Churches: Rendering unto Caesar

Federal and state laws have traditionally exempted church property from taxation. But now that the value of church possessions has grown to some $80 billion, professional secularists such as Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair have raised far-reaching court suits challenging these exemptions, and financially hard-pressed local governments have begun to nibble away at the limits of the churches' immunity. As a result, U.S. churches are today in the midst of an agonizing reappraisal of their traditional privileges.

Last month, for example, the Episcopal diocese of New York appointed a blue-ribbon panel of lawyers to determine whether the church should pay taxes...

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