"A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

Discussion in 'Senator Xenophon And Scientology' started by theLastAnon, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. theLastAnon Member

    "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    This is an opinion piece that hits the mark...

    A tax-free life is the holy grail, but churches might have to prove they're acting for our benefit | Courier Mail

    by Terry Sweetman
    From: The Courier-Mail
    July 02, 2010 12:00PM

    NOT far from where I live stand two semi-completed townhouses, their derelict state an invitation to the bulldozer and a reminder of somebody's inability to service a dream.
    St John's Cathedral stood incomplete for nearly a century and, while far from derelict, it too was a dream of religious grandiosity beyond the capacity of its parishioners.

    Unlike my near-neighbours, the Anglican Church was able to rally supporters to fulfil its dream.

    Among them was the Federal Government, which kicked in a couple of million bucks of our money.

    It is a reminder of the special place religion and churches claim and enjoy in our supposedly secular nation.

    Churches - famous in lore if not deed for the real estate creed of ``position, position, position'' - largely enjoy exemption from rates and many other charges.

    Ministers of religion have special protection under the Criminal Code so they can conduct their services in peace and dignity.

    Meanwhile, evangelical bullies and fanatics can verbally assail, abuse or insult the rest of us with impunity.

    Trainee ministers were exempt from conscription in the 1960s, although their ordained brothers were welcome to accept comfortable commissions as chaplains.

    And the churches have been treated with great kindness by the Government, which largely grants them almost automatic exemption from paying taxes.

    This exemption from rendering unto Caesar could disappear for some if Senator Nick Xenophon's Public Benefits Test taxation amendment ever sees the legislative light of day.

    It would require religious and charitable institutions to meet a public benefit test to justify their tax exemption, a proposition that is now the subject of a Senate committee inquiry.

    While Scientology was obviously in Xenophon's sights, all other churches and many other charitable organisations are caught in the glare.

    If nothing else, submissions demonstrate that religious cloth offers no protection from vested interests.

    They can be found by following the sound of rending garments on the site.

    Interested parties range from organised atheism, to rationalists, to the super rationalist Treasury (which deals with 60,000 endorsed charities), established churches and, inevitably, to Scientology.

    Scientology has been at pains to demonstrate its caring, sharing qualities but it is up against some who support Xenophon's parliamentary description of it as a criminal organisation given to forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement, violence, intimidation and blackmail.

    Lawyers and churches have submitted that such aberrant behaviour - if proved - could be dealt with through the criminal or civil courts without tampering with the traditional rights of religions and charities.

    They belong to the ``If it ain't broke, don't fix it'' school, although if it ain't busted, it is long due for an overhaul.

    The legal definitions of charity and charitable purposes rely on common law (harking back to 1601) and we still largely resort to the judicial categorisations of charity by Lord Macnaghten in 1891: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, and other purposes beneficial to the community.

    While it might have made sense to pious Victorians, I wonder if the ``advancement of religion'' finds much favour as a charitable endeavour in an increasingly irreligious country.

    Committee member Senator Doug Cameron quoted the Productivity Commission as indicating that the ``benefit to charities in relation to public funding was anywhere between $4billion and $8billion''.

    But nowhere have I seen any valuation on their contribution to the community.

    It would be counter-productive of government to tax genuine charities that shoulder so much of the welfare burden but it is anachronistic and offensive to give tax breaks to support religious proselytising.

    And it would be government-sponsored naivety to continue to accept as gospel the untested charitable credentials of every church or organisation that rattles a collection plate under the noses of its adherents or solicits ``love offerings''.

    Religions work in mysterious ways, some quietly and modestly, but I have doubts about the charitable deeds of some of our more flamboyant evangelistic churches and a whole bunch of charismatic conmen.

    The Treasury submission summed up the aims of the Xenophon amendment as seeking to codify the existing common law test of public benefit and to remove any presumptions for organisations seeking endorsement as charities.

    It doesn't seem to hold too many terrors for genuine charities. Sadly, some have been drafted into a fight that can only benefit those whose claim to taxation exemption is flimsy at best and fraudulent at worst.

    At a time when the Bureau of Statistics reports less than a quarter of Australians participate in church or religious activities, it seems odd that our tax laws are built on the pious presumptions of the first Elizabethan Age.

    It seems John Chrysostom, 4th Century Archbishop of Constantinople, was on to something when he preached: ``For there was found a tax-gatherer and he was transformed into an evangelist.''
  2. OTBT Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    My favorite sentence:

  3. Ann O'Nymous Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

  4. JohnnyRUClear Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Thinking about this bill, and the article, without focusing only on Scientology... there is a case to be made that it's a step closer to totalitarianism, in the sense that it is taking more of the concept and workings of "charity" away from the private sector and transferring it to the state.

    Perhaps instead of going in this direction, charity should be entirely removed from the state and returned to private hands altogether, both in taxation as well as administration. Then the people would "vote" with their own money and time as to which charities should succeed or fail, with no force (which is what government is) involved at all.

    I suppose that's asking for too fundamental of a reform at this point, so the best we can likely do for now is to keep building the total state in hopes of someday getting the formula right. On, post-Christian soldiers.
  5. AnonyVix Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Grappling with your logic, not saying you're wrong but to my mind the benefit test serves only to seek to remove state subsidy from charities the people feel aren't beneficial. Not sure how this is a step closer to totalitarianism.

    Either way your new avatar is awful, for the love of xenu get rid.... :)
  6. JohnnyRUClear Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    What I mean is that creating a PBT does essentially create a notion that it is the state's place to determine what is and is not charitable. Granted that people are still quite free to act charitably without ever even saying boo to the gummint at all, so it's not as though charity is entirely subsumed by the state, but it is getting closer to that arrangement.

    I'd like to see things actually move the other direction: remove tax breaks and reduce/remove taxes and have fewer bureaucrats. Just have the state get out of the business of charity in every regard and stop trying to be a benefits provider, even if that benefit is simply a tax break. I don't expect it, but I'd like it, and society would benefit from it -- provided that society behaves morally.

    Failing that, a PBT makes sense if the state is to continue being involved in charity. I think the hearings made that fairly evident -- and, of course, we already knew of at least one trust abuser operating under the umbrella of a tax break granted on test-free presumption. ;-)

    As for the avatar... it's my house, you bigot.
  7. anonhuff Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    The whole idea behind subsidizing (legitimate, actual public-good charities) is that it is money well spent that the government would otherwise have to spend to provide the service(s) to the community.

    edit: "provided that society behaves morally" that will never happen
  8. JohnnyRUClear Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Yes, I'm aware of that. That is the status quo which I'm addressing: the gummint has already taken on the role of benefits provider, and we're* considering -- in the form of the Senate committee hearings -- whether/how to modify its attempts to fulfill that role.

    Assuming for discussion's sake that your assertion is true, that then raises the question: will the state ever behave morally? Perhaps we might put it this way instead: which is a better repository of moral behavior, the state or the private sector? Does the answer depend on anything, or is it always the same in every society and every form thereof?

    * I say "we" despite being an American, simply because I'm interested in these hearings for my own Chanological purposes. No attempt is being made by me to claim any ownership or control of the actual process taking place in Australia.
  9. Anonymous Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    I always thought He meant

    <Jesus> can haz soulburger?
    <Jesus> pay your own goddamn taxes! do not want
  10. thefatman Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Assuming a Charities Comission is set up, would it not be an independant entity from that of the state? If so, it's hardly a step towards totalitarianism.
  11. JohnnyRUClear Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Uh... who is setting up the commission? Whose commission is it?
  12. Anonymous Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Who is allowing a criminal cult to operate tax free?

    How could stopping that allowance be even more totalitarian?
  13. JohnnyRUClear Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    Because there's more to the world than one cult.

    What I'm talking about is an academic (at this point, purely academic) concept. Trying to consider it solely through a Chanologist lens will result in nonsense, much like trying to evaluate a proposal for a business merger only within the context of a fistfight.

    If it doesn't make sense, feel free to ignore it. I'm only throwing it out there to randomly spark some thoughts beyond this battle.
  14. themadhair Member

    Re: "A tax-free life is the holy grail..." from

    There is an easy way to diffuse this argument – entities that fail a PBT can still operate, can still go about their business and can still do whatever the fuck they want provided they don’t violate the laws.

    The above combined with an understanding of how the tax system is used in this matter should suffice. For example, if you import rapeseed oil into the EU for the purposes of producing biofuel you will pay 0% import duty. The idea is to use the tax system to incentivise good behaviour. When charities are understood to be part of this the whole reason tax exemptions even exist becomes clear.

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