Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trump Promises to Force Taxpayers to Underwrite Political Activities of Churches

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution bars the establishment of and religious denomination, the original intent being that no citizen should be forced to provide financial support to a church to which they did not belong or believe in.  Over the intervening years, however, American taxpayers have been forced to indirectly support churches through the tax-exempt status afforded under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code under the ruse that churches are charitable institutions that do charitable works benefiting the general public.  One of the trade offs for such forced indirect taxpayer support has been that churches cannot engage in political activity or endorse candidates.  The sad reality is that studies have shown that most churches spend tiny fractions of their revenues on true charitable works.  Likewise, despite the ban on political activity, many churches and clergy engage in blatant partisanship activities and/or endorse candidates. As bad as all this is, Donald Trump has promised those gathered at the hate fest known as the "Value Voters Summit" that he would remove all restrictions on political activities by religious organizations.  Thus, taxpayers would be further forced to subsidize churches actively working against their interests and, in the case of LGBT citizens, their very civil rights.  Here are highlights from the Wall Street Journal on Trump's promises to the Christofascists:  
Donald Trump on Friday pledged to a raucous room of social conservatives that, if elected, the nation’s Christian heritage “will be cherished, protected, defended like you have never seen before.”
Appearing on Friday afternoon at the Values Voters Summit, Mr. Trump offered a menu of policy proposals aimed at winning over social conservatives who would otherwise seem an ill fit in the thrice-married New York gambling magnate’s coalition.
The Republican presidential nominee vowed to repeal a 62-year-old measure in the tax code known as the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt entities including Churches from making political endorsements. He said he would direct federal education aid to religious schools, condemned the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, praised the “unbreakable faith and spirit” of the black church, and said politicians had “abandoned” Christians.
 “The Johnson Amendment has blocked our pastors and ministers and others from speaking their minds from their own pulpits,” he said. “If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so… If they want to, they take a tremendous risk: that they lose their tax-exempt status. If I become president, we’re going to knock out the Johnson amendment.”
The Family Research Council, the event’s organizer, said Mr. Trump’s speech and his running mate Mike Pence’s appearance on Saturday mark the first time a GOP presidential ticket has addressed the conference in its 11-year history.
Mr. Trump is the first GOP nominee to make the Johnson Amendment a major campaign issue. Many pastors already flout the tax law, all-but-endorsing both Republican and Democratic candidates from their pulpits by inviting them to their churches and singing their praises. They do so largely with impunity.
Mr. Trump used much of the rest of his speech to connect campaign promises to Christian priorities. Referencing a policy proposal to strengthen “school choice” that he unveiled the day before, Mr. Trump said he wanted to empower religious families to educate their children in their faith. He sought to blame Mrs. Clinton for the flourishing of ISIS, a group which, he pointed out, has massacred Christians in the region.
Many of the conference’s attendees expressed enthusiasm at Mr. Trump’s appearance, conveying little of the hesitation to embrace him seen during the Republican primary campaign, when many evangelical voters chose Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I’m a gun-toting, Bible-thumping Christian. I know he’s not,” said Roy Wagers, an accountant from Novi, Mich., who supported Mr. Carson in the primary. “But I think he hasn’t been bought out like the rest of Washington.”
What Trump proposes is the direct opposite of what is needed.  The tax-exempt status of churches needs to be fully revoked.  To the extent a church or religious organization actually engages in true charitable work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and providing shelter to the homeless and similar activities, those specific operations should be tax-exempt.  Other than that, church property and revenues need to be taxed just like every other business.  Yes, without forced public support via tax-exempt status, many churches would be forced to shut down or consolidate with other churches - just like any other business that peddles a product for which there is lack of a public demand.  For those who want the "fellowship" they find at church, join a club or fraternal organization.  It would likely cost them less and give them the same social opportunities.  I for one am sick and tired of being forced to indirectly support parasitical institutions .

As for the sponsor of the confab of haters Trump addressed, the main organizer is Family Research Council, a certified hate group with strong white supremacists overtones and ties.  That Trump and Pence spoke there shows the lengths to which they will prostitute themselves to gain power.  But then again, during his rise to power, Hitler co-opted many of Germany's churches, so perhaps we should not be surprised.

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