--Here's an Op-Ed I penned after hearing about the Justice Sunday event that occurred a week ago last Sunday. The Religious Right continue to get under my skin more often than I care to think about. The fact that there was so little coverage and commentary about the event is probably why my editor friends passed on my two cents worth.
I think it raised a very good question worth asking--why should tax-exempt groups such as Focus on the Family, or The Family Research Council continue to warrant this tax-free status when they are nothing but fronts for political action committees?
Taxing the True Culprits
This past Sunday, an event occurred that illustrates for me what a sham organized religion has become in America. This recent political rally, dressed up as a church service, clearly and succinctly reveals that what passes for Christianity—here in the land of the free and the home of the knave—is nothing more than an arm of the party in power.
Justice Sunday—Stopping the Filibuster Against the People of Faith, was hosted by the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family Action. The event, conducted in churches across the nation via live simulcast, was held to rally the right-wing base of the Republican Party and put an end to the filibuster that is preventing the nomination of President Bush’s judicial nominees.
If ever an event occurred that lends support for an end to the tax exemption extended to religious organizations in the U.S., then this would be it. This right-wing Sanhedrin whipped its mob of followers into an orgasmic frenzy on Sunday. With statements like the following by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, it is crystal clear where this religious huckster’s political loyalties lie:
"What we have witnessed these last three years is an unprecedented manhandling of Senate tradition," said Dr. James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus Action. "Never before in 216 years has the Senate employed a filibuster against judicial nominees who clearly have enough support to be confirmed. Senate Democrats are not just filibustering these nominees—they are filibustering democracy itself."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had his visage beamed via satellite into the church sanctuaries across this land, using his influence to sway his religious constituency on this issue. In auditorium after auditorium across the fruited plain, built by tax-free dollars, Frist was given a pulpit to speak to these right-wing lynch mobs, clearly violating Thomas Jefferson’s edict against the Federal Government falling under the sway of a religious majority.
Once again, these religious groups are using their tax-exempt powers-of-the-pulpit to lobby members of congregations in clear violation of the church/state separation intended by the Constitution. This political pandering conducted with the sanction of the U.S. government’s gift of tax-free status, rubs salt in the wounds of all Americans who don’t subscribe to this Elmer Gantry-like portrayal of Jesus Christ.
With groups like Focus on the Family targeting 20 Senators with their campaign of intimidation and the use of political strong-arming, so-called Christian groups like these have long ago tipped their hand as to what their agenda and ideology is about.
Using donations from church members and other religious devotees that have been funneled through the tax-free maze of these pseudo-religious political action committees, these groups continue to flaunt clear boundaries of the U.S. Constitution. With a clear pass given to them by their political acolytes in Washington, these groups are allowed to continue their religious jihad against Americans who don’t subscribe to their agenda of hate, dressed in the garb of religious piety.
With the an ever-increasing burden being born by the middle class to fund an unjust war, tax breaks being written to absolve corporate entities like Haliburton and a government moving towards its theocratic intentions in steady increments, I say the time has come for those who want their democracy back to call upon their representatives to enact new tax legislation. These new laws would be designed to tax groups like Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as organizations run by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
Since these groups clearly flaunt their political advocacy without any concern about their tax-exempt status, the time has come to remove this free pass and shift some of the burden from those of us who are no longer able, or want to fund our government of religious conservatives.
If we begin taxing these groups the same way we do any other profit-making business, just think of the revenue-generating capacity that we’d have at our disposal. This could bankroll the military, schools, social security and any other program that has found it increasingly difficult to obtain the necessary funding.
Rarely does a problem in Washington have such an easy solution as this one. After a brief period of paying taxes through the nose, then maybe these religious imposters might understand why many Americans have come to resent them so much. Whether they wakeup to reality or not, we’d certainly have enough revenue for the president to give some tax breaks to the people who deserve them—the middle class—who bear the lion’s share of tax burden in this country.