After citing giant U.S. corporations like GM and United Airlines that paid zero federal taxes last year, Bill Maher called out some other “deadbeats” on his Friday HBO show “Real Time”: religious institutions.
“There are 300,000 religious congregations in this country that pay no tax — no federal state or local, no income, sales or property,” Maher began. “And they own $600 billion in property.”
He cited the example of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. “If you sell cheap sweaters like they do across the street at Forever 21, you pay taxes,” he said. “But if you’re selling the invisible product of eternal whatever — no taxes.”
Naturally, Maher mentioned Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who “once said the only way to make any real money in this world was to start a religion.” While there are only about 30,000 Scientologists, the comic added, “it owns billions in real estate tax-scot-free.”
Since the Supreme Court last took up a case about taxing religious organizations in 1970, Maher added, more Americans have abandoned organized faith.
“The atheists, agnostics and anti-religionists are now the second-biggest denomination in America, right behind evangelicals. We’re 22.8 percent,” he said. “That means almost a quarter of us in America are being forced to subsidize a myth that we’re not buying into.”
Maher, who wrote and produced the pro-atheism documentary “Religulous,” dismissed religion as a “sexist, homophobic magic act that’s been used to justify everything from genital mutilation to genocide.”
Watch the full video above.