Our nation was founded on the principle that state-sponsored religion was a form of tyranny. Lots of people emigrated to North America simply because of religious intolerance in Europe. Indeed, some people in the colonies had to move because of religious intolerance on this side of the Atlantic. Somehow, "freedom of religion" has morphed over the years to a view that religious groups are exempt from paying any taxes. The city of Waterville, Maine is in one heck of a bind because much of the most valuable property in town is owned by the Roman Catholic Church and although the church requires and receives services from the city, they pay no taxes. I only mention this city because it is geographically small and the tax exemptions granted to the church and to academic institutions (Colby College is a VERY rich college) cause the home-owners in that city to pay some very stiff property taxes. To take a more national view, there are mega-businesses operating as if they are churches (generally fundamentalist Televangelist sects) though they draw donations from all over and don't seem to contribute much to the well-being of locals. They are businesses and they are not taxed because they "sell" intangibles, like faith. At least local churches can run food drives and tag sales to help people who are homeless or down on their luck. There is a congregation in a very affluent area south of here that takes donations of non-perishable food, used appliances, furnishings, and clothing, and sells them in a thrift shop in my town, where there are certainly many, many people that need such bargains to get by. They have "specials" when you can come in on a given day and fill a large (30 gal) plastic garbage bag with clothing and pay $5/bag. Lots of unemployed people are getting their school-shopping done this way, and buying work-clothes this way. Some churches do a lot of good and serve local needs, and some are run as for-profit businesses that make their leaders a pile of money. Should they all be exempt from taxation? If so, why? Background: When I was a kid, my great-aunt and great-uncle from Hartford used to tell me stories about being dunned for donations at their church because "poor French-Catholics from Maine" needed help (the French population of Hartford was largely from Maine, and they moved down to take jobs at Colt, Pratt-Whitney, etc). Even as a small kid, I couldn't help but contrast this with the "missionaries" that would visit our small church several times a year and tell us that we had to give more money because poor people in Latin America or Africa needed help. At what level would the church stop begging? I certainly don't know. Most of the Catholic kids in my town were in large French-Canadian families, and most didn't have inside toilets in the '60s and many didn't have running water. A hand-pump at the sink and a bucket to heat water on the wood stove was pretty standard.