How long before we start taxing churches?
Shall we gather at the guillotine?
Ironically, in an election cycle when we’re being warned daily about demagogues with superficially appealing populist proposals, a liberal icon has used his bully pulpit for just such a proposal.
On a recent episode of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” the outspoken host listed organized religion as a tax deadbeat, declared that religions do much more harm than good and demanded that churches in the U.S. be taxed.
This message resonates with a vocal minority of citizens and stirs them up on the pretense of making churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. pay their “fair share;” but the venom in Maher’s pronouncements make this sound like a purely punitive maneuver. Chief Justice John Marshall’s admonition “The power to tax involves the power to destroy” gives Maher no pause; apparently he just hopes he gets to WATERBOARD the churches first.
Citing “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco, the enlightened Maher strongly suggested a tax on Sunday school, which allegedly harms kids by making them stupid. Sunday school has only sharpened my son Gideon’s reasoning abilities; but just for the sake of argument, let’s concede Maher’s point and double down on the stupidity by installing a “boob tube” in every Sunday school class. (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every gem that proceedeth out of the mouth of Celebrities.”)
Maher opined that the Supreme Court really should come up with a new ruling on church taxation, since they haven’t done so since 1970 and, golly, the POPULARITY of religion has softened since then. So has the popularity of the Partridge Family. Maybe instead of worrying about immigration or voter rights, we should have Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg go skeet shooting with copies of the Partridges’ “Shopping Bag” album. (“Pull!”)
Remember the IRS harassing Tea Party groups? Look for the government to use exemptions and loopholes to punish and reward different religions. (“Undocumented cross-dressing preacher? You get a discount. Got a BOGO (Break One, Get One Half Off) deal with the 10 Commandments? You get a refund!”)
I think the majority of atheists, agnostics and lapsed worshippers are tolerant people willing to view religion with bemusement. They see the value of soup kitchens, homeless shelters and moral teachings and balk at killing the goose that laid the golden egg. But the embittered rabble rousers are basically a bunch of Mr. Potters from “It’s A Wonderful Life.” When it comes to tax collections, it’s like Jimmy Stewart said: “You’re talking about something you can’t get your fingers on, and it’s galling you.”
Churches are vilified for being “subsidized” in the perpetuation of “myths.” Let’s levy a big tax on people who perpetuate myths such as “Throwing money at poverty cures it.”
Of course, Maher would love for people to think that taxing religious property would let government cheerfully, permanently lower everyone else’s taxes. People can believe THAT, but they have trouble with a stereotypical white-bearded Creator up in the sky?????
Yes, maybe the media needs to shame some religious organizations into not hoarding worldly goods. Members need to remind their leaders to maximize good deeds with their money. But government coercion should worry us all.
Taxation may come, but it could take a while. A majority of Americans are still able to believe in something bigger than themselves, albeit not necessarily bigger than Maher’s mouth.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page, “Tyree’s Tyrades.”