literally and voluntarily giving to God so that his storehouse may have food to eat. 

In full agreement, the apostle Paul also taught, “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue.”

ABOUT TWO WEEKS ago, a colleague posted on social media something that happened to his little sister who had just started her first job after graduating from high school.

“My young sister (S6 finalist) gets her first salary on Monday; she told me she’s taking 50 per cent of it to church. I disagreed with her and asked her to open up a bank account and that will be used as first deposit for tuition. She made an agreement with God, she won’t turn away from it,” he posted on Twitter.

It is such stories that get to my nerves and I am compelled to start raising more questions than answers when it comes to how we have been spiritually manipulated.

First of all, why would a young lady who still has bills to pay take half of her first hard-earned salary to church?

The responsibly of a church, at least from my understanding, is to advance spiritual beliefs based on real life, which generally and technically means messages of growth, hard work, care and hope, among other things.

The church should be in a position to be a partner in ensuring communities move from one place to another, not just in the way they think but also in terms of visible and tangible growth—socially and economically.

Yet, there seems to be a different truth now. We are now witnessing the rise of churches that operate as businesses and a whole different section of ‘apostles’ who, instead of telling the truth to the congregations they lead, would rather use the church as a platform to exploit them.

The only options authorities have had are to close some churches and ask leaders to take on professional courses (Christian theology). That, however, has not solved the rise of bad practices of pastors and apostles who want to serve their own personal interests.

Looking around, it is easy to see pastors running mega businesses, even those that they claim are meant to benefit the communities like schools and hospitals. Here, at home, we know pastors who run bakeries, who own big mansions, who take luxurious holidays, drive posh cars, and the list goes on.

And on the other side, you see these same people leading hundreds of poor people in their churches-turned-businesses. Many of them are desperate and think they will find God and get their problems solved. Some of them have been in these churches for years but they haven’t received anything  they hoped for. Pastors will tell them; the time will come.

It is high time that we start imposing taxes on churches, especially those that make a lot of money. They are there. They have thousands of followers, the majority of whom are within the employed section and obliged to give tithe.

We can start by asking churches to declare, to use the right word without mincing words, returns.

This money can fairly be distributed to advance the common interests of citizens, even those that think their lives will be transformed in the churches with greedy leaders.