The God Business

How the church is spending your money

Gods Money

How many churches do you pass by on a normal day? Three? Four? More? And how many of those churches are massive, ostentatious buildings that are five times the size of the average house? Have you ever thought about where the money to build these over sized buildings comes from? It comes from donations of course, churches are not for profit organizations that rely on donations and fundraisers to cover their expenses. Except we aren’t talking about the weekly donations that go in the collection plate as it gets passed around, although they definitely add up, many churches benefit from corporate sponsorships from large or small corporations. For example, in my old home town there is a thrift store called Bibles for Missions. They operate, like many thrift stores, by reselling donations of clothing and household items made by the people who live in town. However, what always bothered me about them was that after regular operating costs the profit they made went to the local churches, specifically to purchase bibles to send on mission trips to Africa in an attempt to “educate” or convert the population. Aren’t there things people in Africa might need more than a bible? Like clean water for instance? This is just one example of misuse of funds that could be better directed to doing actual good.

On top of the huge amount of money that churches bring in every year in charitable donations, churches in the United States enjoy a tax-exempt status. Meaning they don’t have to pay income tax to the government on all the money they collect throughout the year. Money that, when donated, is tax deductible, so the government is paying a portion back to people and getting nothing from the church to offset the costs. In addition, in all fifty states, including the District of Columbia, churches are exempt from paying property tax on the over sized plots of land they own to build their over the top buildings. Literally billions of dollars every year are being poured into these organizations, if the government isn’t seeing any of it come tax time then who is?

Granted there are church programs that run for free, like bible study groups, Sunday school for kids, and in some places after school programs, but these programs only directly benefit the most devout followers, not the larger community as a whole, but in the case of my example above, the whole community is inadvertently donating via the thrift store and the community sees no return. Not only that, but they serve as a first point of indoctrination to new members looking for an affordable activity for their kids to do on a weekend for example. I obviously can’t speak for every church in the developed world, I’m sure there are some out there doing wonderful things for their local communities, I can only speak to the churches I’ve seen and grown up around, and while sometimes yes they do organize some events that benefit the community as a whole, or at least a larger portion of the community, these events are often subsidized by an outside group. Whether its food donations for a luncheon, or volunteer labour for a community event, the church still isn’t spending its own money.

Back to my questions at the opening of this article, have you been thinking about how many over sized, ostentatious church buildings you pass on a regular basis? I have often wondered to myself, and aloud sometimes with my peers, just how much does a building like that cost? Its not just the outside of the buildings either, inside these churches are covered in plush carpet, velvet wall hangings, expensive paintings, intricate stained-glass windows, et cetera. Now I understand that from a religious person’s point of view these buildings are meant to represent the house of god, therefore the bigger and more glamorous the better, but these same people preach that god is everywhere and in all of us. So, does he need this huge building? Is that in the bible? I would point out that in the bible Jesus himself did not preach in church, and more often that not simply addressed whoever was gathered with him outside. To borrow a quote from the popular television show The Big Bang Theory “I don't object to the concept of a deity, but I'm baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance.”

In addition to this given the average spending for churches of 47% on salaries and 22% on property expenses, we must also consider spending on less publicized and certainly more nefarious projects. Gay conversion therapy and camps for example, practices that have been proven time and again to be ineffective and in the case of conversion therapy, detrimentally harmful to those poor souls subjected to it. Camps and other gay and lesbian conversion techniques serve only to harm the mental health of the individuals involved and further the agenda of the church versus diversity.

Another disturbing practice funded by churches is crisis pregnancy centers. Places like this will lure in women who are pregnant, preying specifically on women who are alone, or scared. These places will either actively try and convince the women not to abort, even if they do not have the resources to raise the child, and in some of the worst cases, they will promise the woman an abortion and then draw out her pregnancy with extra appointments, or counselling, until it is too late for her to seek an abortion anywhere, at which point it becomes clear that they never intended to provide an abortion in the first place. We must ask ourselves, is this what the majority of the church going public thinks they are supporting when they throw a few dollars in the collection plate?

I haven’t touched on the more radical aspects of certain churches and I will do so only briefly just to highlight that it is still a problem in the United States especially, my best example being the Westboro Baptist church, a quick google search will turn up multiple instances of aggressive protests, targeting many different entities. I don’t need to see an invoice to figure out where the money for those buses to ship in protestors is coming from.

These numbers are startling, I found them to be shocking and I shouldn’t have, having grown up in the church and participated in many fundraisers. Seeing them in black and white begs the question; where is the money going? At what point do we as community members start asking for some sort of accountability, either to our local town councils or to some kind of government entity to start holding these organizations accountable? At the very least holding them to the same revenue rules and taxes as the rest of the country, and developed world as opposed to the free reign and government protection they have enjoyed for too long.

About the author

This article was written by Emerald Baynton, author of The Scientific Homeschooler blog.

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