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View Diary: 71 Billion ? – Forget the Corporations, Tax the Churches (313 comments)

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  •  Hm...you seem to miss many points... (1+ / 0-)
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    just another vet

    I will say at the outset, from your responses that can only be taken to be a deliberate misinterpretation or misrepresentation of my points, I can see that this will only turn into a circular argument where you refuse to concede ground out of pride or ego (the public nature of forums tends to rub that most unfortunate feature of our nature in that way). Consequently, I will respond to the issues you raise this time, but this will be my last contribution.

    No more than the Coca-Cola company "inherently lacks a respect" for Pepsi drinkers or people who don't drink soda by advertising their product.
    Don't care and irrelevant. The comment was reflecting a personal belief/observation that you are free to disagree with. In fact, your rebuttal only restates the point I was making, so...okay.
    Sure I can. Profit-making is a specific thing, in which a company intentionally keeps its expenses lower than its income in order to return the excess funds to the owners, or reinvest them in order to increase the value of the company for its owners. Megachurches have obscene amounts of money, to be sure, and I strongly disapprove of the ways many of them spend that money, but they remain non-profit organizations, since they do not have owners or stockholders and thus do not exist for the sole purpose of increasing the value of the owners' or stockholders' holdings.
    You are arguing semantics and technicalities created by the lapse in the tax code. Pastors and deacons with control over church resource allocations can still take an unacceptable salary from the tax free church revenues. While the church coffers technically don't belong to anybody but the church, the church decisions are often made by a small number of people that have ownership of the church in practice. I have seen this first hand.

    I could start a church tomorrow, collect tithes, and allocate them as I please. I could use them for "missionary" efforts (to expand my revenue stream and increase the value of the church, over which I have sole decision-making power). While technically there are no shareholders, the idea that megachurches do not exist specifically to grow or increase their value is a farce. As you are Christian (not that there's anything wrong with that), this may be unpalatable, but it makes it no less true. Perhaps referring to a church in terms used for businesses damages a deeply held understanding of the world that you hold, creating this odd need to contort the existential definition of "profits" in order to arbitrarily resurrect this distinction, but it does not change the behaviors of churches.

    Providing voting orders is explicitly forbidden by the tax code—and any first-year student of rhetoric or philosophy will tell you that it is impossible to give a sermon (or give a speech, or write a comment) that isn't steeped with a political ideology.
    Nice smarmy, condescending response. I  like the implication that I am somehow of lower intellect or educational attainment than a first-year undergraduate student. Anyway, all you did was take my point to it's logical conclusion: the exemption was crafted on a condition that churches abstain from the political sphere, to be proxy measured by a prohibition on direct contributions. My point was there are many forms of political activism from churches not captured by something as narrow as direct contributions to a candidate. My point was the pretense that churches are exempt in return for remaining apolitical is absurd on its face and should be reconsidered.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "without even mentioning the political or ideological campaign expenditures." Should organizations be up-front to their members about where their money is being spent? Absolutely.
    This prepositional phrase was part of a longer sentence that provided the context and complete thought for the phrase. Complex sentence...I apologize. I was rebutting the notion that churches are apolitical, and, in doing so, listed ways in which they are politically active beyond direct contributions or issue campaigns.
    Is it your stance that a person's voice in the laws under which we must live should be tied to the amount they pay in taxes?

    A religious organization is really only as strong politically as its numbers, since it can't contribute to political campaigns—so a megachurch's power is limited to the number of people (taxpayers one and all) it can activate on a particular issue.

    Obviously that is not my position. I made no argument of proportion, whatsoever. It is my position that an organization, including churches, that collects millions of dollars from members shouldn't be able to use their organization, including churches, as a tax shelter while expending money on political issue ads. (I also don't believe possession of said millions should give anyone outsized influence in political messaging and campaigning, but that is another issue altogether.) In addition, I don't believe such tax shelters should be given to churches with millionaire pastors, who then use their millions to gain audience to push their political agendas. Again, if the exemption is given under the pretense of apolitical churches, the pretense should be questioned and the exemption eliminated or more tightly regulated (which is what my proposals entailed).
    Who gets to determine what pastor is "promoting a sense of persecution in order to drive political activism"?
    Another strange, seemingly intentional misinterpretation. This was presented as an example of a type of behavior churches engage in that is political in nature in order to establish the larger point that churches are not apolitical. It was not even remotely implied that such a thing should be measured or adjudicated. Of course, this was in response to the larger argument that was being made that they are tax exempt in return not making direct contributions. My point was that they engage in many other forms of politically motivated behavior beyond direct contributions. I had seen that you and others kept hiding behind the fact that churches are not allowed to make direct contributions as some kind of evidence that they are not politically active enough to warrant revocation of their tax exemption. Unsurprisingly, many of your arguments of this long rebuttal range from nit-picky distractions to misunderstandings or misrepresentations.
    How much do you really think those megachurches would provide in tax revenue, when all's said and done? You seem to think they're holding a rather large proportion of society's wealth, such that only by taxing them one can restore all of the cuts made to the Great Society.
    Here is a perfect example. Where did I say that taxing megachurches alone could shore up and revitalize Great Society programs? This is an immature and sophomoric point that is more annoying than substantive. My point was public services could not only replace the charitable "goods" that is so often used to justify religious tax exemption, but could do so more effectively. Obviously much greater tax reforms and revenue streams would be needed to repair our crumbling social programs; however, eliminating the tax exemption for churches would provide revenues for public services that would be more effective than charities. My point was that would be a trade I would happily make. I haven't had a chance to read the report from the post this whole conversation began under, but if the $71 billion is accurate, it would, of course, go a long way. I can tell you, if it went to SNAP alone, it would be about a 400% increase SNAP's annual budget...
    Donations to Crossroads aren't tax deductible, and any of their income that they spend on political activity is taxed.
    While your statement is true, and point well taken, in the quote you responded to, I was referring to more stringently regulating the proportion of activity spent on non-political, charitable activities. While regulations on this is already on the books, it is a low bar and not at all enforced.
    You seem to be making the argument that those who "share the burden of governance" (i.e., pay taxes) are entitled to a greater say (or even an exclusive say) in our political process; that logic would seem to lead to the conclusion that the wealthy deserve a louder voice (or, conversely, that the poor deserve to be silenced) because they "share the burden of governance" on a higher level than anyone else.
    Not at all. Saying millionaire pastors and megachurches, not limited to but particularly those that are openly active in attempting to codify their religious beliefs into law, should not be exempted from taxes. Saying that millionaires should pay their fair share does not change because they belong to some collection of other citizens that subscribe to a shared set of beliefs and rituals (although, I'm wondering if maybe some Republicans can make the case that conservatism is a religion and thereby tax exempt) and derive their salaries from the organizations in which such shared beliefs and rituals are expressed. Saying that megachurches and millionaire pastors should not be tax exempt under the pretense that they are apolitical is, of course, a far cry from saying that democratic input should be proportionate to tax contribution or that people who do not have the means to fulfill basic needs should be either taxed or silenced. Again, this is either a deliberate misrepresentation of my point or a misinterpretation of what I said.

    Honestly, there are much better arguments to be made than what you've said here or what I've seen so far elsewhere in these comments. I thought I would hear more high-minded rebuttals about how taxing churches opens the door for legitimizing their participation and voice in politics in ways that can be more dangerous than it's worth. The unintended consequences and Pandora's Box can be severe. Of course, this philosophic and theoretical dilemma does not square with the undeniable reality that churches are a political force that are already actively involved in political agenda setting (a point I have, by now, beaten to a pulp), and their tax exemption allows for pastors to collect economic rents from a distorted marketplace and the rents then are deployed for political aims, creating a negative externality (the breach of the wall between church and state) that should be corrected via more stringent enforcement of current regulations, expansion of those regulations, and, yes, taxation.

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