Strip Tax Exemption From Churches – Not the N.F.L.

Apparently the petulant brat in the White House is butt-hurt that he has been unable to bully the National Football League’s team owners in his fabricated outrage over athletes exercising their constitutional rights. To further rile up his base, Trump came up with some “fake news” that brings up a point of contention, and a cost of hundreds-of-millions of dollars, among many American taxpayers; churches’ tax exempt status.

After scheduling a propaganda plot with his evangelical buddy Mike Pence, Trump took to Twitter to ramp up his base’s animosity toward the N.F.L. to portray the wildly popular sports league as unpatriotic “takers.”

Trump said Congress should eliminate a law that allowed the N.F.L. central office to avoid paying taxes as a nonprofit entity. It is important to note that “only the central office” was tax exempt, like every church in America has been for far too long. The teams, players, and team owners all pay taxes and Trump knows it.

Another bit of news Trump is aware of is that the N.F.L. “voluntarilygave up its tax exemption in 2015; there is nothing Congress can do to eliminate the N.F.L.’s tax exemption they no longer have. Trump is guilty of fabricating “fake news” that he projects on every news outlet on Earth that fails to praise him as a Republican demigod.

It is important to note that the N.F.L. central office’s tax exempt status didn’t bother Trump when he was trying, and failing, to buy an N.F.L. team in 2014. As an aside, many pundits assert that Trump’s current attacks on the league are, besides a distraction from his glaring incompetence, retribution because the league didn’t accept his bid to buy the Buffalo Bills because it was considerably lower than billionaire Terry Pegula’s.

On the only media outlet that Trump has a semblance of control over, his Twitter account, he tweeted:

Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?” Change tax law!

Ignoring the fact that the N.F.L. is not getting any “massive tax breaks,” there is more “fake news” from Trump that the 32 teams that make up the “league” are disrespecting “our anthem, flag and country.” Neither the “league” nor any one of the 32 teams are disrespecting a song, a flag or America any more than the players exercising their First Amendment rights are. The players are protesting racial injustice and they are paying taxes; something no-one knows if Trump is doing because he is too corrupt to release his tax returns. Everyone knows churches are not paying taxes.

One would support eliminating the N.F.L. central office’s tax exempt status if it still existed on one condition; first strip the tax exempt status from every church in America and do it with extreme prejudice.

According to the last time an organization “estimated” how much church tax exemption is costing American tax payers, that free welfare amounted to about $8.5 billion annually in 2013.  It is noteworthy that the $8.5 billion does not include tens-of-millions in “faith based” initiative money or the double-dipping members of the clergy enjoy on what little they claim on their personal income tax returns. Added in those number are religious organizations exemption from paying sales tax, property tax, federal, state, and local income tax, or investment taxes.

Trump’s claim the N.F.L. Is disrespecting “our country” applies “bigly” to evangelical and Catholic Church organizations. According to their namesake Jesus Christ, and  “their” almighty god’s immutable words, Christians are commanded to pay taxes as well as obey the government on pain of everlasting damnation in eternal Hellfire.

Instead, primarily evangelicals and Catholics regularly violate federal and state laws they claim don’t comport with their “religious beliefs;” even though those “deeply held beliefs” are not part nor parcel of either faith. Those groups also disrespect the United States Constitution by denying other Americans their constitutional equal rights or freedom from religious imposition. It is a monumental form of “disrespect” to other Americans and the Constitution to violate their equal rights and still take the “violated people’s” tax dollars in the form of a tax exemption.

There are many people who have asked for years; “Why are churches getting massive tax breaks while disrespecting the Constitution, other Americans’ freedoms and the secular nation the Founding Fathers provided? Change tax law!”

Trump doesn’t come up with great ideas often. For dog’s sake, he never comes up with even good ideas until now. It is an excellent idea, and time, to “change tax law.” However,  before even considering the N.F.L.’s non-existent tax issue, it is damned high time for Congress to strip tax exemption from every church in the land and save taxpayers what is certainly well over $100 billion annually.

It is possible that for some Americans churches provide a service of sorts, but they don’t deserve tax exemption for doing what their “holy books” command. School teachers, firefighters, military personnel, police officers, librarians, dog catchers and many, many other Americans pay taxes and they all actually provide crucial services to all Americans. For Trump to demand the N.F.L. lose a tax exemption it  forfeited voluntarily two years ago while not focusing on the unwarranted, and wildly expensive, church tax exemption is not only hypocritical, it is further proof that Trump is a punk-ass hypocrite looking for a reason to rile up his base and distract America from his criminal enterprise in the White House.

 

Greedy Texas Churches Sue FEMA Over Hurricane Harvey

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 saidno 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.

Image: Patheos