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Michael Johnston

I don't agree with punishing churches as you describe. However, there are a couple of points I'd like your opinion on.

First, how does taxing a church assail the freedom of religion? It's not equivalent to making it illegal to be part of a church.

Second, WHY should churches be allowed to be tax free, anyway? I can understand it in terms of small local churches, but there are some pretty large churches that rake in millions every year -- money which is not always used for charitable works -- and they get to do this tax-free? What's the justification for that?

My third point, you'd probably agree with. There are an awful lot of conservative churches that get involved with politics; where's the threat to *their* tax-exempt status? I don't see anyone threatening to take away tax-exempt status of churches that told their members to vote against gay marriage, or liberal candidates.

John Long

Hey Michael,

For the first point, I would argue it is very much an assault on free speech. Essentially, the government is offering a "discount" to churches (and other organizations) that conform their speech to what the government wants it to be, or considers acceptable. If the government said you could get a discount on your taxes if you refrained from talking about politics, you don't think that would be an assault on free speech? What if the only people in a society that paid taxes were ones that criticized the government? Control someones finances and you can control their life.

As far as churches being tax free in the first place, I can see your point there. What makes religious activity so special that it should be able to function tax exempt? The answer is, essentially, nothing in particular. From an objective standpoint, the only difference I can see is that the church does not function in order to make a profit. I would prefer that ALL non-profit organizations categorically got the same tax write off, regardless of the intent or content of their activity. Seeing as how I am fundamentally opposed to taxes in general, I would prefer that to eliminating tax write offs altogether for non profits, but that would at least also be fair and not inimical to free speech and religion. Better yet is no taxes period, but that's another topic.

On your third point, you can look up the history of this and see EXACTLY why it is such a threat. When Clinton was president, conservative churches WERE singled out for this kind of harrasment, while liberal ones where more often left alone. The whole situation is ripe for abuse by whoever is interpreting the laws at the moment, which is why I say we should just get rid of those vague and unfair distinctions.

Michael Johnston

I just want to point out that I never said it was not an attack on free speech; I said it was not an attack on freedom of religion. The two are not the same thing.

Also, regardless of which churches are being "attacked" when a particular administration is in office; that's not enough to prove your point. You need to show who was in charge of the IRS and who gave the orders to pursue said actions. I very much doubt Bush is calling up the IRS and telling them to go after liberal churches, and believe me, I'd love to be able to do otherwise.

John

Regarding speech and religion, if you cannot preach about your religion (or listen to someone else do so) the way you think is best, how could that NOT be an infrigement on both speech AND religion? There is good reason the two rights share an ammendment.

Are you saying evidence of deliberate intent is necessary to prove that the IRS intimidation is political? Would that mean that even if the numbers where overwhelming (I don't think they are, mind you) it STILL would need some kind of smoking gun? That seems like a rather high burden of proof, and if the administration covers their tracks well, an impossible one. I should think a clear correlation would indicate something, if nothing else that churches are more likely to criticize whoever is in office, meaning the IRS policy essentially servers to protect whoever is in office, not a very admirable outcome in any event.

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