Oh boy, I’m a demon!


When will my supernatural demonic powers kick in? None of my curses ever seem to work.

I think a perfectly legitimate way to deal with ranting pastors like Greg Locke is to immediately revoke their tax exempt status. Any time a preacher gets blatantly partisan, or uses their pulpit to promote sedition, swiftly inform them that they are preaching politics rather than religion, and send them a bill for property tax and income tax.

It’s absurd that we just shrug and look away at that kind of behavior.

Comments

  1. whheydt says

    Yeah… I’d really like to see those rules enforced. But not only doesn’t the IRS even try, but various preachers have publicly, blatantly, flouted the rules and….crickets.

    In sort of related news, the Archbishop of San Francisco told the priests under his authority to deny Pelosi communion. This contravenes statements from the pope. When the archbishop (Cordileone) was appointed, there were protests in SF. He was already known as a hard liner. Now the question becomes… Is his action political? Should the tax exempt status of the See (or the entire church in the US) be yanked? Putting pressure on the Speaker of the House isn’t exactly keeping his nose out of politics…

  2. consciousness razor says

    They don’t need to ranting or be like some asshole named Greg Locke. Get rid of the exemptions for all of them.

    People have a first amendment right to have and communicate and organize around religious beliefs regarding whatever the fuck they want. This is especially the case when it comes to political topics, because the government trying to restrict what is said or thought about the government is one of the many bad things governments are likely to want to do but shouldn’t be allowed to do.

    None of that entails religious leaders/orgs/corps/etc. should not have to pay taxes like everyone else. That’s obvious, because those very same rights are to be protected for everyone else (which is good) and we don’t receive those tax exemptions (which is also good). So what we should want is simply to have both of those good things apply to the cultists and con artists out there, just like they apply to the rest of us.

    In my experience, it seems like there’s always this concern (not always made explicit, but definitely in the back of people’s minds) that they’re using religion to make their bullshitting more persuasive. But they can certainly do that if they want. If you want address this, then maybe figure out why you’re not as persuasive (or not reaching enough people, etc.) and try to do a better job of that. What’s not going to work out well is using our legal or political system to try to somehow restrict which fundamental rights of theirs should be protected and which shouldn’t, such as being able to talk about whatever the fuck they want. We simply have no business playing that kind of game, ever; but also, that shit only ever comes back to bite us in the end.

  3. divineconspiracy667 says

    I seem to recall a time, not too long ago, when a republicans used to say that religious freedom didn’t apply to Muslims, because Islam was “a political system, not a religion.”
    Yet they’ve wholeheartedly embraced (white) Christian nationalism.
    It’s almost like they don’t actually believe anything other than obtaining and maintaining power over others.

  4. drew says

    Demons. Democrats. Demon-crats? I like it. I’m gonna use that.

    Demon-crats and Re-thug-licans.

  5. Matt G says

    I just (10 minutes ago) I drove past a yard sign which read “teachers shouldn’t be preachers”. I wholeheartedly agree, but based on other signs I think it was referring to CRT or whatever the RWNJ bugaboo du jour is.

  6. robro says

    Churches are tax exempt, but not the income of ministers/preachers/priests. They have to declare income and pay taxes. However, they can exclude certain things from their income such as a church provided home. I’m sure there are other perks that they can use to hide income such as church provided cars, clothing allowances, and so forth. It’s a big scam. My dad, Southern racist and former deacon tho he was, often railed about the way preachers got around paying taxes like the rest of us.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 2: Get rid of the exemptions for all of them.

    I beg to vehemently differ.

    Keeping churches out of elections entirely saves us, as a society, much more than having them overtly meddle en masse.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Correction to my # 7: Keeping churches out of elections entirely saves us, as a society, much more than we could hope to collect from taxing their income and real estate.

  9. Tethys says

    Archbishop Cordileone and this loud buffoon are peas in a pod. Forcing women to have children is somehow their right, as white men. They are terrified at becoming ‘minorities’ because they know minorities are treated like crap.

    I think Pelosi will survive a lack of holy communion with no ill effects. With any luck it will annoy her enough that she will stop her incessant praying on the floor of Congress.

  10. billseymour says

    I think Pelosi will survive a lack of holy communion with no ill effects. With any luck it will annoy her enough that she will stop her incessant praying on the floor of Congress.

    She can pray all she wants.  It’s the rest of her behavior in Congress that disgusts me.

  11. consciousness razor says

    Keeping churches out of elections entirely saves us, as a society, much more than having them overtly meddle en masse.

    No. They have a right to speak, including when you think it’s overt meddling (or covert meddling for that matter) or when it has something to do with elections. Nobody has any right whatsoever to restrict that. We do however have a right to collect taxes, which is such a completely different subject that it’s absurd anyone ever thought it appropriate to compare them or connect them in this way.

    Again: instead of trying to shut them up, which is immoral and unconstitutional and has historically been counterproductive at best and tyrannical at worst, you should simply come up with something better to say than they do. If you’re scared that you won’t be able to do that, too bad, because you still don’t have a right to the alternative that you’re proposing. And if it’s true that you can’t do it, fine — nobody’s saying you need to — just let somebody else do the talking. Because you certainly don’t have a right to not let them do the talking.

    Correction to my # 7: Keeping churches out of elections entirely saves us, as a society, much more than we could hope to collect from taxing their income and real estate.

    So you’re immediately rejecting what you had just said in #7? Or is this only meant to clarify it or add to the argument in some way?

    For the sake of argument, assuming we should do that (which, as I said, is wrong), what exactly would that “save” us anyway? Is this supposed to refer to monetary savings?

  12. whheydt says

    Re: Pierce R. Butler @ #7 & #8…
    But the don’t stay out of elections. They overtly meddle in elections by trying to tell their adherents how to vote. And they do try to tweak the IRS’ nose that they’re doing it. That’s explicitly barred by the laws covering not for profit organizations.

    So, as far as I’m concerned, if the churches won’t stay out of politics (per non-profit rules), then drop that rule and treat all churches as corporations, with all attendant rules that apply, including financial disclosures and paying taxes.

  13. R. L. Foster says

    “You can’t be Christian and vote Democrat.”

    And here I was just thinking that I’d trapse on down to the local Pentecostal Church and signify for Jesus and handle a few venomous snakes to show my newfound faith. But, being an evil Democrat, all demonic and all, I guess I’ll have to give up my dream of meeting my lord and savior. Another one of life’s cruel disappointments.

  14. whheydt says

    Re: Tethys @ #9…
    The bishop for Washington, DC sees it differently. Pelosi will only have an issue when she’s in her home district.

    In the specific case, I don’t think it’s so much a matter of demographic shifts and simple old-fashioned control. Despite all the rhetoric from the upper echelons, the RCC lost the family planning debate decades ago. Last I heard, the use of modern birth control methods is almost exactly as common by Catholic women as it is by all other women in the US.

    The problem for Cordileone is that if anyone is paying attention, it plays right into the concern about “Vatican control” over elected Catholics. JFK did his best to put a spike through the heart of that, but Cordileone is going to raise it from the dead, the way he’s going.

  15. unclefrogy says

    So, as far as I’m concerned, if the churches won’t stay out of politics (per non-profit rules), then drop that rule and treat all churches as corporations, with all attendant rules that apply, including financial disclosures and paying taxes.

    I agree in principle the time that a tax exemption was a good idea seems to be in the past some where it is not doing much good now except keeping some going on that otherwise would not be financially viable the smaller store front churches.
    The big mega ones could easily pay taxes but I am not convinced that they would pay any taxes surly not more then the corporations and the 1% percent pay now, which is to say practically none. They have enough money to hire the accountants and financial advisors to avoid the majority of taxes.
    The question for me fundamental. We all know what would happen if an imam said any of this stuff they would be visited by the FBI publicly and covertly. For years now the acknowledged threats to our security have been mostly right wing , the racist fascists in all their varieties little has been done in comparison Why?

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 12 – my correction at # 8 was meant to complete the thought I expressed poorly @ # 7.

    And I did not deny churches have a right to speak, just that they have no right to both evade taxes and intrude into elections. The same laws apply to the vast majority of non-profits, from Planned Parenthood to the Boy Scouts, who have the option to form (barely) separate advocacy organizations if they feel a need to electioneer, and regularly do so with no sign of suffering impedance in either their politicking or their main missions. (Also note, ftr, that churches can and do speak out about issues – the regulations at hand pertain strictly to taking sides of specific candidates.)

    And while too many churches do indeed violate the 501(c)(3) regulations, we’d see an avalanche of political interference if the gates were left open for them all to do so – mostly to the advantage of reactionary politicians. Do I need to spell out the social costs of that to you as well?

    whheydt @ # 12: But the[y] don’t stay out of elections.

    Most of them do, though that probably owes more to the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State than to warnings and enforcement from the Treasury Department. If we lose the so-called Johnson Amendment, municipal elections everywhere that has church schools would see a spate of voucher campaigns and other money-grabbing initiatives (note to cr: local taxes would rise and public schools would deteriorate), and the number of elected officials overtly hostile to the LGBTQ+ population, abortion & sex ed, teaching sound biology, etc, would rise just about everywhere.

    Pls note also that many church-goers understand quite well that when you mix politics with religion, you get – politics. They explicitly don’t want that, preferring their little islands of politics-free (or ~-lite) peacefulness, and I concur we all get along better that way. Only those I call hyperchristians, the religious wingnuts, crusade for politicizing what our local zoning codes call Places of Worship, and it bothers me to see so-called progressives take their side without thinking it through.

    Lyndon Johnson had it right when he persuaded Congress that extending the First Amendment as they did protected both civic society and politicians from religious chiselers taking unfair advantage of charitable tax breaks, and we can easily see today who would gain and who would lose by eliminating that protection. It would certainly help if Biden would appoint Treasury officials who would better enforce their own rules (which Clinton & Obama both chickened out from doing), but Democratic failures should not push the rest of us to call for measures that would only strengthen Republicans and intolerance (as whheydt points out @ # 14).

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Ray Ceeya @ # 15: Why are churches exempt?

    Mostly local politicians pandering to congregations, a century or two ago, under the (partly-valid) fig leaf that church-run charities reduce burdens on taxpayers and otherwise provide actual social benefits. That still applies, probably in a minority of cases: solid data is hard to come by.

    I don’t have solid data on other charities, either, but I’d rather we continue to lighten the load on United Way and their ilk than to eliminate all such exemptions. Who here thinks we could start laying taxes on religious groups and keep exemptions for the Girl Scouts?

  18. cartomancer says

    If you had read your Peter Abelard, you would know that daemons (as a writer in Medieval Latin, he, of course, spelled it properly) don’t actually have supernatural powers. Those are, apparently, restricted to the big man upstairs. What they have instead is a deep knowledge of the physical properties of drugs, plants, minerals, physical phenomena and the like, with which they can trick and decieve people into thinking they actually do have supernatural powers.

    So less of the cursing and more of the setting experimental lab animals on your foes, maybe?

  19. Tethys says

    If churches want to be tax-exempt charitable organizations, then they should be subject to the same accounting and tax law as other humanitarian aid organizations.

    If you are Pat Robertsons kid, or have mega-mansions and unimaginable wealth like various televangelists, clearly they are taking profits, and should be taxed like every other business. You are only tax exempt if the tithes turn into documented charitable support for the poor.

  20. consciousness razor says

    I SUMMON A HORDE OF SPIDERS TO DESCEND ON GREG LOCKE!

    I don’t think you’re close enough to him to cast that spell. Also, do you even have the material components? And hold on a second…. I thought you were playing a barbarian.

    Look, there are rules, man. Just like Peter Abelard (and Gary Gygax) said.

    Fucking amateur hour over here.

  21. nomdeplume says

    In good news Australia has thrown out its evangelical prime minister and his government of right wing nasties and elected the mildly social democrat Labor Party plus a bunch of Greens and independents who ran on wanting action on climate change. Hallelujah.

  22. ardipithecus says

    @24
    Since Locke is a horse’s ass, I was wondering if his head would work for the nithing pole.

  23. unclefrogy says

    @21
    from what I can see they are now paying what a lot of other businesses are paying their accounting is just easier. Unless we really do overhaul the entire taxing structure as it is nothing of substance will be accomplished in the end.

  24. Tethys says

    Ardipithecus

    Since Locke is a horse’s ass, I was wondering if his head would work for the nithing pole.

    In addition to being a felony, wouldn’t that make cursing him a moot point? I think a child’s hobby horse is an acceptable substitute. You could do as modern Icelanders, and get the proper creepy effect with a smoked sheep head on your nidstang.

  25. whheydt says

    Re: ardipithecus @ #25…
    IF you cut off his head to put it on the pole, that would serve the same purpose as the curse. So…yes.

  26. whheydt says

    Re: Ray Ceeya @ #15…
    I’m not sure of the actual, historical, reasoning and much of it is now just Tradition.

    Still, I think there are three main roots to it. One, as given by Pierce R. Butler @ #18 is that churches used to be the main “social safety net”. That has been largely superceded by civil government programs, but there is still considerable activity in that direction, though it all too often comes with an effort at conversion (e.g. the Salvation Army).

    Beyond that, there are a couple of founding principles that probably at least prop up the idea of not taxing churches. One is separation of church and state. The other is the classic point that the power to tax is the power to destroy.

    At least (and possibly partly because) we have escaped the practice in a number of countries to add a church support tax based on declared religious affiliation. Though if that did exist, one might find even more non-believers or “nones” than even public surveys turn up.

  27. says

    I can answer Mehdi’s question of what if it was a Muslim imam. We have our share of firebrand imams in Australia. They are allowed to preach their poison and the response is confected outrage from right wing politicians and the Murdoch controlled media. However they do target their followers. In one instance 13 of the followers of one imam were rounded up and are serving lengthy prison terms. The imam in question was allowed to leave the country and after some time spent overseas was allowed to return where he is being closely monitored, not by the security agencies but by the Muslim community. While overseas he secured a job as the imam at a Muslim school. He lasted less than a month before the parents intervened and sacked him. Shortly afterwards he was forced to leave the country. His attempt to relocate to a neighbouring Muslim country were thwarted when he was refused a visa because the Muslims there didn’t want him either.

  28. chrislawson says

    Pierce Butler–

    I don’t see how we can have reasonable freedom of speech (not the mad conservative version) while banning churches from political speech. And many of us are quite happy when churches support our political leanings, e.g. the Uniting Church in Australia’s Not Enough anti-poverty strategy which openly advocates pressuring politicians to influence government policy.

    As for the political pressure that is harmful — well, as others have pointed out already, the right wing never believes laws should apply to them anyway. Anyone who followed Australia’s most recent election (thank goodness for the outcome!) will know there were several cases of conservative politicians using testimonials from friends in registered charities, which is absolutely 100% forbidden by our electoral laws. They don’t care. They even tried to pretend the laws didn’t matter (the law-and-order party!) and they’ve defanged the Electoral Commission to the point that even when they’ve committed outright electoral fraud, most of the time the AEC decides it doesn’t really count, and at worst they get told to take down the fraudulent material after weeks of deliberation.

    I would much rather revoke churches’ tax-exempt status outright. Like everyone else, they can apply for charitable status for specific programs that meet the general legal standard of a charity (no building of private mansions with massive swimming pools and a staff of assistants and personal carers for the Bishop of Ballarat to retire to while he himself had blocked plans to renovate and upgrade rundown Catholic aged care facilities).

    And as for limiting the political damage of religious demagogues, I think history has shown the best method is to expose their crimes, of which demagogues almost always have a long list. This is the reason Ireland went from being politically in lockstep with the Vatican to rabidly secular and anticlerical in one generation. This is the reason the Bishop of Ballarat didn’t end up getting to live in his personal church-paid spa resort. This is the reason the Catholic Church didn’t get away with declaring each diocese an independent assetless subsidiary that could declare bankruptcy rather than pay compensation for child abuse. It doesn’t always work — the US populace in particular seems incredibly resistant to holding authority figures accountable — but in most parts of the world the prestige of churches is crumbling due to their own behaviour.

  29. Pierce R. Butler says

    Chris Lawson @ # 31: I don’t see how we can have reasonable freedom of speech … while banning churches from political speech.

    Good thing nobody’s proposing that, then. Churches can speak freely and without (legal) consequence, so long as they (a) stay out of explicit campaign advocacy or (b) pay taxes like everybody else or (c) set up separate organizations to indulge in electoral campaigning (neither difficult nor particularly expensive) (same goes for all other non-profits, btw).

    I appreciate it may get a little difficult to perceive such nuances while using x-ray vision through the earth’s core, but please consider that you just parroted a favorite wingnut talking point lie. May your new government give you better luck in actually enforcing existent non-profit electioneering regulations than we’ve had here so far.

  30. consciousness razor says

    Like everyone else, they can apply for charitable status for specific programs that meet the general legal standard of a charity (no building of private mansions with massive swimming pools and a staff of assistants and personal carers for the Bishop of Ballarat to retire to while he himself had blocked plans to renovate and upgrade rundown Catholic aged care facilities).

    Yes, and a lot of this should be obvious, but to say a little more concrete about the question of what a “charity” is, it is more or less something which supports the community at large.

    This “support” has to constitute some kind of demonstrable, material, useful/beneficial effect. Otherwise, if it were some kind of scam or involved doing basically nothing coupled with pretending like it made big difference, there’s no reason to offer them an exemption. Did this whole lot of nothing cost this pseudo-charity a bunch of money? Maybe it did, or maybe it was only barely of any use at all while being extremely wasteful. But that’s their problem — come back to us when you figure out how to make a charity that’s reasonably effective/useful, and we can talk. But merely purporting to do something with zero evidence to that effect doesn’t count.

    Also, it’s not something that’s only supporting the cultists themselves, or only those who have to do as the cultists do in order to receive whatever help they’re supposedly providing. The whole community should benefit, since the whole community is supporting this by offering the exemption. It has to be, essentially, a secular thing.

    And of course we should be completely indifferent about the question of whether a religious person/group is doing that secular thing or if some non-religious person/group is doing it. So, for instance, a church which simply conducts ceremonies for its congregation is not a charitable organization. But if that church wanted to start an actual charity, it can obviously do so. But that thing is a separate entity which keeps its own accounts/records, in order to make this work, and it is the thing that has to apply for the special status for tax purposes.

    If they can’t do this very basic shit, as so many religious organizations refuse to do, then we should not treat them like charities, in which case the IRS just does its job and collects taxes like normal.

    But no part of this involves telling anybody, religious or otherwise, what they’re allowed to say, about the government or about anything else. I just have to roll my eyes (again, because it’s not the first time I’ve heard shit like this) at the idea that there wouldn’t be some improper kind of “meddling,” if they merely talked about “issues” rather than “candidates” or “elections” or whatever. Preposterous, incoherent, unmotivated, disingenuous, just plain stupid.

    I mean, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to pretend…. They will most certainly try to affect our political culture and our systems of government, very directly and very “overtly” if they feel like it. Just get the fuck over it, because like it or not, they have the right to do so, just like every other citizen does. Doing so (i.e., freely and openly discussing our social/political situation and what to do about it, given whatever fucking beliefs we happen to have) is in fact our civic responsibility in a system that’s at least attempting to be democratic, not something that it should try to prevent from happening. If you’ve got a problem with that, well…. Fuck you.

    Anyway, you know what that doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean “religious groups” shouldn’t be taxed. Because that’s crazy talk. That has no more justification (presently or historically) other than the fact that religions have been and still extremely powerful, so they’ve simply given themselves whatever they liked. If you really love the idea of making up some mythology that religions used to be really great at helping people and have been replaced in more recent times, knock yourself out I guess, but I think they were always shit, probably much worse in the past, given that basically nobody who had any power was even trying to keep them on a leash.

  31. chrislawson says

    Pierce, rather than being obnoxious about it, you could perhaps identify the right-wing nutjob lie I am parroting, which was quite a surprise to me when I just argued for taxing churches and gave examples of conservatives breaking electoral laws, you know, the classic RWNJ talking points.

  32. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 33 – I don’t have time to address your spiel with one of equal length. Suffice it to say your rant about general principles fails to address the fact of the “Johnson Amendment” having actually worked fairly well over the last ~three-quarters of a century, even given its very weak enforcement in the last third of that period.

    chrislawson @ # 34 – I deleted the “obnoxious” part of my original comment before posting: the part where I pointed out that I had already pointed out the points I made, and that perhaps you should try reading more carefully. Kindly note: You started out with an accusation of “banning churches from political speech” straight out of the Falwell/Robertson lie book – what the hell did you think I meant by “parroting” when I followed up by (trying to) set you straight about exactly that?

  33. chrislawson says

    Pierce — I meant political speech in the whole sense, including stating a preferred candidate in an election. I could have been more precise, that is true, but I thought it was clear from context. Obviously not. My apologies. And it wasn’t intended as any kind of “accusation” towards you. It’s not that I think your principle is fundamentally wrong-headed — it used to be my belief too — and what has changed my mind is not a philosophical shift, it’s experiential. It’s seeing churches, particularly antiprogressive churches, regularly violate the principle with impunity. I now favour abandoning the tax-speech detente and removing special limits on the speech of churches (they would still be bound by limits of speech that apply to everyone else) while also removing the special exemption on taxation. This approach may well fail for the same reason the current system fails — refusal of appropriate agencies to enforce the rules — and I doubt it has the political legs to get up in the US, but I think it’s worth trying in more secular countries.

  34. birgerjohansson says

    You know, we should start a spoof church that endorses Trump and all the worst things in the world. Hire a good comedian/actor as a front man. Something like the early Stephen Colbert when his persona was a conservative.

  35. consciousness razor says

    I don’t have time to address your spiel with one of equal length.

    No idea why you’d think I’d care about that. Just something that’s at least semi-reasonable would suffice. Or, just do your thing, whatever that is, and don’t even pretend to apologize for it.

    Suffice it to say your rant about general principles fails to address the fact of the “Johnson Amendment” having actually worked fairly well over the last ~three-quarters of a century, even given its very weak enforcement in the last third of that period.

    I think there’s plenty of evidence that it hasn’t been working fairly well, so I reject your assertion here.

    I don’t think there’s a good reason why the public should be restricting what organizations eligible for 501(c)(3) status can say about candidates, even if doing so were consistent with the first amendment (which I also think it is incorrect). At best, I think one could claim that some number of people like that, while others don’t. But it’s not like it’s just plain obvious that this is in the public’s interest, and one of those factions believing that it is does not in fact settle that question.

    Besides, I was also raising the question of whether being “religious” is, in the first place, a reasonable eligibility requirement for 501(c)(3) status — obviously, I don’t think it is. If nobody can give an adequate justification for that, it shouldn’t be the law. Simple as that.

  36. Pierce R. Butler says

    chrislawson @ # 36: …what has changed my mind is … seeing churches, particularly antiprogressive churches, regularly violate the principle with impunity.

    The ones which do that in the US often get called out for it and rarely do so consistently; I feel sure many others would go all-out without some constraints, with generally negative sociopolitical effect.

    … it’s worth trying in more secular countries.

    The taxation or the political unleashing? Probably both have been, somewhere, but I doubt their results would transfer broadly.

    consciousness razor @ # 38: … it hasn’t been working fairly well…

    Not sure where you live or what you see, but here in the deep southeastern US, I very strongly suspect most right-wing churches would go very political very fast if given a green light to do so – even if a majority within their congregations objected.

    … restricting what organizations eligible for 501(c)(3) status can say about candidates…

    If the US Congress of the 1950s didn’t find it an undue burden, I rather doubt the case that it is – and that they did see a good case in not wanting an onslaught of untaxable campaign organizations skewing the political process to the advantage of the generally unprincipled.

    … it’s not like it’s just plain obvious that this is in the public’s interest…

    The hyperchristians clamor for repeal, the Unitarians & Episcopalians politely endorse it. I call that, the former in particular, just plain obvious.

    … I was also raising the question of whether being “religious” is, in the first place, a reasonable eligibility requirement for 501(c)(3) status…

    We have at least a modicum of agreement here. I – remember, surrounded by the more extreme components of religiosity – see the status quo as the best available trade-off. Never say they can’t get worse!

  37. whheydt says

    Re: consciousness razor @ #38…
    There is no requirement to be religious to be a 501(c)3 organization. There are many non-religious ones. What being a religion/church gets you is automatic designation of 501(c)3 and exemption from a lot of the financial reporting rules.

  38. consciousness razor says

    Not sure where you live or what you see, but here in the deep southeastern US, I very strongly suspect most right-wing churches would go very political very fast if given a green light to do so – even if a majority within their congregations objected.

    I see all sorts of religious groups all over the country clamoring for all kinds of things which usually fit the description of “social conservatism.” To give some specific examples: anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-atheist/secularist. But of course, the list goes on and on and on. I don’t think you’re ignorant enough of this country’s political history over the last century or so, to not recognize what I’m talking about. I will leave it at that.

    So, you can’t sincerely believe that they’re not influencing which candidates their followers support in elections. Not an option for you.

    That leads me to wonder what the fuck you do think has been going on this entire time, which is somehow regarded by you as not “very political” despite all evidence to the contrary. I still don’t even have a hint of an answer for that.

    And I simply don’t understand on what basis you would disagree that they should have a right to be “very political,” if they so choose. Note that whether our current laws protect such a right is a different matter, so just leave aside for now. That is, you’ve been supposing that it would be a great problem (one that we’re somehow now already facing) if they did become “very political,” and I don’t get why anyone would think that itself is the problem.

    I think the genuine problems we’re facing (as their political opponents) have to do with the fact that so many such groups happen to have some extremely shitty political views, and they happen to be very popular/powerful/well-funded while leftists and secularists and so forth are not.

    But the problem is not that some kind of political view or another is being expressed. That’s just silly, and that’s no kind of problem at all. It is our duty as citizens to express our views with each other in a democratic system, because that’s how it can have any legitimacy, and that is the case whether or not we’re involved in charitable activities or religious ones or what have you. With very few exceptions (which require a serious, compelling justification) it makes no difference at all what else we may or may not be doing — it just a fundamental right that we all have which ought to be protected.

    If the US Congress of the 1950s didn’t find it an undue burden, I rather doubt the case that it is

    Astonishing. Then I suppose these things could be settled decisively with a time machine. We should just go back to the good old days of the 1950s and ask Congress, given that there’s no good reason to doubt that they had all their shit figured out.

    skewing the political process to the advantage of the generally unprincipled

    Well, first, I don’t know who the “generally unprincipled” are, or generally what I’m supposed to make of most of your cryptic statements for that matter.

    Why would it be the case that, if a charitable organization said “we support candidate X and so should you” then this would give some advantage to the generally unprincipled, while it’s also supposed to be true that a charitable organization saying “we support stance Y on this issue (when it’s no secret that candidate X has that same stance) and so should you” does not have the kind of effect and give advantage to the same generally unprincipled? Why is the process skewed in a bad way in the first case but not in the second?

    I mean, to me, all of this sounds completely arbitrary, not to mention ineffective. And in practice, it’s been extremely difficult if not impossible to enforce. It’s also as if there’s no reasoning or evidence to back any of this up. To me, it just looks like pretending as if we’ve done something to combat (what turns out to be) a fake problem. And of course, this is all while we’re still allowing all sorts of scammers and bad actors to abuse the system and get exemptions, as I alluded to before. So it’s really hard for me to find anything nice to say about the way we currently do things. If you’re happy with that … well, then … duly noted.

  39. consciousness razor says

    There is no requirement to be religious to be a 501(c)3 organization.

    I said and meant an eligibility requirement. It is one way to be eligible (and satisfying at least one among a set of possible criteria makes it a requirement, because otherwise you’re ineligible). I wasn’t implying it’s the only way to be eligible. Sorry if my wording was confusing.

  40. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 42: … what the fuck you do think has been going on … somehow regarded by you as not “very political” …</>

    Churches NOT posting signs out front that you can’t be a True Christian® unless you vote for Trump™. Etc, etc, etc.

    … on what basis you would disagree that they should have a right to be “very political,” …

    The basis of tax exemption, an incremental but quite perceptible advantage hypothetically reserved for activities socially beneficial for all, the hijacking of same for individuals’ political gain which I, and the Congress (of Eisenhower’s time, anyway) consider unprincipled. Leaving room for expression of values and ideas both satisfies Constitutional requirements and doctrinal exercise; withholding particular financial benefits for candidates violates nothing except in-group privilege.

    … it’s been extremely difficult if not impossible to enforce.

    Au contraire, the “Johnson amendment” supported generally existing custom at enactment and contributed greatly to helping the apolitical factions within churches keeping them that way while they’ve allowed so many other standards to lapse. Consider what most of them would turn into if their Berzelius Windrips (read It Can’t Happen Here if you don’t recognize the reference) got free rein to make them political footstools.

    (As I understand it, and I haven’t seen much on this detail lately, the Treasury Dept’s enforcement of 501(c)(3) rules depends on determinations by a particular office – which has somehow been left vacant for decades by multiple administrations. Americans United (see my link @ # 17) has stepped into the gap with mass mailings to churches around the country about those rules, and seems to have been pretty effective at putting the fear o’ Gawd Uncle Sam into many of them, or at least reinforcing the factions within each congregation which want them to remain electorally apolitical. Possibly and ironically, the political preachers’ wailings about their alleged oppression may also help keep some flocks in line, just as Trump’s shrieks about rigged balloting have partially pushed GOP turnout lower.)

    The churches certainly can, and losing incentives otherwise by getting taxed, will get much worse than the limited cheating we see now.

  41. consciousness razor says

    Churches NOT posting signs out front that you can’t be a True Christian® unless you vote for Trump™. Etc, etc, etc.

    Not getting it. Seriously, what’s the problem? What’s so scary about them posting a bullshit sign?

    I mean, we’ve currently got shit like this to worry about. I don’t care at all that she’s influenced by religious groups and/or supported by them. Doesn’t matter. What I do have a problem with is the crap she’s spewing.

    Anyway, how do you think that would be any “worse” (but I think still within their rights) compared to the shit these people are already doing under the current set of laws that you think are defensible?

    It makes even less sense to approach things this way, considering that many of these folks are so “unprincipled,” as you put it. If it were all out in the open and wasn’t something that we even tried to enforce (why should we?), then it wouldn’t matter how principled or unprincipled you may be.

    But every time you say something like “we won’t let you do it overtly, which the law specifies as doing X,Y,Z…” that is essentially just creating loopholes which unscrupulous types will use to game the system. So they will just get what they were looking for another way, behind the scenes, putting others who are more honest/open at a disadvantage.

  42. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 45: What’s so scary about them posting a bullshit sign?

    I begin to suspect you just don’t understand the political power of some churches, particularly the more active ones out to “change the culture”. Take my word for it as a long-time Southerner: such churches can take over towns and build social machines that not only cultivate and elect local officials, state legislators, and more, they can squeeze out competing viewpoints with a wide array of techniques that drive dissidents out of their homes. I used the bullshit sign as an example, under the apparently mistaken impression you understood more than it seems you do.

    … how do you think that would be any “worse” (but I think still within their rights) …

    Their rights to talk and organize, yes: their rights to do so with special privileges of tax exemption – aw c’mon! We (citizens of the United States) do not need to subsidize our own destruction.

    It’s getting late here: g’nite!

  43. consciousness razor says

    Another clip from the same event. (Fortunately the MyPillow guy isn’t running a charity, or there would be hell to pay for his support….? I mean, it sounds absurd, but is that how it works?)

    Just to break it down and make some of the points clearer, I hope:
    (1) They’re wrong, I think their message is a bad one, and this kind of thing is a big part of the reason we have such a garbage country.
    (2) They’re saying all of this quite explicitly and publicly.
    (3) They’ve done exactly this type of thing for a very long time, basically the entire history of this country, or at the very least well before the adoption of the Johnson Amendment.
    (4) There are many churches and other such groups — all of them 501(c)(3) orgs, because they love not paying taxes — who endorse this kind of thinking explicitly, publicly, unambiguously, relentlessly, etc.
    (6) They have a right to do that, just as I have a right to criticize them for it, which is a reasonably effective and non-authoritarian way to approach problems like this.
    (7) Nothing important changes for them, when you tell them that they can’t put “Dole/Kemp” signs, or some such thing, in a church’s yard. Nothing.
    (8) And I think that should come as no surprise. But if you thought that in theory it should’ve helped somehow, for some obscure reason that still isn’t clear at all to me, then … well…. I think we’ve got the evidence we need from the past several decades and can easily see how well things have been going in practice.

  44. consciousness razor says

    I begin to suspect you just don’t understand the political power of some churches, particularly the more active ones out to “change the culture”. Take my word for it as a long-time Southerner:

    All of that is also very much a part of my experience as well. I just want you to understand that I’m not disputing the negative effects of religions on our society or the extent of those negative effects. The dispute is about the types of things this country should do in regard to that (not only in terms of what’s politically legitimate and/or constitutional, but also in terms of what’s likely to be effective).

    To give an analogy, there are people who commit murder. I think it’s very clear that I’m not being dismissive about the murder rate or about how bad it is to murder. (Remember, I started out by taking a harder line on the subject PZ did…. And we’ve both been on this blog for a long time, so I think you should know better about me by now.) We seem to basically agree on this part.

    The disagreement is more about how we respond to that, not so much what they’re doing. It’s about how best to deal with murderers or the problem of murder, and we’re considering whether some responses will actually help, how to also respect their rights as human beings, and generally avoiding certain types of responses that would undermine or jeopardize other things that we deem valuable/important for our society.

  45. consciousness razor says

    Their rights to talk and organize, yes: their rights to do so with special privileges of tax exemption – aw c’mon! We (citizens of the United States) do not need to subsidize our own destruction.

    I’m not sure if you’ve just lost track of the argument or what, but I’m proposing religions do not get to keep their tax exemptions.

    The comparison to make is between the shit they do now, versus the shit they do now along with the addition of having “Dole/Kemp” signs posted at a church (which is of course logically independent of the question about exemptions).

    I’m saying that has at best a negligible impact on their ability to effectively communicate their endorsement of candidates that they like, because it is not hard at all for the public to connect the dots between “issues” they care about (like abortion, etc.) and which “candidates” support the positions they prefer.

    They know what they’re voting for, and it’s as if you’re trying to prevent them from seeing the message by putting it behind a transparent window. i don’t know how to break it to you more gently, but they can just see right through that bullshit, dude.

    Besides, voters should be able to know who/what they’re voting for, and you have no business making it any harder for them to figure out where their religious leaders (e.g.) stand on those things. If they wanted to ask you for such advice, they could come to you; or if they wanted to ask some asshole televangelist (who’d have to pay normal taxes, according to my position), they could ask him too. The point is, there’s no legitimate reason why we should be trying to control the flow of information like that — it’s none of our fucking business — and as I’ve been saying, they will find ways to communicate with each other anyway, whether it’s officially “allowed” or not.

  46. Pierce R. Butler says

    consciousness razor @ # 49: … that has at best a negligible impact …

    I think the core problem we have here is that you keep disregarding the rule-of-thumb I laid down @ # 39:

    Never say they can’t get worse!

    You will, I’m afraid, eventually be forced to learn better.

  47. consciousness razor says

    Pierce R. Butler:
    Nonsense. I have never said they can’t get worse and do not believe that.

    I’ve still got no clue why you think it would be the best available trade-off to subsidize our own destruction with the tax exemptions for churches that certainly are being very political, when the thing the country gets in return is some symbolic bullshit like not posting a particular sort of sign in certain places.

    Sounds like a bad deal. I think those things should never have been on the table in some kind of trade, but whatever…. It is not a good deal that you’re willing to make with them. We’re getting fucking robbed. Do you understand that?

    You will, I’m afraid, eventually be forced to learn better.

    If your intention were to ensure that things “get worse,” it’d be hard to improve on your plan of just letting them have practically everything they could ever want (and then cheerleading for it in this thread). So are you sure that’s actually fear you’re experiencing, or could it just be confusion? Maybe both?

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