Theocrats Try for Two-fer

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I have commented here numerous times on how the applicability of that that old saw in economics, "controls breed controls", is not limited to economics.

Do not think that just because enemies of individual rights fail to understand the nature of rights or to appreciate the dire consequences of the government trampling them for everyone (including themselves) that they do not grasp the above fact on the level of low cunning. They do, and they will never refrain from helping the process accelerate if they see a chance to increase or consolidate their political power. Yesterday, for example, I learned that some theocrats see in the labyrinth of federal tax law an opportunity to start telling people whom to vote for each Sunday:

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

"For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church," ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. "It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It's not for the government to mandate the role of church in society." [links dropped, bold added]
What "cloud of intimidation", Mr. Stanley, would that be? That churches can't enjoy a government-granted exemption from taxation and act to influence the government? And what of the real "cloud of intimidation" that exists for enyone who has to consider the Byzantine rules of taxation in so many areas of his life?

The truth is that taxation violates the individual's right to property and that everyone has the right to freedom of speech. Were the government not so busy confiscating everyone's property (with occasional exemptions that, predictably, have strings attached, as we see with the exemption on churches), the issue of pastors feeling hemmed in by an inconvenient rule would never even arise.

So are the pastors emulating their forebears who spoke against slavery at the pulpit by crusading against taxation? (Taxation is another form of slavery, after all.) No. They are instead making the problem worse by accepting taxation of everyone else but themselves, while demanding only that the attached strings be cut. (In the process, they more closely resemble leftists who correctly hold that a woman has the right to an abortion, but incorrectly hold that the exercise of this right ought to be subsidized.)

If we are going to have taxation, it is already arguable that exempting churches from it verges on a violation of the separation of church and state. What the pastors have in mind will make this problem worse: They are effectively demanding government subsidies for the preaching of political sermons.

The right to freedom of speech does not equal the right to make others subsidize its forum or transmission, especially in the name of the government. Yet this is exactly what these pastors hope to achieve.

The right solution to this dilemma is not to add yet another bad rule onto the heap. Nor is it to "reform" an inherently corrupt taxation system. The right solution is to abolish taxation. As these pastors demonstrate, we will not only see our property rights better respected in doing so, we would also remove a beachhead for the establishment of religious tyranny at the same time. No wonder I haven't heard about any anti-taxation sermons lately!

Let the pastors endorse political candidates -- but without government help or the appearance of a state imprimatur.

-- CAV

PS: The Wall of Separation discusses this "pulpit initiative" in more detail.


: Minor edits.


Jim May said...

Hmm, that's a tricky one -- is a tax break really exactly equivalent to a subsidy? What, then, is the counterpoint to be made if someone points out the ARI's tax-exempt status as a kind of "subsidy" for Objectivism?

This sounds like it is related the same kind of issue that occasionally comes up when someone says that an Objectivist is somehow being a "hypocrite" if he utilizes or takes advantage of things that are entirely or partially supported by government, such as public parks, post offfices and public transit, all the way to government-assisted (FHA) home loans.

Gus Van Horn said...

"[I]s a tax break really exactly equivalent to a subsidy?"

No, but I did not claim that it is.

The problem here that has precipitated this action is that the government BOTH implicitly recognizes that "the power to tax is the power to destroy" when it exempts religion from taxation AND that its exemption of religions from taxation would, if that exemption resulted in influence on the government, be dangerously close to violating separation of church and state. (All of this is brought on and made worse by the problem that essentially nobody recognizes taxation for the gross violation of rights that it is.)

"This sounds like it is related...." It somewhat parallels it, but it is not the same: Opposing government force while recouping some small part of what has been stolen from you (AR's stand) is not the same thing as what these pastors are doing, which is to attempt to take advantage of an inconsistency in a non-objective law in order to make the situation even worse.

Very good question. I consider this my initial stab at it and feel like there might be more thinking to be done on it, but if there is, it's the kind that needs to occur in the back of my mind.

Any further thoughts from you?

Anonymous said...

Looks like you were quite prescient with your lipstick on a pig metaphor.

Gus Van Horn said...