Tuesday, October 5, 2010

American Churches and Pay-As-You-Go Politics

In Minnesota, a few short weeks before election day, the state’s Catholic archdiocese is mailing DVDs to all of its 800,000 parishioners.

Produced by the Knights of Columbus, the video is basically a slick political advertisement in support of a single issue: opposition to gay marriage. By urging political action in favor of the church’s position, the DVD essentially endorses one of the candidates in the state’s three-way gubernatorial election: the Republican, who has made an issue of his opposition to same-ex marriage.

The project is funded by an anonymous “large, private donation.” No telling who or what political entity might have thrown money, via the Church, at the Minnesota’s governor’s race—nor whether the motivation behind it is really social conservatism (as opposed to, say, an effort by business interests to undermine the campaign of another candidate).

Be that as it may, this is just one of many recent examples of intrusion by churches and church leaders into matters of public policy—from the involvement of the Mormon Church in California’s Proposition 8 controversy to lobbying by Catholic Bishops for certain specific language in health reform legislation.

American churches—from mainstream denominations to fanatical, one-of-a-kind sects—aren’t supposed to meddle in politics. But they do. Routinely.

Maybe that’s to be expected. After all—churches are composed of people, and people have opinions. However, that brings up a question: As tax payers, why should you and I subsidize the expression of those opinions by allowing churches to amass limitless amounts of money and property tax free? And why should we allow third parties—anonymous or otherwise—to launder large political contributions by disguising them as tax-deductible, “charitable” contributions?

It’s time we admitted the fact that churches in this country—which can turn out single-issue voters by the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands to support their particular agenda—are a huge factor in American politics. Let’s just admit it.

Then let’s also admit that it’s ridiculous to continue the indefensible practice of granting tax-exempt status to churches. For those who are justifiably concerned about rising deficits and unmet public needs, church property represents countless billions of dollars worth of untaxed property. Church donations represent billions of dollars worth of income that churches—like the small businesses they are—should pay tax on, just like everyone else.

Those who defend the practice of continuing the tax-exempt status of organized religion in America often use the argument of separation of church and state: they say churches shouldn’t have to give money to the state.

Au contraire: Separation of church and state is one of several excellent arguments for ending the practice of granting special powers and privileges to churches—as well as tax-exempt status to any transactions allegedly conducted “in God’s name.”

5 comments:

cillagirl84@msn.com said...

I used to be a quite devoted LDS (Mormon) church attender. I haven't gone when I saw how involved the local branch was in politics. I had always been told that they stayed out of politics. When I discovered what the Church organization itself did in California, I was extremely appalled.

In a more generic way, I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state and am a dues-paying member of American United (www.au.org). My policy is that if the Constitution guarantees that government will not interfere in churches and religion, it is also true in the reverse: churches should not get involved in the government.

Think about it this way. If we are so appalled and horrified by sharia and the theocracies of the Islamic world, then surely a Christian (or Judeo-Christian) theocracy is just as appalling.

Six said...

Could just as likely have been a political hack in favor of President Obama... afterall he has on multiple occasions said he too opposes Gay Marriage.

On the Non-profit for churches thing, I agree CJ. I say they should eliminate tax exempt status for ALL organizations with a clear political leaning persuasion. Environmental conservation groups, social advocacy organizations, and on down the list.

I think the real issue for you though is that THOSE 'non-profits' are advocating for something you disagree with... if it were up to you, you would use the power of the government and regulation to make thier voice harder to be heard than you would an organization you agreed with such as say, Greenpeace... who receives the same tax-sheltering that Knights of Columbus does.

Why not just end the ridiculousness of an awful tax code that allows for 'non-profits'? How about just simplifying the tax code...

Six said...

BTW - speaking of equality for homosexuals... your knight riding in on the white horse in to the white house has failed to live up to as much...

I should not have been surprised, although silly me I was, the Obama Justice Department argued last month feverently in favor of keeping in place 'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' in the lawsuit against the USA brought by the Log Cabin Republicans (yes, there are indeed gay-Republicans other than Mark Foley and Ted Haggard!). Fortunately the Log Cabin Republicans won thier lawsuit and the Federal Judge found that 'DADT' started by President Clinton is unconstitutional and called to end the policy immediately (something the president as the commander-in-chief has the authority to do with a penstroke - DADT was put in to effect by a presidential directive, it can be removed just as easily).

That should be the end, right? A Federal Court found DADT unconstitutional - it,s done! Nope - this is the Obama Administration, they don't bother to keep their word, and they REALLY hate to lose in court... The Obama Administration is certainly no friend to civil rights protected under the constitution. The president - who campaigned a promise to end 'DADT' - could have issued a press release stating his support of the Federal Courts ruling ( a ruling his administration opposed. His Administration argued such things as that ending it would put Americans abroad at risk, it would infringe on servicemembers religious freedoms and other stupid claims) and in his press release it could have said that he is only following the orders of the Federal Court to protect individuals constitutional rights. INSTEAD, his administration puts out a statement chastising the court for their ruling, snubbing thier nose at the court saying that the courts should not compel the executive branch (to what? FOLLOW THE CONSTITUTION?) especially during a time of war, and went on to say that in their interpretation, the Federal Courts ruling ONLY favors/applies to the Log Cabin Republicans... meaning that only members of the military who are also Log Cabin Republicans at the time of the ruling are protected under this ruling. They also reitterated thier arguments that ending the policy would put service mean and women at risk internationally. This is the crap the Bush Administration would have pulled. OH - and the BEST part of the Obama Administrations comment on the courts ruling... that an injunction would be improper because Congress is considering a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell that will likely be brought sometime late in the year. And there it is... it's all a political game to him. Constitutional rights be damned. How do you think Senator Obama would have reacted if it were president McCain releasing that type of response to the courts ruling?

Six said...

BTW - speaking of equality for homosexuals... your knight riding in on the white horse in to the white house has failed to live up to as much...

I should not have been surprised, although silly me I was, the Obama Justice Department argued last month feverently in favor of keeping in place 'Don't Ask-Don't Tell' in the lawsuit against the USA brought by the Log Cabin Republicans (yes, there are indeed gay-Republicans other than Mark Foley and Ted Haggard!). Fortunately the Log Cabin Republicans won thier lawsuit and the Federal Judge found that 'DADT' started by President Clinton is unconstitutional and called to end the policy immediately (something the president as the commander-in-chief has the authority to do with a penstroke - DADT was put in to effect by a presidential directive, it can be removed just as easily).

That should be the end, right? A Federal Court found DADT unconstitutional - it,s done! Nope - this is the Obama Administration, they don't bother to keep their word, and they REALLY hate to lose in court... The Obama Administration is certainly no friend to civil rights protected under the constitution. The president - who campaigned a promise to end 'DADT' - could have issued a press release stating his support of the Federal Courts ruling ( a ruling his administration opposed. His Administration argued such things as that ending it would put Americans abroad at risk, it would infringe on servicemembers religious freedoms and other stupid claims) and in his press release it could have said that he is only following the orders of the Federal Court to protect individuals constitutional rights. INSTEAD, his administration puts out a statement chastising the court for their ruling, snubbing thier nose at the court saying that the courts should not compel the executive branch (to what? FOLLOW THE CONSTITUTION?) especially during a time of war, and went on to say that in their interpretation, the Federal Courts ruling ONLY favors/applies to the Log Cabin Republicans... meaning that only members of the military who are also Log Cabin Republicans at the time of the ruling are protected under this ruling. They also reitterated thier arguments that ending the policy would put service mean and women at risk internationally. This is the crap the Bush Administration would have pulled. OH - and the BEST part of the Obama Administrations comment on the courts ruling... that an injunction would be improper because Congress is considering a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell that will likely be brought sometime late in the year. And there it is... it's all a political game to him. Constitutional rights be damned. How do you think Senator Obama would have reacted if it were president McCain releasing that type of response to the courts ruling?

The Tarquin said...

In so far as it's legitimate for the Government to levy taxes, those taxes should be levied equally. If the Government's going to tax income, then it should be as blind as possible to whether that income comes from labor or from tithes.

My two cents. Well, 1.5 cents after taxes . . .