Last updated on: 7/29/2016 | Author:

Mark Oppenheimer, PhD Biography

Opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times
Con to the question "Should Churches (Including Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt?"

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits… It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses… [T]he religious exemption has forced the IRS to decide what’s a religion, and thus has entangled church and state in the worst way. Since the world’s great religion scholars can’t agree on what a religion is, it’s absurd to ask a bunch of accountants, no matter how well-meaning…

[T]he IRS famously caved and awarded the Church of Scientology tax-exempt status. Never mind that the Scientology is secretive, or that it charges for its courses; or that its leader, David Miscavige, lives like a pasha. Indeed, many clergy have mid-six-figure salaries — many university presidents, seven-figure salaries — and the IRS doesn’t trouble their tax-exempt status. And many churches and synagogues sit on exceedingly valuable tracts of land (walk up and down Fifth Avenue to see what I mean). The property taxes they aren’t paying have to be drawn from business owners and private citizens — in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, Methodist churches.”

“Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” TIME magazine, June 28, 2015

Theoretical Expertise Ranking:
Individuals with JDs, PhDs, or equivalent advanced degrees in fields relevant to churches and taxes. Also top-level government officials (such as foreign leaders, US presidents, Founding Fathers, Supreme Court Justices, members of legislative bodies, cabinet members, military leaders, etc.) with positions relevant to the churches and taxes issue.
Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Opinion columnist, Los Angeles Times
  • Columnist, “Beliefs,” New York Times, 2010-June 2016
  • Host, Unorthodox podcast, Tablet magazine
  • Lecturer in Religion and Literature, Yale Divinity School
  • Contributor, New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Forward, Tablet, Mother Jones
  • Director, Yale Journalism Initiative
  • Recipient, Koret Young Writer on Jewish Themes award
  • Recipient, Hiett Prize in the Humanities
  • Education:
  • PhD, Religion, Yale University, 2003
  • BA, History, Yale College, 1996

  • Other:
  • Has taught at Yale, Stanford, Wesleyan, Boston College, and New York University
  • Twitter: @markopp1
  • Quoted in:
    Pro & Con Quotes: Should Churches (Including Mosques, Synagogues, etc.) Remain Tax-Exempt?