According to the Christian bible, Christ’s followers are supposed to be humble, obey the laws of the land, not be greedy, and pay taxes. No doubt there are plenty of Christians who do adhere closely to those commands, but it is not always the case with “houses of worship and clergy;” especially the “pay taxes” command. Churches have become moneymaking enterprises and a significant reason is because they are greedy, do not obey the laws of the land, and they definitely don’t pay taxes.
In an audacious display of greed and disrespect for the law of the land, three Texas churches are suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) demanding taxpayer funds to rebuild their churches after flood damage from Hurricane Harvey. The reason they are suing the federal agency is because FEMA disaster relief “explicitly excludes facilities primarily used for religious activities.” Churches are not entitled to any taxpayer funded disaster relief money; it is a longstanding rule based on the Separation Clause of the First Amendment and FEMA policy.
According to a Reuters report:
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been sued by three Texas [evangelical] churches severely damaged in Hurricane Harvey, over what they called its policy of refusing to provide disaster relief to houses of worship because of their religious status.
In a complaint filed on Monday in federal court in Houston, the churches said they would like to apply for aid but it would be “futile” because FEMA’s public assistance program “categorically” excludes their claims, violating their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.”
Now, this is nothing short of abominable. Not forcing taxpayers to fork over their hard-earned dollars to pay for a church project is not “violating the churches’ constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.” They can still pray, support Republicans, read their bibles, sing Psalms, and proselytize to their collective hearts’ content.
Taxpayers, however, are already having their “constitutional rights” violated by being forced to hand churches well over $82.5 billion annually (In 2013) and that doesn’t include the tens-of-billions of dollars annually in taxpayer funded faith based initiative “money.”
The legal outfit suing FEMA on behalf of the three evangelical fundamentalist churches, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, issued a statement about how unfair the law is and claimed the government is being unreasonable. A counsel at Becket, Diana Verm, argued that it is only fair that the evangelical churches should receive even more taxpayer money to rebuild their churches. Verm stated:
“After the costliest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, the government should come to the aid of all, not leave important parts of the community underwater.”
Whether those churches are important parts of the community is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that those three churches don’t care about the Constitution or FEMA policy, or that they already receive tax-free status at taxpayer expense; but it is not enough.
They want taxpayers to fund their rebuilding efforts after taxpayers fund everything else the churches use without ever contributing a penny. This move is more than just greedy Christian churches; it is an ongoing attempt by Christian Dominionists to overturn myriad legal precedents and abolish the First Amendments’ Separation of Church and State.
It is noteworthy to mention that if attorney general Jeff Sessions has any input, FEMA will be forced to violate its own longstanding rule and the Constitution. Sessions has stated categorically that the Constitution’s Separation Clause is “unconstitutional and unhistorical;” he claims the ACLU made it up in the mid-twentieth century.
The churches are hoping to use the recent Supreme Court ruling, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc v. Comer, which forced Missouri to fund a church’s private school playground as precedent to force taxpayers to rebuild their churches.
However, the Trinity decision was narrow and about a playground the court ruled “could have” a secular purpose. In that case the church “could have used its tax-free money” to pay for playground upgrades itself, but the conservative majority didn’t see it that way. However, in an “important and powerful dissent,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed the sentiments of many Americans and Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Ms. Sotomayor wrote:
“If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship.” (author bold)
Justice Sotomayor is right, of course, and her statement parrots that of Thomas Jefferson who said “no man shall be compelled to support any place of worship.” However, Sotomayor stopped short of adding that the government is already taxing its citizens and turning over extremely significant amounts of “that tax money” to houses of worship, and they are doing it every stinking year. Not just with taxpayer-funded “faith-based initiatives,” but with literally tens-of-billions of dollars every year via tax-exemptions. Churches pay no taxes and clergy receive extraordinary tax breaks simply because they are clergy; but it isn’t enough.
There are several biblical violations in this latest church atrocity, but that isn’t really news to any American. The churches are greedy, refuse to “obey government authorities” and don’t pay taxes as directed by their Christian bible. And now they are suing FEMA to support their churches and biblical violations.
This is another case of evangelical churches filing a lawsuit that should be summarily dismissed on grounds the churches are asking the courts to violate the Constitution and decimate the Separation of church and State. It is also a violation of the churches’ own biblical commands to not be greedy and obey the government authorities that have made clear that FEMA is not robbing taxpayer-funded disaster relief money to fund a “house of worship.”
There is a very simple solution that will allow churches access to disaster relief funds and give evangelical clergy free rein to campaign from the pulpit to their greedy hearts’ content; cut off the free church welfare and start taxing the churches. No doubt the tens-of-billions in “free money” could be put to better use actually helping American communities.