So, so, so. The Supreme Court's faulty decisions of the past are coming back to haunt SCOTUS in the religious sphere, as Adam Liptak reports at the New York Times in Supreme Court Revisits Issue of Government Aid for Religious Schools.
In our view, all of the special tax benefits and non-profit exceptions that are granted to religions are prima facie violations of the First Amendment "establishment clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, a prohibition extended to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Any and all such special benefits BENEFIT any religion - or what is claimed to be a religion - and give so-called religions (what we often see simply as fanatical sects or denominations) financial advantages for survival which they would otherwise never have, thus FAVORING such benefited religions and sects in one way or another and helping them to become ESTABLISHED in the society, as opposed to favoring other human or institutional doctrines or ways to view the world, which are not granted these financial advantages.
WHO decides what is a legitimate religion and what is not? and which institutions are entitled to tax exemptions and benefits and which not?
Does the invoking of "God" to support a human opinion make it a "religion"?
That is the logical consequence of past Supreme Court decisions.
Tax benefits for atheists should be no less than those offered to those who claim to be believers -- in our day and age one must ask, believers in whom?
Indeed, also those who actively support the destruction of all the established religions, invoking their wrath in the name of God, could call theirs a religion too, and rightfully claim entitlement to tax benefits.
In our view, any law which FAVORS any religion or sect in any way is prima facie unconstitutional because such a law helps to ESTABLISH certain ways of thinking about the nature of the universe as opposed to other ways of thinking about the cosmology of things, and that is a result which the Constitution expressly prohibits.
Indeed, the very reason that EXCEPTIONS have been carved out is to provide HELP in the establishment, growth and survival of certain religious institutions and beliefs.
Otherwise, religions would have to make their own way without government assistance, and without the taxpayers having to support them, directly or indirectly.
In Germany, for example, where there is no establishment clause, there is a clear and specific MANDATORY religious WITHHOLDING TAX for the benefit of the churches and one has to "opt out" of his or her Church not to have to pay that tax. You do not simply "opt in" or not, quite the contrary, you pay until you actively leave your church.
Be assured that the churches in Germany are richer than rich and very powerful politically. Money talks.
Kirchensteuer (Church Tax) is a tax levied not directly by the German federal government but by the German States and runs from 8% to 9% of the income tax, depending on the applicable State. That is an IMMENSE sum of about $10 billion Euros a year ($14 billion annually), which makes The Church of England, for example, look like a pauper in comparison, for its annual £1 billion ($1.4 billion) in revenues, all tax-free of course.
In America, that same financial help is provided INDIRECTLY by tax benefits. The net "enabling" viz. "establishment" effect is the same, making the churches far richer and far more politically influential than they would otherwise be.
Indeed, it is estimated that established churches in America own something like $100 billion in untaxed property, which as such is lost tax revenue that has to be made up for by ordinary citizens, regardless of their religious convictions.
Frankly, such indirect financial benefits via laws promulgated by Congress and States in the USA mock the U.S. Constitution, because their net effect, the creation of immense wealth -- establishing religion INDEED -- in the hands of religious zealots, is unconstitutional on its face.
As my father used to say, the Devil will dance for a dollar, and it is easier to "gather souls" and "save them" if you have money and wealth in your pocket to go about that task.
We see few effective penniless preachers.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court, especially under the forgettable Rehnquist Court, has not seen it that way in the past and has allowed all kinds of exceptions to the clear provision of the U.S. Constitution which expressly says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", which means that sly, sneaky round-a-bout ways of doing the same thing by virtue of law should be ALSO prohibited, especially TAX DEDUCTIONS or CREDITS as a sleazy form of subsidy.
It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides in this case, but it is a drop in the bucket to the major Church/State intermingling problems in America, where more and more people are mixing up religion with government, just as in the Near East, where the mixture is already deadly for modern human society and breeds the danger of a return to the Dark Ages of mankind.
Such an intermingling of religion and government will be no more beneficent just because it takes place in the USA. When people of any nation wrongly mix the temporal with the spiritual world, the result is a disaster for humanity.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
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