Australia: A battle over religious tax exemptions
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10-05-2013, 11:41 PM
Australia: A battle over religious tax exemptions
Our tax system, like others, has "furthering religion" as a head of charity. A couple of years ago the tax department asked for submissions regarding the definition of charity and now they are looking at bringing out a legislative response.

Dr John L Perkins of the Secular Party has sent a further submission in.

Quote:The definition of a charitable purpose must include only those activities that are unequivocally a public benefit. There is no doubt that relieving sickness and poverty and promoting education are unequivocally beneficial. The advancement of religion is not. To the extent that advancing religion advances the other charitable purposes, its inclusion is unnecessary. To the extent that it does otherwise, its inclusion is unwarranted.

The intention of the proposed Charities Bill 2013 is to provide a definition of charity for the 21st century. Yet this bill, as the Explanatory Notes acknowledge, entrenches an anachronistic definition of charity originating in the 17th century1. No justification for this is provided.

The fact that advancing religion is not, of itself, a public benefit is acknowledged in the Bill. It is because of “doubt” that a religious purpose could fulfil the public benefit test that such organisations are exempted from the test2. Why is it that the proposed definition of charity is specifically crafted to include a purpose that is implicitly recognised as not a public benefit? There is no explanation in the Notes.

The issue is more than that the advancement of religion is not necessarily beneficial. There is abundant evidence that it is not beneficial but harmful, corrupting, divisive and dangerous. It should not be necessary to refer to the crimes that paedophile priests have committed while engaged in their “charitable purpose”. The egregious nature of religious conflict around the world can be observed daily.

It should be noted that the charitable purpose provided by Islamic schools in Australia encompasses the teaching of an extreme style of Wahhabi Islam imported from Saudi Arabia. It is not unlikely that this particular form of the advancement of religion is now cultivating the minds of future home-grown Australian terrorists. Such effects have already been demonstrated by convictions in Australian courts.

That the definition of charity should be twisted to allow and encourage the promotion of such divisive activities is more than an anachronistic anomaly. It is an outrage.

The effect of the proposed definition does not only jeopardise the future harmony of Australian society: it comes at significant cost to the budget revenue and to the Australian taxpayer. This does not just include subsidies and tax concessions granted to religious organisations: we have calculated that when we include an estimate of tax forgone on the unreported revenue derived from the imputed financial and other assets of religions organisations, then the total annual cost of religions to governments in Australia exceeds $30 billion.

We therefore submit that the advancement of religion should be removed from the definition of charitable purpose. The exemption provided for religious groups from fulfilling the public benefit test should also be removed from the Bill. The Explanatory Notes provided for the Bill raise many anomalies with regard to the treatment of religion. We now comment on these in more detail.

Full submission...
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11-05-2013, 01:14 PM
RE: Australia: A battle over religious tax exemptions
I wish Canadian law would be changed to remove advancement of religion as a charitable endeavour. It serves no actual benefit to the public. Under current laws I could promote a form of neo-Nazism as long as I mask it as a religion, and it would qualify my hate group as a charity.

Educating kids for university or careers free of charge is charitable. Providing free medical treatments is charitable. Fundraising for cancer research is charitable. Changing someone's opinion on which particular deity created the universe isn't.

If something can be destroyed by the truth, it might be worth destroying.

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