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If the Catholic Church can’t stay out of politics, it should start paying taxes

It seems to me that some religious organisations believe that they are above the rule of law. It’s time that we show them that they are not, by removing their tax exempt status

Jennifer Stavros
Tuesday 24 May 2022 12:04
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<p>Religious organisations that involve themselves in politics in this way should lose their tax exemption status</p>

Religious organisations that involve themselves in politics in this way should lose their tax exemption status

This weekend, the Catholic Church made the news yet again over its views on abortion – this time concerning US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ability to receive the sacrament of communion due to her pro-choice stance.

While it’s no secret that the Catholic Church, and other churches, have been long-term vocal opponents of abortion, this move to block a sacrament from a politician is absolutely over the top. Religious organisations that involve themselves in politics in this way should lose their tax exempt status.

Religious organisations are already not required to comply with rules that secular spaces must follow. For example, the Catholic Church has been blessed by the government with tax exemptions, as much as $3.5bn in government Covid-19 aid and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bypassing.

The requirements for these benefits are given to them under the condition of their religious organisation status. This status has responsibilities attached to it that religious organisations must comply with.

Tax exemption status is huge for religious organisations, and they are well aware of it. Last week, Los Angeles county sheriff Alex Villanueva shot a campaign video in a church which sent the Archdiocese of Los Angeles scrambling to distance itself, in fear of its tax exemption being jeapordised by this participation in a political endeavour.

Despite this awareness, others within the Catholic Church have continued to veer further into political matters as the years have passed. Pelosi isn’t the first politician to be threatened with not being able to receive communion by the Catholic Church. President Biden has been subjected to these threats and actions multiple times during his political career.

It was discussed back in January when the Church announced that they would be considering denying the president communion due to his views on abortion. Folks might not remember this, but in 2019 it actually happened. The then-former Vice President was denied communion in a South Carolina Catholic Church.

As a former Catholic and a taxpayer, I am reminded of what brought me to leave the Church in the first place. It is a space which does whatever it wants, regardless of the teachings of its proclaimed faith, and regardless of any other rules that the Church is empowered by. The Church also finds itself fully able to keep quiet when it is beneficial – such as when abuse has been perpetrated by members of the Church, and then paid for with the tax-exempt dollars that religious organisations are able to collect.

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Not agreeing on the issue of abortion is one thing, but taking direct action against a politician for their viewpoint is entirely another. How are Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s words – "After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion" – not a direct violation of the IRS tax exemption terms?

How many times do these transgressions need to occur before tax exemptions are finally removed from an organisation that is reported to be one of the wealthiest institutions in the world?

It seems to me that religious organisations like the Catholic Church believe that they are above the rule of law. It’s time that we show them that they are not by removing their tax exemption and privileges. Enough is enough, the richest organisation in the world should pay its dues.

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