Paying the Piper

Not my best headline ever, but I was rushed.

Here’s a collection of opinions published in the New York Times recently on the topic of tax exemptions for religious institutions.  
I think it’s interesting that the articles often make reference to the abuses of tax exemptions which some religious organizations and individuals are guilty of.  None of the writers makes any reference to the tangible good that religious organizations not only can but do provide to their communities.  No reference is made to the countless food pantries, clothing closets, soup kitchens, and other services to the poor provided by congregations large and small who are able to offer not just members but grocery stores and other businesses a tax deductible donation acknowledgment for their generosity.  
No mention or comparison is made between the number and scope of religious organizations that offer services to the needy and at risk not just in America but around the world, and secular institutions committed to the same thing (secular institutions that are not actually part of government, that is).  I think that would be rather interesting and telling.  I suspect strongly that religious organizations far outstrip private secular organizations in terms of dollars and man-hours contributed in service of others.
There are undoubtedly abuses of the tax exemptions.  Institutions and individuals found to be grossly and willfully abusing these exemptions should be addressed both within their larger church polity (assuming they have one) as well as through civil means when appropriate.  But I assume that abuses are the exception, not the rule.  As such, we ought to think twice before we eliminate tax-exempt status from religious organizations.  

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