One hears over and over about the supposed anti-Christian discrimination fostered by LGBT rights organizations and laws enacted to prevent anti-LGBT discrimination. Anything that limits the ability of Christofascists and Catholic extremists to discriminate against gays - or other targets of hatred such as divorced Catholics, cohabitating unmarried couples, women using contraception, and, of course, non-Christians - is shrilly denounced as anti-Christian or anti-Catholic persecution. Lost in the equation is that due to (in my view, improper) the tax-exempt status of churches, in reality all members of society are being forced to indirectly financially underwrite denominations that target them for hatred and discrimination. This is NOT what the Founding Fathers contemplated when they drafted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, it is precisely what they sought to avoid. A piece in the Louisville Courier Journal takes to task Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz for his blindness and hypocrisy on this issue. Here are column excerpts:
I would like to point out in response to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in his recent essay published in Courier Journal that his institution and his faith do not need a “First Amendment Defense Act” to protect his ability or the ability of the Catholic Church in America to pass down their beliefs to the children.Not a single law in this country blocks them from doing so. And not a single person in this country can do that either. Within the Church institution, gay marriage can be forbidden and women’s reproductive choices curtailed. The Church can even work to protect pedophile priests from prosecution by moving them out of the country, as was reported in USA Today in February of 2016.
However, the Catholic Church uses government grants and tax dollars to do all of this, which means that my tax dollars are funding the Catholic Church’s internal theological prohibitions and practices. My right not to pay taxes to prop up religious beliefs, practices and opinions is violated every day. Now we see the lobbying hand is out for tax credits (vouchers) to help fund religious schools.
No, Kurtz, it is not your rights or your Church’s that are in jeopardy. The danger is that my and every taxpayer in this nation’s rights are being eroded, and this has been going on for a long time.
The major problem we all face is that the Church is not satisfied with just blocking civil rights within its walls. The Catholic Church funneled millions of tax-free dollars from dioceses, the Council of Bishops and offshoot Catholic groups like the Knights of Columbus to block gay marriage laws in various areas of the country before the Supreme Court finally ruled gay marriage as civil right. Catholic-owned hospitals, which receive millions in tax dollars, block non-Catholic women and men from receiving legal reproductive health care every day.
More than 60 percent of the budget of Catholic Charities comes from government grants. But the federal and state governments are not allowed to oversee how that money is spent. There are more than 200 tax exemption laws on the books that cover religious institutions. I’d say the Church in America is certainly experiencing government favoritism rather than discrimination.
Freedom to practice religion, to hold religious beliefs, and to pass them down to the next generation is alive and safe in this county. But "freedom of religion” does not mean that religious opinions are protected from scrutiny, doubt and even condemnation when offered in the public arena. It does not mean that bullying gays should be protected by some ridiculous “amendment’.
It does not mean that legal medical procedures, treatments and medications should be withheld from people who do not share the same religious beliefs. It does not mean that the civil right to participate in marriage should be blocked. It does not mean that public businesses can discriminate against anyone who seeks their services or products. There is discrimination going on here, but Kurtz is not recognizing the source of it.
How do we fix the problem? Tax churches and all church properties not directly and exclusively used for true charitable purposes. If churches cannot survive without the forced subsidization from non-members, then they deserve to die. As for the Catholic Church - which owns untold fortunes in art treasures and properties - if parishioners will not pay the bills, then sell of assets. Just like everyone else.We should talk about the “dignity of every human being.” We should also talk about what that actually means. And, we should talk about the rampant religiously sponsored and government funded discrimination that takes place in this country every day. Is Kurtz ready for that dialogue?