Richest Religious Organizations That Don’t Have to Pay Taxes
A few months ago on the talk show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delivered a scathing takedown of televangelism that quickly went viral, receiving over 10 million views on YouTube. This clip from his show laid out several arguments for ending tax exemption for churches and other religious organizations, pointing out that the laws governing this exemption were extremely lax and hardly enforced, which essentially allows unscrupulous people to take advantage of others in the name of faith. There are tons of religious organizations (not just televangelists) across the United States who rake in millions per year and don’t have to pay any taxes- here are a few of them.
1. The Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church has over 22 million members in the United States alone. With that many people putting money into the offertory plate every Sunday, their astounding amount of wealth becomes a little clearer. All that money is in addition to the non-liquid wealth that the Church owns – which includes things like property, artwork, and historical artifacts. Anyone who has ever seen St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, or the Washington National Cathedral, can attest to the fact that it would be impossible to put a monetary value on any of the Catholic Church’s oldest and most spectacular monuments. Although it’s hard to calculate the yearly income of the Catholic Church, a 2012 investigation by The Economist estimated that they spend about $170 billion per year.
2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Unlike other places in the world where the Latter Day Saints Movement (LDS) operates, US tax laws allow religious organizations to keep their income hidden from the public. Consequently, we aren’t able to investigate, but the LDS Church claims that they get their income primarily from donations from members. Many LDS members practice tithing, which means that they give 10% or more of their income to their local temple monthly. This practice is religious in origin, and without it, the Church would be hard pressed to keep their beautiful chapels and temples intact. The LDS Church also has financial investments which make up about 10% of their yearly income.
3. The Church of England
The Anglican Church has about 112,000 members scattered across North America, as well as parts of South and Central America. Although in some ways it is one of the more progressive church organizations, it still holds staunch pro-life views, as well as quiet opposition of same-sex marriage. Even though the Anglican Church is similar in viewpoint and doctrine to other conservative churches, like the Episcopal Church, their relations are not cordials. There are many ongoing lawsuits between the Anglican and Episcopal churches in regards to previously shared church property that still remain unsettled.