Monday, June 6, 2011

A secular moment

I like to occasionally peek in on what the Atheists are up to. Pagans and Atheists share a few common goals, ie: environmental causes, civil liberties, and keeping big religion in check. They even have to deal with much of the same persecution as Pagans do in the way of "coming out" to friends and family, or being preached at and prayed for. Why not work together? If the Atheists can promise to not sneer, the Pagans can promise to... um, wait, we don't judge atheists, do we? Likely not as much as we're judged for believing in the unseen, but that's a whole other topic.

One of the group members posted about the desire to end 501c3 tax exemption for religious institutions. I happen to agree. No religious group should, just because they're a religious group, be exempt from paying their fair share. If a group was created for the sole purpose of sheltering, counseling, getting food and clothes to those in need, I'm fine with that, but it doesn't have to be based around a religion. 

This is the exact copy of the code from the website:

The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
Despite being more religious than most people I know, I don't want the gvt promoting the advancement of religion, especially when they get to decide who gets the promotion. The person who proposed the ban stated that the religious exemption meant lost tax revenue and was akin to the government financially supporting religion.

I made the point that for-profit corporations exploit giant tax loopholes and thanks to those and their lawyers, pay almost nothing in taxes compared to their revenue. Many churches are like big corporations: Take away their tax exempt status and they'll just lawyer-up and exploit the loopholes like any other big corporation does. Why not work together across religious lines to right this wrong (the loopholes)? I was getting some static from the original poster about fighting on two fronts, and honestly, after his mini rant, it looks like he wants to take it away just to have it taken away because to him, religion = bad.

What do you think: Should religious groups be tax exempt? Considering all of the secular things included in the 501c3 code, does that make it "fair?" Should I shut up and get back to the Italian stuff? You got it:

Here's something distinctly Italian, not so ancient, but still, a few hundred year old revival o a few thousand year old practice is intriguing! Opera. The first opera, or what we think of today as opera was written in Italy in the late 1500s. It was based on the lore of Apollo and Daphne and called Dafne.

Funny side note: I was being lazy and using google's translate feature. Because the site I was translating used a space between the first letter and the rest of the character's names, Apollo became A pollo. In Italian: A chicken. It took me a minute to realize this. At first, I wondered if this was some new evidence of poultry sacrifice to the Sun God! Then I realized the problem, reverted to the original Italian text and began to work through it!

Apollo and "Cupid" are griping at each other. Apollo isn't giving the later respect ie: mocking his toy bow and arrow. Cupid reminds Apollo he's a God too and put the Love whammy on him, causing him to fall for Daphne, a Nymph and quite possibly a Priestess of his sister, Diana. The Opera was written to, allegedly, attempt to reproduce ancient theatre. There is a chorus and it was believed at the time that everything was set to music, especially the part of the chorus. 

I know this isn't that big of a "wow" post- it seems like more of a "wew-hew" in that sarcasm font, but it has made me open up to something I haven't really been into exploring on this blog: The Renaissance! I've been all about the ancient, but why not the first serious ancient revivial? Perhaps it's because this took place in the rich northern part of Italy while Sicily was being taken over by other countries? There is a big divide between North and South in Italy. Perhaps it goes back to the Latin League and the Etruscan attitude towards Trinacria and its role in Magna Grecia? Ancestral grudge lol

I'm working on a fun garden post for tomorrow and something groovy for the kiddies too! An Italian Fairy Garden!


  1. Coming from my accounting side, mega churches should have to pay taxes. But coming from my "religious" side, sitting on a Council for a pagan not so much. Because there are more teeny tiny churches than there are the mega churches. It's sort of assumed that churches have a lot of money but the reality is most don't. ALL of their money has to be allocated for certain programs and most comes from their congregants of their own free will. And if something like this did happen, we would lose ALL of our pagan churches. Which saddens me because there are a growing number of them in this country.

    One of my problems with the "tax the churches" argument is that when I have had that debate, usually the Atheist in question is focused on the Christian churches, not once taking into consideration the many other churches that are around. Church doesn't mean Christian and it appears that many want to stick it to the Christian Man in some sort of way (not all of them I am sure, this is just based off of personal experience).

    If churches are going to have to focus on being a for profit institution (which good churches are not)I see a massive spiritual downfall for a lot of people. NOT something I want to see because I view it as a bit cataclysmic in my own little cynical way :)

    Just my 2 cents. Glad you brought this topic up. Hope more pagans chip in with their opinions.

  2. I think that's a tough call -- because there are large churches that really shouldn't have the designation. But there are small groups, churches, synagogues, covens, mosques, whatever, that struggle financially.

    In an ideal world, perhaps there would be some sort of other designation just for religious organizations that had some sort of modified rules/scale; if an institution had under a certain amount or could demonstrate that a significant chunk of the money being taken in was being put back out as charity, they would be tax-exempt. If not, they would be taxed.

    I do agree with the above poster around the worry that smaller institutions would have to struggle quite a bit if they needed to be for-profit enterprises. Plus, it would mean contributions wouldn't be tax deductible, which makes a difference to those putting a lot of money into keeping a group running. And in pagan groups in particular, that is often a rather small number of people.