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View Diary: Organized Religion is a Protection Racket (69 comments)

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  •  So should all nonprofits also be taxed? (4+ / 0-)
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    NonnyO, americandad, VClib, Kevskos

    Not every nonprofit "spends directly on charity."

    Theatre and arts organizations, philosophical societies, and private schools don't "spend directly on charity" either; should they be similarly taxed?

    Or are you suggesting that religious organizations be discriminated against in our tax code by subjecting them to taxation that other similar nonprofits aren't subjected to?

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:20:40 AM PST

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    •  As long as the religious organizations... (3+ / 0-)
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      Kevskos, Troubadour, Pluto

      ... are preaching politics, then yes, they are interfering in secular government and ought to be taxed.  They are violating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      That's what's wrong with churches or church organizations receiving our tax dollars through the 'office of faith-based initiatives' that Dumbya set up through the White House via an executive order, and Obama expanded.

      SEPARATION of church and state needs to be strictly maintained.

      Obviously, neither Dumbya nor Obama has studied the bloody history of religious wars, or that of governments which forced a government-mandated religion on people (which is why some of my ancestors came to America!), or they'd have some foreboding as to what the current foot in the door represents..., and how bloody awful it may get someday if it's not stopped - NOW.  Otherwise, what happens?  Do we change religion to conform to whatever elected leader is president?  Does Congress make some kind of hodge-podge religious organization that everyone is happy with?  Do we change religions ever four or eight years?

      The 'office of faith-based initiatives' needs to be disbanded with an executive order since that's what was used to set it up.  Even Dumbya wasn't stupid enough to try to get Congress to set up that silly illegal and unconstitutional office, but Dumbya did in exchange for the support of the reichwingnuts.

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:36:08 AM PST

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      •  That simple phrase covers a lot of complexity. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Paul Rogers, americandad, VClib
        As long as the religious organizations are preaching politics, then yes, they are interfering in secular government and ought to be taxed.
        Ah, but there's the rub... how exactly do you define "preaching politics"?

        The IRS defines it as endorsing a candidate or party, but allows religious organizations (like other nonprofits) to speak out on the issues themselves.

        Is it "preaching politics" to quote Mary's Magnificat from Luke, where she says that "the poor will be filled with good things, while the rich will be sent away empty," or to quote Jesus saying "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God"?

        Is it "preaching politics" to call on the nation to take up the Mosaic tradition of Jubilee—to forgive all debts and redistribute the nation's wealth?

        Is it "preaching politics" for a church like mine to call for comprehensive immigration reform, not only because it's the right thing to do but also because some of the parishioners at our Spanish-language service are undocumented immigrants?

        And—here's the bigger question—if you're going to tell churches that they can't talk about those things because they would be "preaching politics," and if you're going to make that case on the basis of the First Amendment, then you deny yourself the standing to say that nonreligious nonprofit organizations should also not be able to speak about those issues.

        Your logic would, thus, allow nonreligious nonprofits to continue to speak on those issues; in that case, how are you not setting out a position where the government is explicitly discriminating against organizations of a religious nature—which would be a de facto, if not de jure, establishment of irreligion as a condition for favorable treatment under the law?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:50:58 AM PST

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        •  One thing that concerns me. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JamesGG, PSzymeczek, Kevskos, Troubadour

          I don't like that religious hate groups get exemptions from taxes, that they use to spread falsehoods.

          When we grant tax leniency, that's government endorsement of that activity, whether it's having a child, buying a home, or producing energy.

          Why do groups get to spread hate, and use religion as an excuse not to be taxed?  I don't want our tax code to endorse hate.  And it shouldn't.

          I understand how problematic it is to say that religions can't engage in politics.  Everything is political.  And taxing religious groups is potentially a problematic thing for non-profits in general.

          But I think we need to figure out a way to do this.  I wouldn't mind if all religious donations are treated as income for the purposes of tax, but if there's a better way to handle this kind of problem, I'd love to hear it.

          •  I don't see it as "endorsement," necessarily. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib
            When we grant tax leniency, that's government endorsement of that activity, whether it's having a child, buying a home, or producing energy.
            The problem is that the tax exemption that religious institutions receive isn't really "tax leniency," as other nonprofit organizations receive the same tax exemption.

            Put another way: The government's "endorsement" of nonprofit organizations by not taxing them is, in fact, similar to the government's "endorsement" of buying a home—in that the government's "endorsement" of homeownership doesn't mean that the government endorses the guy who cheats on his wife inside that home.

            Why do groups get to spread hate, and use religion as an excuse not to be taxed?  I don't want our tax code to endorse hate.  And it shouldn't.
            The problem is that you would then have to come up with an operative and legal definition for "hate"—which would create no shortage of other problems.

            The wealthy, for example, might define Jesus's statement that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God" as hateful.

            Once we've defined certain forms of speech—aside from political speech, which does have an operative legal definition—as off-limits for any tax-exempt religious organization, we get into really tricky gray areas.

            Further, even if we were to come up with a legally operative definition of "hate," we'd still run into trouble—as you want to bar only religious organizations from engaging in such speech, even as other nonreligious nonprofits are allowed to continue. That still seems like a violation of the First Amendment to me.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 08:15:14 AM PST

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            •  Definition of a hate group. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour

              A group which persists in spreading falsehoods about people, which is demonstrably incorrect.

              Simple, concise, and provable in a court of law.  I think this is the definition the Souther Poverty Law Center uses.  Lots of groups fall under this, using their pseudoscientific nonsense to justify continued intolerance towards gay people.

              One thing I've just read, apparently if a place is categorized as a church, you get to be exempt from property taxes.  Non-religious non-profit groups apparently aren't exempt from this, which is brought up in the dissenting opinion presented on the page.

              •  So you want to empower government... (0+ / 0-)

                ...to (a) decide what religious speech is true, and what is false, and (b) have the power to shut down (via taxation) any organization that engages in what it deems "falsehoods," by declaring it to be a "hate group"?

                If such a policy had been in place during the Bush years, giving Bush appointees the power to use government to enforce their own views of "truth" and "falsehood," the Episcopal Church—and most of the other liberal denominations—would no longer exist.

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                by JamesGG on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 01:49:58 PM PST

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                •  Not quite. (0+ / 0-)

                  Only when it directly conflicts with demonstrable science.

                  There's no soul, but teachings like that wouldn't qualify as hate speech because it isn't used to slander a group of humans.

                  Teaching that black people are black because they're evil (as the Mormon church did until the 70s, or so) would qualify.  So would teaching that women are inferior to men in intellectual capacities or moral character.  These things are demonstrably false.

                  Technically, this wouldn't even catch creationism, but then creationism on its own isn't hateful, it's just ludicrous.

                  We do have a standard of science established for courts.  Go with that.

                  But really, we shouldn't be okay with endorsing all nonsense, and taxing sense.  Religious leaders get special tax incentives and breaks, but scientists, educators and atheist leaders do not.

                  •  "Demonstrable science" according to whom? (0+ / 0-)

                    Eventually, some person or group of people has to make the decision. So who would be on this board that would be empowered to use the government to crack down on "hate speech" that it found contrary to "demonstrable science"?

                    This would be a governmental organization—which would mean that ultimately, it would be political people who were making the decisions about who served on this board, even if the board were populated entirely by scientists.

                    Do you really think the Bush administration or Congressional Republicans would have allowed scientists to sit on that board who would crack down on anti-LGBT pseudoscience? If you do, I've got a bridge to sell you.

                    And you can bet your ass that they would have used the mere existence of this "board of truth" to scare up evangelical votes, and probably make inroads into African-American and Latino communities—because unlike their current ridiculous scare tactics, they would actually be telling the truth when they said that electing Democrats could result in a governmental organization shutting down conservative evangelical churches.

                    So this "board of truth" would become yet another political football—only this would be a football with the power to shut down any religious organization that disagreed with it.

                    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

                    by JamesGG on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 06:54:35 AM PST

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                    •  Judges (0+ / 0-)

                      A court of law would be sufficient to accomplish this, I think.  But that is a good point.  We trust them not to mangle the science they encounter on the job too badly.  Some aren't very good at it.  People here make a big deal whenever a Bush judge makes a ruling in the favor of Democratic party concerns.  I don't find that all too surprising.  Judges are supposed to be non-partisan like that.

                      It's either that, or religious groups across the board should have their special statuses removed.  Treat them like how UFO-meetup enthusiasts would be treated, according to tax laws.

                      Actually, a lot of religious groups might have trouble with this on the basis of how jews are villainized.

        •  You're confusing scripture... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour

          ... with the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

          They are separate.

          The US president, both houses of congress, and the supreme court need to follow the Constitution and keep religion and government totally separate.

          How is that so difficult to understand?

          I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

          by NonnyO on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:11:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, I'm not confusing those things at all. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Paul Rogers, VClib

            The Constitution doesn't say anything at all about what religious organizations can or can't preach. The First Amendment places a limitation on what government can do, not on what private individuals or organizations—including churches—can do.

            The idea that religious organizations should be treated in the same way as other tax-exempt nonprofit organizations—which means that they aren't allowed to engage in what the IRS deems "political speech" (explicit endorsement)—has been approved as constitutional by a 7-2 Supreme Court decision.

            So, we come back to my initial questions: How would you redefine "political speech" in such a way as to restrict religious organizations' current rhetoric on social and economic issues, while keeping in line with the principle that such a definition must apply equally to all political/social viewpoints?

            And are you suggesting that religious organizations, and religious organizations alone, be subjected to this more stringent definition of what constitutes "political speech" in order to keep their tax-exempt status?

            If so, how is that not in itself a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, in putting forth irreligion as a prerequisite for an organization to be allowed to engage in certain kinds of speech while receiving a tax exemption?

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 09:32:14 AM PST

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    •  That's a perfectly valid question about this. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kevskos, Troubadour

      This is something that will be problematic in disentangling religious institutions from politics, but it is something that we should be debating.

      I think at the worst, taxing income from religious donations (ie, the salary a clergy earns, and getting rid of the parsonage tax-exempt status that mega-ministers use to make their multi-million dollar estates exempted from tax) would be a good start, and the drawbacks would be far outweighed by the benefits of such things.

      If you work for a non-profit and draw a salary, is your salary not taxed?

    •  Non-profits don't have millions in art (0+ / 0-)

      and gold stashed away.   They don't have monuments like the Mormon church in Utah.   If they do, then they should be taxed too.   Our schools are limping along on a shoe string, and the churches are flaunting their little red slippers.

      If money is speech, then speech must be money.

      by dkmich on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 03:52:23 PM PST

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      •  Nor do most churches. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dkmich

        You're right that the Roman Catholic Church and the LDS Church have significant assets—which would mean that they would be able to weather the storm of being taxed.

        So would the massive, wealthy megachurches in the suburbs, whose parking decks are chock-full of Lexuses and Audis on Sunday mornings... all the pastor would have to do is ask for another few hundred thousand on the giant projection screens scattered throughout the sanctuary, and the pious wealthy would pony up.

        It would be the less well-heeled churches—the ones sitting on valuable land in the urban cores, the ones populated by lower-income people, the ones that don't have massive endowments lying around—that would end up having to shut down.

        So the churches that serve the poor (and that stand up for their interests) would be destroyed, and the regressive conservative churches would survive and grow stronger because they would be the only still-running organizations serving Americans who have religious tendencies.

        Isn't that the opposite of the effect you want?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 07:01:34 AM PST

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