Pharyngula

The NY Times has a long article that is basically a litany of the exemptions and privileges granted to religious organizations. A church-based daycare, for instance, has none of the licensing requirements of a private daycare, and doesn’t have to meet any of the standards of a non-religious establishment, nor does it have to worry about civil rights requirements…and it’s protected from lawsuits.

The practice of granting churches ever more special rights is accelerating, too, since legislators are always willing to hand over more to the pious frauds. Wouldn’t want to be thought disrespectful of religion, you know—so what if they’re greedily sucking up more and more money. That’s what Christianity is all about!

I say we should revoke the tax-exempt status of all religious organizations. They can ask for exemption for their charitable efforts (and only that part of their work; I don’t consider evanglism or missionary work to be charity) just like any secular organization, but simply having “Christ” in their name and mission statement and having a few guys running around with clerical collars is not sufficient justification. It’s time to end the sacred scam.

Comments

  1. #1 Ichthyic
    October 8, 2006

    you are confusing evangelism with politics.

    re-read the initial PZ post again.

    legal:

    spending money on advertising to increase membership.

    illegal:

    spending money for the promotion of any particular political candidate, or even having an official position wrt to any political candidate.

    It’s still just as illegal for religious non-profits to do this as secular ones, there are simply so many of them doing it that it becomes overwhelming for the IRS to investigate each and every claim.

    I used to date an ex IRS employee whose job it was to do just that. Over a 5 year period, she brought down enough religious orgnanizations who violated non-profit statutes to recover around half a billion in lost IRS revenues.

    it didn’t even scratch the surface.

    so it’s not that religious non-profits are “expempt” from being prosecuted for violating non-profit statutues regarding the promotion of political candidates, it’s just that there are far too many doing it for the IRS to cover them all. One could plausibly imagine that politics also plays a role in the investigation process, but I can’t find direct evidence indicating that the IRS’s efforts are being influenced by politics.

    it seems the simplest and most direct solution would in fact to be to exclude only charitable efforts of church organizations, but then we would have to start examining the entire structure of the 501(c)(3) statute to determine how to apply this to all participating non-profits.

    meh, the law seems perfectly clear to me, it seems more that the IRS just needs a little more “help” to enforce them.

    ah yes, more money for the enforcement arm of the IRS. I’m sure i just took a baseball bat to a hornet’s nest.

    :p

  2. #2 yonatron
    October 8, 2006

    [b]Ichthyic[/b]: Non-profits do have to pay income tax on revenue that comes from business not directly related to their charitable purpose, so there shouldn’t be anything changed w/r/t secular ones. It’d just be a matter of applying those rules to religions..

    [b]Dr. Badger[/b]: I kind of see your point, and I’m also irritated at all the mailing lists I’m on. But I think fundraising appeals are different in kind from religious evangelism. The former says: “Here are things we do. We already think you’d approve and hope you can contribute material support.” The latter says: “We know great spiritual truths. Join us so we can tell you how to live your life.”

    At any rate, I still think religions should be allowed to campaign for candidates. I don’t think anyone should listen to them, but on that point the state obviously shouldn’t interfere.

  3. #3 Pierce R. Butler
    October 9, 2006

    Hank Fox: And I wondered, what would it be like to set up a blatantly atheist organization to help…

    Were you around last month http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/i_have_a_new_favorite_charity.php when PZ introduced us to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science at http://richarddawkins.net/ ?

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    October 9, 2006

    Does venting in this space make you a better teacher, lawyer, video store clerk, or merely a better malcontent?

    venting? that’s not all that is done here, to be sure.

    indeed, i find the topics and discussions on Pharyngula have made me a better teacher, and more rounded as an individual.

    It has much value from many angles, despite your apparently flippant dismissal.

    Does intelligent design do anything material to 99% of you?

    that it does ANYTHING material to anybody is of concern, especially when those somebodys are kids in a public shcool system.

    your encouragment to “stoicism” sounds more like encouragment to putting one’s head in the sand, to me.

    that’s kinda what got us to this state to begin with, as PZ has pointed out any number of times.

    methinks you haven’t much of a clue as to what this issue is really all about.

  5. #5 Hank Fox
    October 10, 2006

    Warning: Another Hank Fox tome coming up. (Also, I apologize for burying this deep in the comments here. Feel free to echo it on your own blogs if you think it’s worth passing along.)

    Reading recently that atheists and agnostics outnumber Jews in the U.S., I thought again of the aggressive social/political approach that we unbelievers may be building up to. That authors like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins can write bestsellers and be interviewed in mainstream media is a sign that this thing is capable of taking off.

    BUT … more – a lot more – needs to be done.

    I think we all need to get active beyond the reading and writing that most of us are doing. We need to show up at city council meetings, we need to have atheist marches in public places, we need to make sure our voices are heard.

    As Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are doing, we also need to clearly communicate to each other just what has been done to us, what is happening to us now, and what dangers we face.

    Nigel (commenter above) thinks this is all a big nothing. But it isn’t a big nothing. It’s life and death, and it has been for all of history. Probably most of us have used the rhetorical examples of witch burnings, etc., as the sort of stuff believers are capable of, but I wonder how many of us have REALLY dwelled on the reality of it:

    Your neighbors come.

    They take you away.

    They burn you alive.

    They watch and enjoy it.

    And they do it because you don’t believe the things they believe.

    It really happened. Really.

    It was done BY real people, TO real people. Someone really died screaming in a fire, every second thinking “No no no! Not me not me, please no, not me!” And it happened over and over and over again.

    Sure, we all feel calm and safe in this time and place. Ancient history, right? Too ridiculous to think stuff like that could happen today. But the motivations that cause such things to happen are alive and well. There are places in the world right now were you can be put to death in public for being an unbeliever. There are probably people in your own town who could seriously entertain the idea and not break a sweat. (Is the reason you meet so many nutcases on the web, and not in real life, because they’re expressing their true thoughts and desires on the web, whereas in real life they feel they need to mask those thoughts and desires?)

    Oh, but the really bad things only happen in some distant land, right? Not if the safe zone we all think we enjoy here in the U.S. continues to be actively chipped away by conservative Christians. Most of them probably have no idea where it will all lead, but at the end of it, for you and me, there’s the possibility of fire.

    The thing I think most of us don’t really understand – what people like Nigel don’t understand – is that there’s no stopping point built into the Conservative Christian movement. There literally is no conscious end goal to what they’re doing. They don’t just want to end abortion and stop there. They don’t want to just block gay marriage and stop there.

    They want MORE. They want CHANGE. And they have nothing but a vague “days gone by when we were all happy white Christians and everything was wonderful” vision in their heads to strive for. Since there was no such time and place, they will never stop wanting more change, more regress, more draconian application of their foggy ideas. Every step of headway they make will have real social consequences … and every step will make second and third and fourth steps possible.

    If they turn the U.S. into their fabled “Christian Nation,” it will eventually impact every one of us, in every area of our lives. Forget piker issues like the “under God” pledge of allegiance and Ten Commandments plaques in courthouses. You won’t be able to get married, to have sex, to choose a life partner, to be born, to die, to go to school, to go to a doctor, to speak your mind freely in public, even to read a book, without them weighing in on your choice.

    YOU ALREADY KNOW THIS IS TRUE. We’ve all seen Conservative Christian activism in each of these areas in the news, in just the past year.

    Sadly, we also already know certain of our countrymen are capable of torture, and of ordering torture. We know others are capable of watching it, of knowing about it but letting it happen anyway.

    Put these things together with the fact that there are people out there who really and truly do hate the fact that you think your own thoughts, that some of them really and truly would hurt you for it if they thought they could get away with it, and some seriously scary possibilities begin to emerge.

    Do I think these things are going to happen?

    No. Because I think we’re all going to get up off our asses and make ourselves heard. We’re going to stop them.

    We’re going to do it because we have to.

    Because I don’t think they can stop themselves.

  6. #6 Keith Douglas
    October 10, 2006

    Ichthyic: Ironic that you should choose “stoicism” to describe Nigel’s attitude, since one important component of actual stoicism was something like the idea that one had to understand nature in order to be good. Since this blog has as one of its themes understanding nature …

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