How US churches exploit tax exemption to promote faith-based politics


This fall, millions of people learned in church that they could go to hell if they didn’t vote for a certain presidential candidate or party platform. Millions more took in media advertisements sponsored by religious groups that made the same point.


Let us set aside the question about whether God takes sides in American elections. The more pressing fact about this kind of religious-political advertising is that you, dear taxpayer, are footing part of the bill.

According to a recent Pew survey, about 13% of regular churchgoers reported receiving “political information” at church services, and about half of those said they were urged to support a specific candidate or party. So, to use the language of marketing, church-based advertising reached somewhere between 8 and 16 million “eyeballs”.

If candidates had to buy this kind of advertising – and they surely would if they could – it would cost them tens, or perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars over the course of a campaign. And, of course, the money they raised and spent would all be subject to tax.

Religious organizations, on the other hand, are largely exempt from taxes.

Now, tax exemptions are really just another name for a public subsidy. If I don’t pay my share of public expenditure on roads, law enforcement, defense and so on, the difference has to come from you. And it is for precisely this reason that the law forbids religious organizations, like all similar tax-exempt groups, from direct involvement in electioneering.


Written By: Katherine Stewart
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  1. How organisations in religious show business are able to avoid tax makes no sense!
    It’s really fraudulent tax free business and the proseletysers live the high life in luxury homes .
    Even the believers should dump them!

  2. I notice the Guardian’s reference to the Freedom from Religion Foundation contained a hyperlink not to their website, but on the word “religion” to the Guardian’s religion page. Mean! Also, it’s silly. It’d be like linking to their science page every time someone was quoted as saying, “well, X is more of an art than a science”.

  3. It’s more like linking to the Grauniad science page when someone said “Union of Concerned Scientists” or “National Science Foundation”. Best not to attribute to malice that which is explained by incompetence, though.

  4. The right wing in the U.S. will always see themselves as the religious right and obviously this is only the extreme christian lunacy and that the links between these two backwards looking organisations will ensure that the U.S. will always be in some part in hoc to such morons.

  5. Mr Graham’s been peddling tripe for many decades, and his son is also at it I understand; wasted lives.

  6. Billy Graham is looking as decrepit as his brain, and hopefully will soon be buried in a matchbox after an enema, like Hitch said about Jerry Falwell.  Who knows how much tax-free wealth this family has stolen from the gullible citizenry.

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