Monday, June 4, 2012

Religious Free(dom?)

While we chew our nails in anticipation of tomorrow's elections in Wisconsin, I thought I might distract you a little by looking at the latest "religious freedom" controversy.  In short, Catholic institutions (as distinguished from most Catholics) don't want to pay for contraception for their various Catholic and non-Catholic employees.  Given that Catholicism in America is a pretty large cartel, there are a lot of women with unwanted pregnancies — both Catholic and not Catholic — who work for that cartel.  The bombastic bishops are being goosed ahead by the evangelical right.

When Obama moved the responsibility for contraception from the religious institutions to their private insurance companies, it was a cop-out, of course.  Our President's 2012 campaign song ought to be Paul Simon's "Slip Sliding Away."  Presumably, he didn't use enough lube, because the bishops are still (sans lube) up his ass (despite the fact that he passed through puberty many years ago.)

Personally, I think there's not nearly enough separation of Church and State.  When the right-wing religious ideologues start yelling about the First Amendment, I am inclined to step back, gather up a few thunderclouds, and shout, "Hypocrites!  Woe be unto you!  Surely, the command from the Lord, thy God, is to go fuck thyself!"

Okay.  Let us zipline down from the mountaintop, and get a little more analytical and less emotional.

Mitt Romney tithes to the Mormon church, and 100% of his tithe is tax deductible (even if he doesn't really need the deduction.  He's got more than ample deductions, rate advantages, and credits just by virtue of being rich.)  How much of his tax-deductible tithe was spent on, for example,
  • Baptizing dead people, including dead celebrities, victims of the Holocaust, etc.?
  • Converting hapless adherents of other faith systems by sending young missionaries around the world?  (Romney, as you may know, was sent to convert the French.  Sacrebleu!)
  • Actions to influence the outcomes of legislative initiatives and/or elections?
  • Acquiring real estate and hence making it nontaxable?
There's more, of course, but why belabor the point?  I'm not saying that religious organizations never do valuable and real charitable work, nor that the Mormons are worse than any of the others.  Catholic Charities does a great deal of good for the poor, especially children, so donations that go to that aspect of the Catholic Church certainly should be deductible.  On the other hand, donations that go to projects like gilding the cupola, shuffling kiddie-diddling priests around, and suing the United States government over contraception regulations should not.

In other words, I think charity should be defined as money going to do measurable good to those actually in need — and by that, I mean in this life, not some hypothetical next life.

I'm not allowed to deduct my contributions to the ACLU, because they might go to work that is somehow political.  Well, if you think today's churches, synogogues, mosques, etc. are not political, then your head is up your ass.  Isn't it time to take a look at how tax advantaged religious organizations are using the taxpayer money they gain through their tax advantages?

As a totally secular individual paying taxes to subsidize other people's superstitions, I do.

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