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Separation of Church and State

By: Paxton Sawyer

Copyright©  2010

All Rights Reserved 

The Constitution of the United States guarantees that the government will not mandate any religion and will not limit by any means the free practice of that religion. Government has also taken the position that the income, possessions and property of an established and recognized religion that pertain to the practice of religion shall not be taxed. The decision not to tax churches for their activities has been made and practiced regardless of the actual benefit to the populace (charitable giving, acts or deeds) provided to the citizens of the several states.

A Catholic Bishop refused to give communion to Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy because of Kennedy’s support of abortion rights and of a national health care system.

A pastor in Amarillo, Texas has established a website encouraging people to boycott Houston, Texas because the citizens of Houston elected a mayor who is a lesbian and because Planned Parenthood is opening a new facility in Houston.

If churches intend to influence political thought, shouldn’t the churches be paying taxes to support the poor and to enforce the laws they want passed? After all, had the churches ever followed the dictates of God, there would be no need for any government to operate a welfare state. God has always insisted that his followers provide for the poor, the needy and the children.

That the churches have not followed the Will of God could lead some to question if organized religions exist for the care of spiritual souls, to provide guidance in morals and values and to keep faith with the God they proclaim to serve or if they are just organizations built upon the intent of amassing profits and property. Some cynics may ask such a question however offensive such a question may be to others.

I understand that charitable donations to the various churches may decline if the members of the congregation are aware that part of their monetary gifts is to go to pay taxes. But, I wonder if those same members of the congregation would lower the amount of their monetary gifts if they were made aware of exactly how much money was going from the church to charitable causes?

I often managed to be in places I wasn’t supposed to be as a young man and once found myself at a deacon’s meeting of the church I grew up in when the real budget was being discussed. The actual percent of the “take” (the name that the amount of money generated by tithing and other “gifts” is generally referred to) that went to charitable causes and missions was four percent.

I should say that the church did run a nursery under the pretext of providing daycare for working mothers. However, there were no babies from single mothers or babies from families where both parents worked outside the home in the nursery. The nursery was provided for those mothers in the congregation who felt in need of a little free time and who only wanted their children to associate with other children from the proper social class. The nursery was not a charity. It was a holding pen for the privileged.

The Bibles I have read which given the actions of the ‘religious’ that I actually witness in life must be misprints; state that when Jesus was asked if the people should pay taxes he asked whose likeness was on a coin.

The answer was “Caesars”.

Jesus then said: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”

Jesus also said that those who believed in Him should go out into the world and preach the Good News.

He didn’t say that those who believe in him should attempt to influence legislators or attempt to impose their beliefs on others by force of law.

God gave mankind the freedom of choice. It appears that many of God’s followers lack the confidence in mankind that God has. Or, perhaps, they have no confidence in their ability to convince others to their point of view or it could be that they find passing laws easier. And they may also find that soliciting donations to ‘fight the good fight’ in the halls of the Congress and of the various legislatures is much more profitable than just preaching to a half empty church house on Sunday.

I am all for freedom of speech. I am even more for it when those who use the privilege pay the same taxes that you and I do.

I think a fairer system would be for churches to be able to deduct from the “take” their actual operating expenses and their actual charitable giving, just like any other profit making business. Charitable giving would be defined as the money actually spent in providing food, clothing, and/or shelter for the poor, the disadvantaged or the disabled. I would even be all right with the idea of allowing the church double the amount of their actual charitable donations for their deduction. But the churches should be paying property taxes and income taxes if they want to influence political decisions.

If the churches want a free ride on all the money and property the church can amass on taxes, they should at least have the good manners to be silent. After all, when you are given a gift, it’s rude to complain about the gift. If you pay for something, you earned the privilege to complain if you are unhappy with the performance of your purchase. And politicians are for sale just like everything else.

While the government shall not establish a religion or limit the free expression of a religion, the churches should not attempt to govern from the sidelines.





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Paxton Sawyer
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Houston, Texas 77055