While I share the trepidation of those who are afraid of the corrupting effect of Corporations buying our legislatures and writing our laws, a greater danger to democracy has already taken place with barely an acknowledgement. It is the extent of church involvement in our politics – something which used to be viewed as semi-prohibited in exchange for their exemption from taxation, but which is no longer enforced and indeed seems a lost cause. They are too politically powerful for any politician to dare challenge – and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family passed more legislation in the Arizona legislature last year than any other interest group.
While any effort to tax the churches has always been pooh-poohed in the past, in light of the churches increased political muscularity I can only hope that concerned citizens will reconsider our attitude towards these corrupt organizations that now far exceed the power, influence, and wealth of the Mafia.
How much does the privileging of these businesses cost us?
University of Tampa professor Ryan T. Cragun along with students Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega have published a study on the Council for Secular Humanism website:
While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion—to the tune of about $71 billion every year.
The report is excellent and I urge everyone to read it. One it the points it makes clearly is that we have traditionally exempted churches because we considered them to be “charities”, while in fact a very small portion of their activities are truly “charity”.
Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years.5
Running tax-supported businesses like schools and hospitals is not “charity”, nor are bingo games or multi-millon dollar political campaigns
The report makes clear that providing tax exemptions for true charities does, indeed, make sense but churches have abused their status and should be required to separate out for tax exemption those actual charitable parts of their businesses for tax exemption and otherwise be treated the same way that other service or business corporations are under the law – like Disneyland for the fans of Fantasy Land.