The first amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, ...". Well, tax exemption is a law respecting an establishment of religion, and not just one, but all who claim to be religions!
Opposition to government favoritism for the religious, those who would challenge the constitutionality of exempting religions from taxes, fear for their lives. Madalyn Murray O'Hair fought for the separation of church and state and won the removal of prayer from public schools. She was driven out of Maryland by vicious harassment including the stoning of her house by her local neighborhood religious residents. With this kind of inhuman treatment, anybody opposing taxing religion is at risk of verbal and physical abuse or worse.
Tax exemption of religions is bleeding of our government and strongly inhibits our ability to provide necessary services and benefits for the unfortunate. The funds that could go for these benefits and emergencies have been drained off by the religions since the first exemptions for charity began in 1894. Exempting expenses for charitable giving is one thing, but it has been manipulated so that the religions get all income exempted.
"Itemized deduction requirement. The donations you make to your church throughout the year can be deducted from your taxes only if you itemize your expenses on Schedule A when you file your personal tax return. To use Schedule A, your total itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction for your filing status." (IRS)
The vast majority of people with lower incomes, especially renters, do not have enough of these expenses to qualify, and, consequently cannot take the tax deduction for charitable gifts. For 2016, the Single deduction = $6,300, Married Filing Jointly = $12,600, Head of Household = $9,250. A single person making $31,500,z would have to have taxes, interest, and charity contributions totaling $6,300 to be able to take a charitable deduction, that's 20% of his or her income. Nobody that I know that poor can afford that much. Only 6% of people making $25,000 do, but 93.4% making $200,000 or more do. http://taxfoundation.org/sites/taxfoundation.org/files/docs/Itemized_Deductions-21.png
The poor are discriminated again by the rich and the inequity in this charitable deduction scheme. Who benefits? The religions and the rich. They bleed funds which could serve the poor, as well as everybody in transportation, education, research (leading to new products and services), infrastructure, and services.
The tax savings go into the pockets of the rich, and into the wealth and well being of religions and the clergy as well as all the property these organizations collect, while only a trivial share actually ends up in the hands of the poor. But they sure make big noise about the few they do help. They make us think everything you give to the church goes directly to the poor. False! Most of giving to churchs supports the clergy and the church - the religion itself.
I say tax the churches and every property and income that is not actually dispensed as help to the poor and unfortunate. If it is used to maintain the religion, such as building and maintaining a church, TAX it. If it is given away to the poor and unfortunate, then, and only then, exempt it.