Friday, March 4, 2011

Yes, it's time to start taxing all churches!

"The Constitution does not require the government to exempt churches from federal income taxes or from filing tax or information returns"

- Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

As the nation's budget woes and deficit grow, reaching a new debt ceiling of $14. 3 trillion within a month, it's time for all revenue streams to be considered and none granted exemptions. That includes all churches, religions or cults (as I call them), which have gotten away with murder for decades. The classic example has been that the federal income tax exemptions are based on churches not butting their noses into politics or foisting political literature on their captive audience, but that's exactly what we've beheld time and time again. The most recent and glaring episodes occurred ca. 2000 when evangelical groups like James Dobson's Focus on the Family dispensed literature on their voting recommendations.

They ought to have had their tax exempt status rescinded right then and there, but wait...their argument was that it wasn't their "religious arm" that distributed the pamphlets but their cultural arm.....or some such baloney.

But enough of this bilge! I don't see why my tax money ought to be going to support any damned church! IF I want a religious charity to have my money I will give it to them freely, for that specific cause. But what I can't abide is having my tax money used to pay for these religious freaks and their agendas. And make no mistake here, if churches aren't paying their fair share then those tax burdens are shifted to the rest of us!

Thus, I fully concur with Sen. Chuck Grassley's remark that it isn't incumbent on the government to exempt any church from paying taxes, based on the Constitution. Indeed, the separation of Church and State clause (part of th First Amendment) leaves it clear that churches ought to be paying their freight as well! (Btw, true, Grassley may be a Reep, but even a broken clock is right twice each day!)

Think of the hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars these churches are raking in each year, based on shaking down their flocks for "tithes" or whatnot. Many of these tithing families with barely enough of their own money to get a daily meal from Burger King, or clothes from Goodwill. Yet their churches fleece them for the kids' bread and milk money! How righteous is that?

Currently, as a recent Economist report ('God Knows', Jan. 29, p. 29) noted, 1.8 million churches are exempted from paying income tax. If their total take in a year is $300 billion (which might be conservative) then that translates to something like $108 billion not collected for the federal coffers each year! Think of the size of that take! It's even more than the Repukes want to cut ($60b) from the current federal budget in terms of food stamps, nutrition for poor school kids, and home heating oil subsidies for poor seniors. None of those cuts would be needed, not a damned one, if those 1.8 million churches could just be taxed.

Meanwhile, all secular charities have to file Form 990 each year, detailing all their finances. The churches, since they don't have to file - can hide all sorts of chicanery. Indeed, Grassley's own report (and further demand for more transparency) had been triggered by the evidence of televangelists running lucrative businesses off their takings, such as recording studios as well as selling oil and gas at inflated prices under the cover of religious exemption (Economist, ibid).

For his part, Sen. Grassley, before seeking new regulatory legislation, is waiting for religious organizations to come forward and advance their own plans. As of this writing, a commission has been established by The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability - which is expected to recommend signficant reforms. All of these ought to include dropping the exemption to pay income tax.

In the meantime, has Grassley - by raising this issue - dared to approach an even more dangerous "third rail" of American politics? If so, I (and other secularists) say 'Bring it on!'.

If politicos can talk openly of paring down Social Security (a bulwark for tens of millions) we can damned well also talk of taxing the damned churches to make sure Social Security survives, as well as Medicare!

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