Rendering Unto Caesar

A little-known sacrament, hidden from view,
But it’s there if you happen to search…
Is the sacred ability—really, God’s right—
For a renter to park at a church.

The law is the law, and the rule is the rule,
Though enforcement has been, well, relaxed…
For over a decade, they’ve taken in money
But this year, their profits are… taxed!

University parking is scarce as can be;
The demand far outstrips the supply
Local businesses often will lease out some spots—
If they’re taxed, they don’t often ask why.

But churches are used to more delicate treatment
They’re not just a business, their business is God’s
And churches, of course, enjoy tax-exempt status—
It’s not like the faithful are frauds!

The church provides parking, on tax-exempt land,
That sits empty the rest of the week
So it’s “render to Caesar”, and time to pay up,
The end of their non-paying streak

They’re grudgingly paying their taxes this year;
The power of Christ can’t compel—
I still have a question they don’t want to hear:
Can we sue for back taxes as well?

Oh, the little things that show up in my aggregator! A couple of churches had been renting out parking spaces in a university town, and are shocked–shocked, I tell you–to receive a tax bill for their commercial and non-religious enterprise.

Two churches in downtown Durham that rent parking spaces to students and other motorists received an unpleasant surprise last year: A property tax bill.

Leaders of St. George’s Episcopal Church and Community Church of Durham say they’ve leased parking spaces for more than a decade without issue. Both plan to challenge the $2,737 assessment.

Ten years of windfall profits! If they didn’t expect to be taxed, they couldn’t have been making much money from them–as churches, this was probably very nearly a charity, right?

Durham Tax Assessor Jim Rice discovered last year the churches were not being taxed for the parking leases. At the time, he said, each church leased 30 spaces for $600 each.

Rice set the value of each church parking lot at $90,000. Based on that figure, the churches owed $2,737 for the 2013 tax year. Both have paid the tax bills.

“For whatever reason, they were never assessed in the past,” Rice said of the church lots. “There is no reason the taxes should not have been assessed.”

Other non-profits in town are taxed when they profit from leasing property–including another church that leases office space. No persecution here, just a case of presumed privilege, and an assumption that the rules don’t apply.

Frankly, ten years worth of back taxes would likely help the town… I doubt very much that they will go after the money, though. Even if it is legal, it will be viewed as attacking churches.

Christian Bigots Claim Oppressed Minority Status

Pity the Christians who dare to speak out—
Who defer to the bible’s authority—
Three-fourths of the nation, we’ve lost all our clout,
And become the most hated minority

In our great country’s past—in our halcyon days—
When our Christian beliefs were shown deference,
Why, we Christians could say what we like about gays,
And condemn them for sexual preference

We could subjugate women, deny them the vote,
But no longer do Christians hold sway
And the nation has suffered, I think you will note,
In not asking what Jesus would say.

We used to be mighty! We used to be feared!
Our endorsement could sway an election!
But now… we’re ignored, and occasionally jeered—
We’re endangered; in need of protection!

When minorities labeled their treatment a crime
In the past, we said “don’t make a fuss!”
That was then; this is now, and it’s different this time…
This time, the minority’s us!

On CNN’s Belief Blog, an amusing bit on the perception by some Christians that they are now a hated minority:

We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.

As proof, Sprigg points to the backlash that ESPN commentator Chris Broussard sparked recently. Broussard was called a bigot and a purveyor of hate speech when he said an NBA player who had come out as gay was living in “open rebellion to God.” Broussard said the player, Jason Collins, was “living in unrepentant sin” because the Bible condemns homosexuality.

“In the current culture, it takes more courage for someone like Chris Broussard to speak out than for someone like Jason Collins to come out,” says Sprigg, a former pastor. “The media will hail someone who comes out of the closet as gay, but someone who simply expresses their personal religious views about homosexual conduct is attacked.”

Yes, they are a persecuted minority. Like gays who risked being disowned by family, kicked out of apartments, losing jobs, and even injury or death, Christians risk… being labeled bigots, when they exhibit bigotry. This poor, persecuted three-fourths of the US population is up against a much more powerful, but mostly invisible, foe. In truth, Christians are an incredibly diverse population; the vast majority of the Christians I know personally are not bigots–I can think of two who are–but since the complainers are claiming the mantle of “Christian” rather than “older, white, male, conservative, evangelical Christian” (gee, I wonder why), I feel it’s only fair to grant them their full numbers. You can’t try to rally your fellow Christians to your side while denying that their numbers swell your ranks.

To the splinter minority of Christians who are playing this card: This is what it feels like to have your privilege reeled back in. You’ve had it so easy for so long, it feels like persecution when you only have it slightly better than the groups you hate.

And of course, if you treated your fellow humans with love as you claim your book dictates, perhaps minority status wouldn’t be such a big deal in the first place.

But We Thought That Was The Whole Point…

“Introduction To Congress”, the syllabus said;
It was filled with the Harvard elite—
The goal was to learn about civics; instead,
Half the students just learned how to cheat.

Academic dishonesty at Harvard.

Harvard College’s disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the magnitude of the case was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

That’s right; Harvard is supposed to be known for grade inflation, not for cheating.

(Reading the article, it looks like there is sufficient blame to cast on both student and professor.)