Sunday, November 20, 2005

Give to Caesar...

The IRS has sent a warning letter to a Pasadena, California Episcopal church because of an anti-war sermon by its rector emeritus. It seems the IRS thought Rev. George Regas went too far in his condemnation of the Iraq war and other Bush administration policies; liberal religious organizations allege a conservative bias on the IRS' part, although it seems that some conservative churches have received similar warnings.

I think the IRS has a point; if religious groups want to get involved in politics, then they can't play both sides by claiming tax-exempt status. Rev. Regas has a point to: "I needed to talk about the values of peace and the freedom of choice." And sometimes that means opposing those in power and even naming names.

My solution: Churches, pay your taxes! Religious groups on all sides of the political spectrum lament the fact that American religion has become a completely private affair, but they perpetuate it by accepting privileges from state and federal governments, the most lucrative of which are massive tax breaks; politicians, after all, want to be seen as friendly to religion.

But it's not "friendly" at all. Rather, it corrals religion and religious language, making it easier to marginalize and manipulate. It also allows some groups to amass large fortunes with which they still pursue their political agenda. How else would evangelical Protestants (and not a few evangelical Catholics) have acquired so much political power?


At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your solution.

However, the people need to understand that it means they would have to give more in oder to cover the taxes the churches would pay if they want the churches to mainatin the same budget. But it makes sense, and in that regard the churches could teach BY EXAMPLE that paying taxes is a responsility toward the common good, instead of just telling evreyone that.

But it falls in line with the Roman church's teaching on social justice too, when it teaches that people need to be willing to pay more for products in order to support fair trade. So it's wrong to make spending decisions based soley on the cheapest price. That's why I think not shopping at Wal-Mart is a practical application of the church's social justice teaching. I'm not going to spend my money there when they dimish the dignity of the small business owner in the small towns (and larger cities too) by forcing him/her out of business. I'm not going to spend my money there when they don't pay for the health care of their employees, or they close a store when faced with the possibility of the employees of that store unionizing, andso force the employees into unemployment. Not to mention they are one of the biggest monetary supporters of the current administration. And we've come full circle now: see, religion does affect politics and visa versa.


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