Abolish Religious Exemptions from the Law? (Part 2)

UPDATE 6.28.10: The United States Supreme Court ruled against the Christian Legal Society (“CLS”) in the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The Court noted that CLS was not seeking “parity with other [student] organizations, but a preferential exemption from [the Law School’s] policy.” Exactly right! Excellent decision. Here’s a link to the text of it: www.supremecourt.gov ———————– In the United States and other countries, religious institutions have traditionally enjoyed a privileged position, ie, they have been granted exemptions from compliance with certain laws (including, without limitation, laws against discrimination in employment and laws requiring the payment of taxes). Is it appropriate or even useful for religion to have this privileged status? Links: 1. Wisconsin Supreme Court’s use of the “ministerial exception” to dismiss an age discrimination case against a Catholic school system www.wicourts.gov 2. New York Court of Appeals decision in Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany v. Serio www.law.cornell.edu 3. California Supreme Court’s decision in Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. Superior Court (Unfortunately, I can’t find a generally accessible URL for this decision. The citation is 85 P.3d 67 (2004).) 4. Jonathan Turley’s Op-Ed piece entitled “When it comes to religious groups, who’s really facing discrimination?” www.washingtonpost.com 5. Employment Division v. Smith www.law.cornell.edu 6. Bob Jones University v. United States

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25 Responses to “Abolish Religious Exemptions from the Law? (Part 2)”

  1. JoshMarsolais Says:

    First I would like to say that I appreciate the manor is which this video was presented.

    Regarding your 2nd closing point, I would emphasize that the religious community is also part of society. Obvious, I know, but important to mention because to state that society is yielding to the religious community (or religious beliefs) is less accurate than to say that society is yielding to itself. Furthermore, our society does not possess only one view as to what our interest in equality entails.

  2. JoshMarsolais Says:

    First I would like to say that I appreciate the manor is which this video was presented.

    Regarding your 2nd closing point, I would emphasize that the religious community is also part of society. Obvious, I know, but important to mention because to state that society is yielding to the religious community (or religious beliefs) is less accurate than to say that society is yielding to itself. Furthermore, our society does not possess only one view as to what our interest in equality entails.

  3. DavesHome Says:

    @ProfMTH Some organizations offer to pay a form of tax because they know that their charitable status gives them such an exemption so as to put a strain on the local revenues. Guess who does this? Try the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. By the way I don’t disagree with you entirely. I am merely pointing out the legal minefield we walk when we deal with this subject.

  4. kubush Says:

    @DavesHome Why is paying your fair share of taxes seen as an “encroachment” on religious freedom? Religious organizations make huge profits. Their income should be taxed like every other organization. Exempting them gives them special privileges.

  5. kubush Says:

    @DavesHome Oh how nice that they offer to pay some taxes because they realize how they are stealing from the American tax payer. How thoughtful of them.

  6. ProfMTH Says:

    @DavesHome ” By the way I don’t disagree with you entirely.”

    Accusing me of “want[ing] to encroach on the rights to freedom to practice one’s religious beliefs” is an exceedingly ODD way to express partial agreement. In any case, the government would be no more interested in my “offer[ing] to pay a form of tax” than it should be in such an offer from a religious organization. Those who claim to follow Jesus should as he instructed: pay your taxes.

  7. ProfMTH Says:

    @kubush (to @DavesHome) “Why is paying your fair share of taxes seen as an ‘encroachment’ on religious freedom?”

    Religions and their adherents–particularly the various Christian sects–have become so used to their privileged status (the special rights they have been given) that they mistake the dimunition of that status as an encroachment on their freedom. it’s quite outrageous really.

  8. DavesHome Says:

    @ProfMTH Your video was about imposing taxes on religious ORGANIZATIONS.
    As individuals, I believe most Christians are conscientious and law abiding when it comes to paying their taxes.

  9. ProfMTH Says:

    @DavesHome “Your video was about imposing taxes on religious ORGANIZATIONS.”

    Actually, it was about much more than that.

    “As individuals, I believe most Christians are conscientious and law abiding when it comes to paying their taxes.”

    Their religious organizations should do likewise.

  10. threewiseman1 Says:

    I entirely agree with you assessment at the end, Prof.

    I’m not sure of the situation in the US, but in Aus private religious schools have access to government funding, not simply exemption. Now, I support this (primarily because I believe that high standards of education are more important than religious quarrels), but some of these schools have also attempted to expel homosexual students. Silly, no?

  11. DerFalscheBorg Says:

    @ProfMTH
    A personal reply? Thank You so much! For a person with so many subscribers to take the time to reply… just keep on fuelling my mancrush on You! ;P No, but in all seriousness, I knew it was the right thing to subscribe to You after finally creating a new Youtube account. Just keep on doing what You are doing and stay the way You are and You will always have a great admirer in me.

  12. CBlargh Says:

    -What’s the difference between how a secular charity is treated and how a religious institution is treated? It seems to me they should be treated exactly the same under the law. Neither is a business, because you aren’t getting anything material for the money you donate, so why not treat churches like any other secular charity?

    -It seems to me this is what the first amendment requires…

  13. ProfMTH Says:

    @CBlargh Well, churches and other religious institutions don’t claim to be the same as secular charities. Why should we treat them in a way they themselves don’t regard their organizations? And what exactly in the First Amendment do you believe requires us to do this?

  14. CBlargh Says:

    @ProfMTH Why should it matter to the government how religious institutions define themselves? Can anyone just stand up and say their charity believes in magic and then get a special tax and legal exemption?

    -I think it imposes an undue burden on the state to decide which entities deserve religious status and which don’t, plus the state is forbidden to interfere in the affairs of religion! “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. It means what it says!

  15. ManicEightBall Says:

    First, I think a distinction should be made between churches whose primary goal is to promote a religion, and other businesses like schools and universities which have primary goals other than promoting the religion.

    I think anyone could claim it is their religion to disobey some law, and to say they get an exemption from any law they want is an invitation to chaos. On the other hand, I don’t want to see the government come down on a church because some issue is currently unpopular.

  16. bmeissner Says:

    @roninkross Okay, so all doctors who beg you to get immunized and to immunize your kids–ALL of them except 3 or 4 (out of thousands in the US alone) are lying to us? Doesn’t the fact that those 3 or 4 have a major financial interest in convincing people that vaccines are bad tells you nothing? Try reading as much from people who actually know about this subject–like actual immunologists– as you do a bunch of nutcases for a WEEK and see where you stand. No herd immunity? How stupid that is.

  17. bmeissner Says:

    @ProfMTH I also believe that they should have the same rights as other non-profit organizations, following the same rules. Religious people often act in selfless ways, working hard to help others and they should have the same tax breaks that secular people doing the same thing have. I suspect in many cases, the requirement to provide detailed (and public) financial records might cause some distress among the tithers. What they don’t know might come as a surprise.

  18. Gloomshrub Says:

    The only laws churches etc. should be exempted from are tax laws. I agree with what you said about Ocean Grove and Bob Jones, but I feel that if a religious organisation is too offensive to be ‘indirectly subsidised’, it should not be allowed to exist at all. Religious organisations should not have to pay tax, just as museums, libraries and parks should not have to.

  19. ProfMTH Says:

    @CBlargh “Why should it matter to the government how religious institutions define themselves? Can anyone just stand up and say their charity believes in magic and then get a special tax and legal exemption?”

    Under the arrangement you’re suggesting, that is precisely what ANYONE could do. Are you seriously suggesting this is a good idea?

  20. CBlargh Says:

    @ProfMTH: I’m not suggesting secular charities be treated like churches, I’m suggesting churches be treated like secular charities. No magic required, no legal exemptions allowed.

    -I don’t actually know how taxes work with a secular charity, but I assume there is a way to qualify for tax-exempt status. Religious organisations should follow the same rules everyone else follows.

    -If they don’t want to be a non-profit, then they’re a business and they get taxed as a business.

  21. JamesTheTank Says:

    @ProfMTH as a member of a “second teir” religion this strikes a special cord. I am of the opinion that religious organizations should get no more special treatment in aquiring non-profit status or any other privilages and should be equally as accountable for maintaining those standards as any other group.

  22. Tavereen Says:

    I love how the RCC argues that artificial contraception is immoral without fully considering the alternatives. It is true that condoms, the pill, IUDs, etc. are all unnatural forms of birth control. But before we reject them because they are unnatural, let’s take a look at what the alternatives are. The only truly natural forms of birth control(sorry, the rhythm method IS unnatural) are famine, plague, and war. I think that I’ll choose the lesser of two evils.

  23. ProfMTH Says:

    @Tavereen Catholicism’s take on birth control and family planning is odd and inconsistent.

  24. Tavereen Says:

    @ProfMTH

    That’s an understatement for the ages.

  25. pseudonamed Says:

    I think religious institutions should not be getting tax money. Why should anyone have to support a religion they don’t believe in thru their taxes? The members of that religion can help out the institution if it needs it.