Subscribe to SIAWI content updates by Email
Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Québec: No more religious exemptions: Montreal is taxing churches

Québec: No more religious exemptions: Montreal is taxing churches

Saturday 20 May 2017, by siawi3

Source: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/no-more-religious-exemptions-montreal-is-taxing-churches-1.3415164

No more religious exemptions: Montreal is taxing churches

Video: Extended: Minister concerned about tax bill
Joel Coppetiers, Minister of Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church, on the city of Montreal wanting to tax churches

Video: CTV Montreal: Taxing churches
Montreal has been sending churches tax bills, arguing they’re not being used for religious purposes

CTV Montreal
Published Monday, May 15, 2017 8:54PM EDT

Churches in Montreal are becoming concerned about hosting community groups after being hit with bills for municipal taxes.

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his institution first received a municipal tax bill in early 2015.

It was "the first indication that something had changed," said Coppetiers.

Churches in Montreal are being taxed by the city for rooms that are not being actively used for worship

Provincial law exempts churches and manses from paying municipal taxes but Coppetiers was told that if a manse is vacant for several months between ministers, it’s taxable.

Following that, city officials arrived for an inspection of every room in the church and how they were used.

"The indication is there’s not an exemption for the church as a whole, there’s only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it," said Coppetiers.

As a result, many churches in Montreal that host community groups, such as food banks, or Girl Guides or Boy Scouts, are facing mounting tax bills.

Coppetiers says the city has changed how it interprets the law.

"We’re there to care and serve the community and this is part of it," said Coppetiers.

Coppetiers says taxes are due even when services are suspended for renovations.

The amount owed in taxes can increase swiftly if a church closes its doors.

When Trinity Memorial Church in NDG closed earlier this year, the city started enacting taxes immediately following the last service.

As a result churches feel pressured to sell swiftly, with Trinity Memorial being sold to Stanford Properties Group within two months.

The issue of places of worship owing taxes and fighting the city’s exemptions office came as a surprise to city politicians, including Councillor Peter McQueen.

"Already our churches are in danger, they’re having a number of financial problems and this is a further low blow," said McQueen.

The NDG councillor said his party, Projet Montreal, will study the exemption issue, but he said Montreal’s Executive Committee needs to step up.

"If we don’t do something you’re going to see churches closed, churches possibly torn down, heaven forbid, certainly converted away from community use," said McQueen.

Meanwhile churches across the island are praying that the city will cease surprising them with taxes they can’t afford.

°°°

Source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/05/good-news-montreal-taxing-churches/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Nonreligious&utm_content=44

Good News: Montreal Is Taxing Churches

May 16, 2017

by Michael Stone

No more religious exemptions, Montreal is taxing churches: For the first time churches in Montreal are being forced to pay taxes, and some church leaders are very unhappy.

CTV Montreal reports that churches and church space not being used explicitly for the purpose of worship is now taxable property, and is to be treated as any other property as far as taxes are concerned.

As one might expect, those benefitting from the tax exempt status enjoyed by churches are not happy. Again, CTV Montreal reports:

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his institution first received a municipal tax bill…

“The indication is there’s not an exemption for the church as a whole, there’s only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it,” said Coppetiers.

And while some of those that benefit from the tax exempt status previously enjoyed by churches in Montreal are unhappy with the changes, others are celebrating the small step towards a more just and fair tax structure.

Indeed, subsidizing tax-exempt churches costs taxpayers money, a great deal of money.

For example, a recent report from the Secular Policy Institute shows that tax exempt churches cost U.S. taxpayers $71 billion every year.

Among the report’s findings: Each year religious groups receive $35.3 billion in federal income tax subsidies and $26.2 billion property tax subsidies. In addition, religious organizations also enjoyed approximately $6.1 billion in state income tax subsidies, along with $1.2 billion of parsonage, and $2.2 billion in the faith-based initiatives subsidy.

Discussing the problem with tax exempt churches, Bill Maher makes a powerful case for ending tax exempt status for religious institutions, noting:

Why, in heaven’s name, don’t we tax religion? A sexist, homophobic magic act that’s been used to justify everything from genital mutilation to genocide. You want to raise the tax on tobacco so kids don’t get cancer, OK. But let’s put one on Sunday school so they don’t get stupid.

Maher’s right. We should tax the church. There is no reason why the non-religious should subsidize religious superstition.

Perhaps more important, tax exemptions for churches violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Bottom line: Montreal is getting it right. Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing religious superstition. It’s time to tax the church.