Tax the Westboro gang!...
American churches pull in about $100 billion every year, and pay no taxes on the money.
How does the IRS decide whether an organization is a church, and therefore exempt from taxation? You can pretty much get a free pass from the IRS if you at least pretend to be part of one of the established churches. They look for a church with a history, a “recognized” creed, an “established” place to worship. Essentially if you can make it look like you’re Baptists or Methodists or whatever, you get to keep the money. The outliers – Wiccans, Druids, Pastafarians etc – get a lot more scrutiny, and of course people like agnostics and atheists get no tax break at all, which to me smacks of discrimination.
Which brings me to the Westboro Baptist “Church”. The “God Hates Fags” bunch. What is it, that makes this sack of loons a church, other than sticking the word “Baptist” in their name?
This maniac Fred Phelps, boss of the WBC, is, only by the broadest interpretation, any kind of minister. His religious credentials are dubious – he was “ordained” at the age of 17 by a preacher who ordains “ministers” by the hundreds after brief and perfunctory “examinations”, but even that preacher who ordained Phelps later admitted that Phelps was delusional. Phelps’ religious training is minimal – he wandered around from one bible school after another for a couple of years, but appears to have absorbed little. So he is scarcely a real preacher.
The Westboro bunch do not belong to the major Baptist denominations – the big American Baptist groups have specifically and publicly rejected them. Those groups run the Baptist community, and they say flat-out that the Westboro bunch are NOT Baptists. Jerry Falwell, the Baptist King, agreed with the guy who ordained Phelps, and called Phelps a “first-class nut”. And the Westboro clan has replied in kind, condemning all the other Baptists. So they are scarcely “Baptists”.
Phelps worked briefly as a low-ranking pastor in the East Side Baptist Church in Topeka; about a year later that church built a second branch and handed it over to Phelps. Phelps showed his gratitude by cutting off ties with the original East Side church – it was more like a real-estate seizure than a ministry. And since then the “church” has essentially consisted of Phelps and the rest of his loony family and their followers. Their “ministry” consists of picketing, around six protests a day, more on Sundays. Huge amounts of the “church” budget goes into these protests. Doesn’t sound like a church to me.
Do they offer church services? On Sunday they don’t ramp up for services, prayer, any of that: they ramp up to increase the amount of protests – much of that involves picketing other churches. Do they do missionary work, convert people, offer services to the poor, the sick, the old? Do they do charity work? Do they have any message about the ministry of Jesus? Do they partake of the global dialogue on the meaning of faith, other than to condemn most other churches as devil worship because they don’t hate gays enough? They spend a lot of time condemning other churches and they actually oppose religious education. So this is scarcely a church – it sounds almost like an anti-church, only a few scary steps away from the Manson family.
(In addition to lacking the credentials of a true minister, Phelps has also been disbarred as a lawyer – he went on a psychotic vendetta against a court reporter, dragging the girl into court for a week, cross-examining her, calling her a slut and speculating about her sexual practices, until finally the authorities tossed him out, banning him from practicing both in Kansas court and federal court.)
So how is it that the IRS gets out their proctoscope whenever a little band of harmless Druids wants to pray to the sun or a sheep or whatever, but they totally ignore this Phelps loon and his merry band of terrorists? Couldn’t the IRS start enforcing their own rules, and if so, who better to start with, than Phelps? His connection to the Baptist faith is so tenuous, that by his logic, a whole lot of organizations – anyone from Greenpeace to McDonald’s – could claim to be a Baptist church and avoid taxation.
And how many other rightwing political groups – because that’s what they are – are not paying their fair share of taxes, by pretending to be churches when they’re really political organizations? If those guys aren’t political organizations, then how is it that they are working through our legislatures to dominate policy-making on abortion, school vouchers, school prayer, intelligent design, putting the Commandments in courtrooms, stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning, civil unions, HPV shots, contraception, sex education, faith-based initiatives, banning books, and assisted suicide? I think people who insist on running our government should at least pay their share of the upkeep.