That silly mosque

In all the coverage I’ve seen on the proposed New York City mosque (and that’s virtually all that’s been covered lately it seems), what sticks out to me the most is the religious-fueled xenophobia. Worst of all, it can’t merely be chalked up to politics. Of course, the Republicans only care about the ‘issue’ for political reasons, but much of the country has bought straight into the political fear-mongering (a classic tool of Republican…well, tools).

The real issue here isn’t that Muslims are going to be allowed to build a place of worship. It’s that any religious group is being allowed to build a place that is tax-free. Aside from being plainly unconstitutional (despite its wide-spread and even welcomed acceptance), not taxing religions implies, perhaps outright says, that religion has something worthwhile to offer society. Given that religion is entirely impotent to inform us anything about the world (if not, then what has it ever said that was not trivial?), society would be better served taxing religious institutions and investing that money into education, infrastructure, and bringing people out of poverty.

Pay your damn taxes

As the upstanding citizen I am, I just finished getting through all my taxes. As it happens, I am getting money back, but I would have certainly paid up if that’s how the math worked out. Maybe I wouldn’t be doing that in January, but I would do it by April 15th. Paying taxes as they are due is just such a basic concept that one must be ignorant, stupid, or a crook to do otherwise. It turns out the Mormon Church is run by crooks.

The Mormon church worked to hide its involvement in the 2008 effort to ban gay marriage in California, telling the Proposition 8 campaign that it wanted “plausible deniability” in its connections with the movement, documents revealed in a California courtroom Wednesday show.

In the seventh day of testimony in the landmark gay-marriage trial in San Francisco, lawyers for the gay-rights side presented emails showing “close links between the Proposition 8 campaign and leaders of the Catholic and Mormon churches,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Any reasonable person would have to conclude that this sort of political involvement demands the Mormon Church pay its taxes. Maine had this same problem with the Catholic Church recently. In both cases, no taxes will be rendered. It doesn’t make any sense. Ignoring for a moment that religious institutions generally should not be tax-exempt (except as they function as charities), if government is going to grant certain groups privileges, those groups should have to abide by the rules. They constantly and consistently do not do this. No one is saying “No! You can’t support cause X!”. Go ahead, support your bigotry or yearning for a theocracy. Just pay your damn taxes when you do it.

If they want tax exemption…

Catholics add $86,000 vs gay vows

Catholics in Maine gave about $86,000 to fight same-sex marriage through collections at Masses in September.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said Friday that parishioners put $41,000 into baskets during collections supporting the campaign to repeal Maine’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

Donations made in envelopes weren’t opened by the churches but sent directly to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political action committee organizing the repeal effort.

This seems like such a clear issue. If any given religion wants tax-exempt status, it should effectively remain a-political. In this instance, preaching a lack of acceptance should be legally acceptable (and expected of religion), but donating to political campaigns is out of the question. Telling followers how to vote should not be allowed. It’s bad enough that these organizations are allowed to influence their parishioners towards bigotry; they should not be allowed to do it without paying taxes.

As we should have learned from Kent Hovind, Jesus does not put one above the law.