Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mega Businesses In Dunwoody Go Untaxed

The question has been posed: Since when did churches become a "business"?

In the original context this question was intended to refute the assertion that church real estate and revenue should be taxed by the city.
Why pick on churches anyway, aren't they all about God and isn't God good? Isn't that why churches aren't taxed in the first place and have a special place in our bill of rights?
Well, for one thing, churches today are nothing like those our founding fathers were protecting from government influence. In today's world there is a much clearer distinction between Faith, Religion and The Church. The first is all about God. The second is man's attempt to celebrate the Faith and carry it forward beyond this generation with writings and rituals.

The latter is a manifestation of man, by man and for man, co-opting both the Faith and Religion. It is a political entity embodying power, ambition and greed associated with all fundamentally political human enterprises. It is The Church that has committed some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, all in the name of God. Today The Church has embraced the practices of the temporal world with its strength and success measured by head count and collections. Much like the way businesses use sales volume and revenue to gauge their success. And ponder this: the Vatican has its own bank.

Increasingly these Historically Tax Exempt Churches not only operate like businesses, but provide services traditionally associated with business and in some cases place themselves in direct competition with taxed business. There are churches today in Dunwoody that:
  • operate sports facilities open to the public, with a fee for non-members.
  • operate day cares and private schools for a fee.
  • offer adult enrichment, job networking and speaking events that are open to all and carry a charge.
  • market their services to a geographical area far larger than the greater Dunwoody area.
These have all the characteristics of a business:
  • competition;
  • revenue;
  • growth goals;
  • expenses, including payroll;
  • asset management; and
  • marketing.
Everything except for paying taxes.

Some argue that all Churches aren't like that. Absolutely true, some aren't. While Congregation Ariel and Ebenezer Baptist haven't adopted the business model, the "First and Second Baptist Banks of Dunwoody" certainly have. As have churches with larger parking lots than the failed Publix shopping center proposed for the Emory property across from the library. Think about it, if your church runs a shuttle bus on Sunday morning because the main parking lot is full, it probably isn't a community church where neighbors gather to share a common faith. It is a competitive, successful business.

It is time for Dunwoody to equitably tax all businesses operating in Dunwoody without regard to race, culture, national origin and yes, even Religion.