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Taxation: Sublime to the Ridiculous

I am reading my bible and found some interesting commentaries in Ezra 7:24. I will quote the footnotes from the Founders Bible:

For centuries in America, churches, places of worship, and religious ministries have been free from government imposed taxes reflecting the policy described in Ezra 7:24: “We also inform you that it is not allowed to impose tax, tribute or toll on any of the priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers,  Nethinim or servants of the house of God.” But as secularism began to militantly assert itself in the modern era by attacking every vestige of public religious recognition, the tax exempt status of churches became a target. When one such case reached the U.S. Supreme court, it voted overwhelming to retain the exemption because churches had enjoyed “two centuries of uninterrupted freedom from taxation,” and at both the federal and state levels, the practice was deeply embedded in the fabric of our national life.”

The principle behind why the government is not allowed to tax churches was articulated by Founding Father John Marshall, a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who declared: “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.”

If the government can tax a church, even if it just a little tax, it has opened the door whereby it can exercise a power that ultimately can be used to eradicate that church. As the Founding Father John Dickinson explained: “If they have a right to levy a tax of one penny upon us, they have a right to levy a million upon us, for where does their right stop?…  If they have any right to tax us, then whether our own money shall continue in our own pockets or not depends no longer on us, but on them.”

In 1874, the Supreme Court pointed out historical instances in which the power of taxation had been used to completely eliminate specific industries, including that of competitive state banking, noting:

“The power to tax is therefore the strongest-the most pervading-of all the powers of government, reaching directly or indirectly to all classes of the people. It was said by Chief Justice Marshall, in the case of McCulloch v. State of Maryland, that the power to tax is the power to destroy. A striking instance of the truth of the proposition is seen in the fact that the existing tax of ten percent imposed by the United States on the circulation of all other banks than the national banks, drove out of existence every state bank of circulation within a year or two after its passage.”

If the government is ever allowed to tax churches, even for just one penny, it has initiated a power that can control and thus destroy them.  Hence, the wisdom of following the policy set forth in Ezra 7:24 is established-another of the many American constitutional practices with Biblical precedent.

Mark Dorazio