Posted by: Rick | Friday, February 10, 2012

Spoiled Rotten Bishops

Why are churches tax-exempt?

While mixing it up with the kooks at National Review Online today, I came across this passage from the writings of James Madison:

But besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. A warning on this subject is emphatically given in the example of the various Charitable establishments in Great Britain the management of which has been lately scrutinized. The excessive wealth of ecclesiastical Corporations and the misuse of it in many Countries of Europe has Long been a topic of complaint. In some of them the Church has amassed half perhaps the property of the nation. When the reformation took place, an event promoted if not caused, by that disordered state of things, how enormous were the treasures of religious societies, and how gross the corruptions engendered by them; so enormous & so gross as to produce in the Cabinets & Councils of the Protestant states a disregard, of all the pleas of the interested party drawn from the sanctions of the law, and the sacredness of property held in religious trust. The history of England during the period of the reformation offers a sufficient illustration for the present purpose. [Emphasis added]

To hear Republicans tell it, the Founding Fathers worried only about the abuse of government power. Not true. They worried about abuse of power wherever it came from.



  1. You make an excellent point. This is also how the American Libertarians have gone wrong. The philosophical anarchism it arose from was/is founded on a deep distrust of ALL power and authority, not just governmental power. Libertarians just want to let the wealthy have all the power, with nothing to control their abuse of the rest of us.


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