- Published on Friday, 29 June 2012 07:47
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1300
Or so Church leaders seem to think. The argument goes: "If you really believe your religion, then it will integrate fully with your life." That means that if your religion is against abortion you should campaign for laws to be changed to stop it. So far, that sounds like freedom of religion and freedom of speech and I fully support those concepts. If you happen to be a politician it gets a bit murkier. If you mentioned this when you campaigned for election - that you would vote for your religion's edicts - and if you spelled out what these edicts were, then it's still OK. You are implementing what you promised (a novel idea!). But if your positions are a surprise to your constituents and a majority disagree with you, then you should be voting for their wishes independently of your religion. Political decisions should be separate from religious ones. I don't think there are too many who would disagree with this. The problem comes when Churches make moral judgements about political issues with one big example being the United Church and it's hatred of Israel.
This is one example where there has been no line drawn between political actions and charitable actions. For individuals, this does not really matter - giving public opinions about politics and religion are equally acceptable. The problem is that Churches are subsidized by the taxpayer. They get massive tax exemptions. Donations to them are entitled to tax receipts; their property taxes are zero. This lost tax revenue is effectively a subsidy to them. This is covered by tax laws that treat religious bodies as Charities. The justification is that Churches do "good works"; their work is beneficial to society. But if they are doing political lobbying (like campaigning to boycott Israel), they are competing with others who state their opinion publicly but do not have the benefit of taxpayer support. This blog gets no tax exemption. I cannot claim to be a charity and issue tax receipts. I pay municipal taxes on my whole house.
According to the current rules, if the Government were to classify atheism as a religion, and if I had a congregation (a band of followers), I could get these tax benefits. I would have to spend 90% of my budget on sermonizing on atheism (presumably a "good work") and no more than 10% on politics.
This is obviously ridiculous. Churches are composed of people who cannot be compartmentalised into their religious part and their political part. The solution is to remove the tax exemptions for religions. The law should stop assuming that religions are a good thing for people. Or maybe they should be treated the same as political parties? Donations could get tax receipts but religious organizations (Churches) would have to pay municipal taxes.
This issue has come up partly because the Conservative Government wanted to stop subsidizing lobbyists who were campaigning against Government Environmental policies/actions. The problem for everyone is that if you do that, the exact same arguments apply to people like the United Church and other religious bodies wanting to change our country.
So although we live in a nominally secular country and religion is supposed to be separate from politics, it's not so simple. How come both Religions and Political parties get tax deductions for donations? And what really is the difference between a political belief and a religious belief? They are both protected by free speech; they both vary widely amongst individuals; their dogmas are both virtually impossible to prove.