Dial-THE-Atheist is a telephone message service sponsored by American Atheists, Inc. You can listen to it at (512) 458-5731.
Thank you for calling Dial-THE-Atheist. This is Madalyn O'Hair.
In opening the mail today, I came across one envelope which contained a newspaper clipping. That's not unusual since we ask all our members to monitor the newspapers and magazines in their area and to clip and send any item having to do with an egregious state/church separation violation, or anything having to do with Atheism. If you want to do the same, make certain that the source and the date is on the clipping and then, send it in.
However, when I opened up this large clipping, I fell off my chair. I simply could not accept it as a fact. This came from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper and was dated April 24. That is, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The heading is "Churches gear up to head off tax bite."
My first reaction, before I even read it was, "It could never happen in the United States," and then, I read it. It seems that the Fair Tax Commission in that city in December 1993 suggested that the churches pay their "fair share" of municipal property taxes. Now, that's a phrase that American Atheists has been using for at least four decades.
The immediate reaction from the provincial treasurer was that the government would not implement the new recommendation and that none of the proposed property tax changes will be enacted before the next elections. Does that sound like "business as usual" to you?
The Anglican, United, and evangelical churches are beginning to investigate the effects of the recommendation. The newspaper article had pictures of six enormous cathedrals. Under each was a proposed amount of taxation, at current property tax rates. The Roman Catholic Notre Dame Basilica's estimated tax would be $30,000 a year. The Christ Church Cathedral's tax would be $13,000. One United church would face $15,000 a year property tax; a Presbyterian church $10,000; a Synagogue $15,000 and a Mosque $4,500.
Would you think that the churches would have gall enough to play "poor mouth" on the issue? The poor dear churches feel harassed. In the middle of the report was this sentence - in parenthesis: "Three out of four Canadians do not attend regular worship services." The Commission looked at the statistics simply by saying "Times have changed":
In the 19th century, delivering an implicit subsidy to religious organizations would not have been particularly controversial . . . Today, implicit subsidies for religious organizations are being funded in part by individuals who do not adhere to any of the organizations.And, that is the rub. Implicit subsidies for religious organizations, such as their exemption from any kind of tax, real estate tax, income tax, sales tax, and so on, means that all those taxes are higher for persons who do not adhere to any of the religions being support, do not attend the churches, and often are in conflict with the teachings of particular religions.
But, weeping and moaning, the Christ Church Cathedral said that the cathedral would have to cut services worth far more than its possible tax bill of $13,000. Those services are so called social services, such as women's shelters, social housing and food banks. The only difficulty with such a statement is that it is a gawd-damn lie. All over the world the churches seek tax money to provide these services because people in crisis are the best candidates for church membership. Governments fund such services and the churches administer them - a marriage of state and church functions. The churches usually get all the credit and no one knows that the tax payers foot the bill.
Well, the point of this story is that the Fair Tax Commission members had balls enough to make the suggestion that the churches should pay municipal property taxes. That's more than any of you are going to hear from any tax commission in the United States for many, many years to come.
Of course, American Atheists keeps plugging away with the idea. If you want to help, join us. The address is American Atheists, P O Box 2117, Austin, TX. That zip is 78768. And, if you want to get to us quicker, there is always the American Atheist Bulletin Board Service. That number is (area code 512). Telephone number 302-0223.
Meanwhile, you can dial this Atheist any time.
Provided by: AMERICAN ATHEIST ONLINE SERVICES, P O Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195. Voice: (512) 458-1244. FAX: (512) 467-9525. BBS: (512) 302-0223.
Text reprinted courtesy of the American Atheists, Inc. Copyright 1994. All rights reserved. This may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of American Atheists, Inc.