Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is proper taxation finally coming to the church?

As we all know, the church enjoys a special position when it comes to taxation. Churches do not pay taxes in the same way that other organizations do. No politician will ever touch this issue, for although it would be nice to increase one's tax revenue in this manner, the political pushback would be huge, especially in places like the United States where the religious hold significant voter influence. But, a new possibility may be slowly emerging on this front.

In 2001, Canada conducted a census. There was a small grassroots movement afoot at the time to encourage people to tick the "other" option on the section dealing with religious beliefs, and to fill in the word "Jedi" as one's religion. The movement was based on the premise that, if enough people in Canada claimed a specific religion, then the religion would have to be officially recognized. In that case, the motivation behind the movement was mostly for entertainment purposes, but there may be some groups that are starting to see the light, so to speak, when it comes to having themselves declared a religion.

Recently in Sweden, a group of people have organized a religion around the practice of file-sharing. The smarts behind this move is that religious practices are, of course, protected by law. Therefore, the abilty to continue file-sharing legally would be protected by law if one can get the practice declared a religion. Smart. The other factor, of course, is that taxation would have to fall under the church rather than corporation structure for any file-sharing company. It looks like, at this point, this concept is still not ready to take off. But it will. How long before groups who are traditionally non-religious start to eye up the goodies and exemptions that religious groups get, and try to join the party.

This issue promises to make for some interesting discussions in government. Perhaps most amusing of all, Canada's new Office of Religious Freedom would be legally bound to protect the human rights of such groups! The whole issue might spiral into a legal complexity the likes of which are hard to imagine. Maybe, just maybe, if that were to start happening more, the solution would be to treat religious organizations in the same manner as every other group: with proper taxation and having to play by the rules.

No comments:

Post a Comment