Churches should be taxed on money used as income and donations over a certain threshold. The laws currently in place are antiquated, and in a technological age where financial transactions can be more open and clear, questionable funding of a state by a religious group should be less of an issue. Furthermore modern religious groups such as Scientologists have links to for-profit organisations and have been the subject of long standing accusations of money laundering.
From data released by the US Federal Election Commission we can see that political contributions made by religious group have grown massively over the last 30 years. This amounted to multiple million dollar contributions over the last ten years. It can be of no coincidence then that this pattern mimics the bolstering of the “religious right” in American politics. But it could also be argued that religious lobbying groups may be responsible for the recent centre right shift of the Democrat Party also, as religious contributions remain high for both major US parties.
The justification for a religious group’s tax exempt status is to preserve any interference of the state in religious matters and vice versa. However in countries such as the US, where many religious organisations operate like large businesses, money is undermining this separation of church and state. Religious groups should be subject to harsher tax legislation and have to prove the non-profit nature of their own and any affiliated organisations. The clearer religious groups are with contributions and how they are spent, the easier it will be for them to fund-raise in a future cashless society. If they continue to influence politics and amass large amounts of money they will surely be the subject of harsher reforms or limits moving forward.