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Where’s the Separation?

November 18, 2009

Ah, the First Amendment… the first of many rights slapped onto our U.S. Constitution to guarantee particular civil liberties. You know, the old “Separation of Church and State”, among other freedoms. While this is probably the most frequently evoked amendment inside and outside the courtroom, I struggle to recall anyone quoting the text I find most compelling.

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”



Why am I basing my whole argument around those ten little words? Simple, U.S. law grants tax exempt status for religious, err charitable, institutions. I could go on for pages about which churches violated which laws, but the one that sticks out like a sore thumb is the Mormon Church and their $200,000 initiative to ban gay marriage in California (and most recently, the Catholics in Maine). Just last week, the Catholic Church has ventured into the area of extortion by bullying Washington DC with an ultimatum on their proposed legislation concerning gay marriage. They actually had the nerve to threaten to abandon the city’s social services contracts if the government decides to allow gay marriage within the national capital. Wait, what? Now just to be clear, this new law does not force the church to perform any new tasks or require them to marry same-sex couples. The only stipulation to the church: they must obey city laws not to discriminate against gay members. Wow, the audacity of some people.  Tell me again why they still enjoy tax exemption? The tax law was created to benefit charitable organizations and while I don’t disagree that churches handle their fair share of charitable work; YOU ARE STILL A RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION.

You cannot have your tax free cake and lobby it, too!


The reason I bring these hypocrisies into the argument: the Stupak amendment, which was introduced into the House of Representative’s health care bill. This amendment seeks to restrict health care coverage for abortions, preventing women who receive federally subsidized health insurance from purchasing plans that cover abortion. OK, since when did Roe V. Wade become moot? To my knowledge, abortion is still a legal operation in this country and according to many studies over one-third of U.S. women will have had abortions by the age of 45 (and these are reputable studies I might add, that are agreed upon by both sides of the abortion table).

The most recent numbers state that only 14% of abortions nationwide are billed to insurance companies. That’s a mere 160,000 procedures a year, at an average cost of $413 ($66,080,000).

The number of claimants is so low because of privacy concerns, which I don’t anticipate changing simply because of a public option. What is the big deal? If you want to talk numbers, let’s talk numbers…

Our own government’s website lists religious organization donations at $96.82 billion in 2006. Yes, you can pick up your jaw. That is $96.82 billion of tax free money received by those freedom loving organizations we call churches. Now I don’t mean to crap on religion or churches because I believe that most of them do much-needed work in areas of society that most people don’t want to touch. But, come on, that’s billions of dollars you get to keep just because you are eligible for a status that our U.S. Constitution says shouldn’t apply to you!

So let me get this straight. I have to suck it up and allow you the benefit of keeping all the money you make, but I have to pay taxes to live in the same country and enjoy the same luxuries as you. Wait, does this mean that I am subsidizing you? Just like you don’t want to subsidize a legal medical procedure that could be completely covered for a mere 6% of your annual donations. Does this sound fair to you?  Well, it probably does, because I haven’t even mentioned the fact that you are also exempt from paying taxes on any property you own in this U.S. I won’t even attempt to speculate on those numbers because after much searching, most sources conclude that the number is unattainable. Why is that? Oh yeah, it’s because you own so much and keep it pretty secretive.

Now I know abortion is not solely a religious argument, but I have to say that most groups and members of Congress invoke God as their number one reason against it. And I know that not all churches have come out in favor of the Stupak amendment, but let’s just base this on fairness then, without the opinions of either party. Even if we throw away all feelings on abortion, the fact still remains that we are federally subsidizing religious institutions, regardless of the law stating we can’t; and we are proposing legal sanctions on federally subsidized health care plans allowing abortions.

On a side note, let’s applaud CA Rep. Lynn Woolsey for voicing her outrage towards the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and their inappropriate attempts to press Congress to ban abortion in the health care bill. Rep. Woolsey actually gave an interview stating that the USCCB violated federal law by lobbying for an amendment AND recommended they be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (the only agency capable of revoking their tax exempt status).

YAY for Rep. Woolsey! …Imagine the flow of cash coming into your seriously bankrupt state of California if the IRS took down the Catholic Church.

In a runaround way, I am subsidizing a church I don’t believe in, but this church gets to dictate the laws I have to live by…I don’t think so.

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