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Posted by on Nov 12, 2009 in Politics, Religion, Society | 76 comments

Can We Please Just Tax the Churches Already?

One of the few fundamental rights in America which should never have really generated any controversy is the freedom of religion. On the surface, it seems pretty simple. In layman’s terms, this is a country where you can follow any religion or none at all, as you see fit, and the government shall make no law, etc. etc. etc. And yet, I begin to wonder about the wisdom of the founders when I read stories like this one in the Washington Post. It seems that the Catholic Church is at it again. There is pending legislation in the district which would prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians, and the Catholic Archdiocese is up in arms, threatening to stop their social services work if they are not exempted from having to deal with the godless homosexuals.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

If the city requires this, we can’t do it,” Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. “The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that’s really a problem.”

Since Susan wants to put words in the mouths of the city officials, let me put a few in hers. What you’re saying is that you are openly blackmailing the city, threatening to stop doing the good work you normally perform, rather than have to deal with gay people.

Now, before we get too carried away, I still maintain that the church has the right to its own opinions on these subjects, as backwards as they may be. (What ever happened to love the sinner but hate the sin?) But there’s a lot more to this story. Aside from the political intrusion of the church into secular matters with this outright blackmail attempt, there is also the issue of following the money. You may say that what the church does with its own funds in terms of charity is their business… and you’d be right. But they’re not dealing with just the coins taken from the collection plate. They get a lot of taxpayer money for these good works.

Catania, who said he has been the biggest supporter of Catholic Charities on the council, said he is baffled by the church’s stance. From 2006 through 2008, Catania said, Catholic Charities received about $8.2 million in city contracts, as well as several hundred thousand dollars’ worth this year through his committee.

If they find living under our laws so oppressive that they can no longer take city resources, the city will have to find an alternative partner to step in to fill the shoes,” Catania said. He also said Catholic Charities was involved in only six of the 102 city-sponsored adoptions last year.

Blackmail. Very nice for such a charitable organization, eh? Seriously, people. It’s time to just tax the churches if they are going to act not only as powerful political agents, using the pulpit to influence voters with the Voice of God, but are willing to bend arms in the government in overt attempts at extortion to change policy if it doesn’t fit their views.

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