LDS wealth spurs question: Should churches be tax-exempt?
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New big-dollar revelations about the wealth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are enlivening debate on a long-standing question:© Provided by Salt Lake Tribune(The Salt Lake Tribune) Places of worship around Utah, clockwise from top left: The Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City; a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Main Street as part of a church-owned skyscraper in Salt Lake City; St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in West Jordan; the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple in South Jordan; Congregation Kol Ami Synagogue in Salt Lake City; and First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City.
Should religions be tax-exempt?
While most U.S. places of worship operate on small and sometimes hand-to-mouth budgets fed by donations, the Utah-based faith has amassed immense financial reserves and landholdings during the past half-century.Refurbished Dell D3100 USB 3.0 UHD 4K Triple Video Docking StationAdAdDiscount Electronics
In the widest look so far at its real estate portfolio, a newly published database details nearly $16 billion in domestic holdings spread across the country. Though it’s all but guaranteed to be an undercount, that tally of nearly 16,000 parcels it owns would rank the church among the nation’s top five private landowners.
The portfolio’s riches come to light while Latter-day Saints and observers are already absorbing reports of another $52 billion or so the church holds in U.S. stock and mutual funds through its Salt Lake City-based investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors.
The church, whose faithful members donate a tenth of their income in tithing, discloses little about its extensive financial activities — although the governing First Presidency has said it “complies with all applicable law governing our donations, investments, taxes and reserves.”
Spokesperson Doug Andersen said in a written statement the church’s underlying mission of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through its missionary, worship, education, humanitarian and other efforts “are funded by the tithes and offerings of members, and through the church’s prudent investments and reserves.”
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