Monday, October 23, 2006

Pope Pimps Latin Mass

It seems that Pope Benedict XVI's intends to make it easier for churches to do the Catholic mass in Latin. Under the new rule, priests will not have to seek the permission of bishops in order to perform the old Latin mass, called the Tridentine Mass. The linked article suggests that this is an attempt to reach out to conservative members of the faith.

In other news, my parents parish apparently played a film about why stem cell research is bad this past weekend. Churches just don't deserve tax-exempt status. I'm not entirely sure that there's causal link in my thinking here, but if there were, it'd be something like - if you want to play politics, you gots to pay taxes. It doesn't seem right to me that some people get special rights just because of their religion.


Drew You Too said...

Of course it doesn't seem right that some are treated better than others because of their religion. That's why there USED TO BE this thing called Seperation of Church and State. Hmmmmmmm, maybe there was a reason for that.

Arfanser said...

Wow, Drew you are an idiot on so many levels. It is good to see that the renaissance idiot remains alive and well in you.

Jason Goldman said...

Tridentine, from the latin meaning three pieces of gum endorsed by 4 out of 5 dentists.

Blu~ said...

I completely agree and no where in the constitution does it say we have to pay taxes...It is completely illegal and i just can't get why we keep leeting it go. If we all just stopped paying them or didn't file them what could they do to us...? I mean all of us?
Churches especially should have to pay taxes, like the ones where people run around with snakes and such, c'mon....


Drew You Too said...

On the subject of "No law requiring wage earners to pay an income tax" check out

Fishfrog said...

This is in response to Blu~:

Congress derives the power to tax from two separate sources in the Constitution. The first is Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States"

In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution. It says:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

Interestingly, the Sixteeth Amendment did not give Congress the power to tax. Congress was granted that power in the text of the original constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1). The Sixteenth Amendment simply gave Congress the power to tax without apportionment.

Congress has used its legislative power to enact Title 26 of the United State Code, also known as the Internal Revenue Code. Section 1(c) provides:

"There is hereby imposed on the taxable income of every individual… a tax determined in accordance with the following table…"

Be careful though, because the rates in the table that follows have be replace with lower rate tables the income levels which are inflation-indexed.

So maybe I'm just too trusting, but Congress's power to tax seems pretty well founded in the Constitution. In addition, they seem pretty clearly to have used that power to impose a tax on income from whatever source derived.

Arfanser said...

I know fishfrog will help me out here, but churches dont get tax exempt status because they are churches, they get tax exempt status because they are nonprofs. While there are limitations on political activities by nonprofs, they do not have to be apolitical.

As for the "separation of church and state," the right to free exercise (actually in the constitution) offers even greater support for tax exempt status of churches.

Fishfrog said...

Now I'm no expert on exempt organizations, but I do have some experience with IRC 501. It's my understanding that churches derive their tax-exempt status via 501(c)(3), which provides, in part:

"Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition…, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation…, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

So my reading of the statute is that churches are tax exempt not because they are charities, but because they are organized for a religious purpose. It's possible (and common) for a nonprofit to specify more that one purpose in its Articles of Incorporation and on Form 1023 (application for tax-exempt status), so I would imagine that a church would list as its purposes religous, charitable, and maybe educational.

And I actually think that the separation of church and state militates against special tax treatment for religious organizations. Once the government has determined a category is to receive treatment different from the norm, it then has to determine who fits in that category. As the plight of the Scientologists in the 70's and 80's showed, this determination has to turn on formal, objective evidence. Otherwise, there would be rampant fraud (more rampant, anyway) with taxpayers claiming that their households or sham corporations are religious organizations.

So the Treasury and the courts devised a set of standards, largely if not entirely derived from judeo-christian practices, which an organization must follow in order to be a "religion." I can't remember all of the factors, but they are things like a formal place of worship, a leader who is set apart by specialized garb, observance of rites and rituals, etc.

It seems to me that putting the IRS in the center of a determination of whether something is or is not a religion violates both separation of church and state and the establishment clause.

Again, I have limited experience with 501(c)(3) and I am not licensed to practice law in any state or country on the planet.

Matt said...

And there are limits on the political activity that 501c3 organization can do.

1 - They absolutely can't campaign on behalf of a candidate.

but an archbishop says that John Kerry can't receive communion and the catholic church keeps its tax exempt status.

2 - ...and they can't engage in substantial lobbying activities.

yet they're showing propaganda films in my parents' church on amendment 2, and the catholic church keeps its tax exempt status.

I'm using the catholic church as an example because I happen to know about it, but the problem would apply to many other churches. And they're getting a pass on enforcement because they're churches.

Here's my statutory authority from Internal Revenue Code 501c3: "no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."