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

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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

      [ Parent ]

      •  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

          [ Parent ]

          •  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

              [ Parent ]

              •  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.

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