The Federal Government should immediately remove the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status. Why on Earth (or anywhere else in the Galactic Confederacy) should taxpayers be supporting the dream of a wacky science fiction author? Why, when governments are struggling to adequately fund emergency departments, should it be neglecting to collect a share of money from this pseudo-scientific behemoth?

This outrageous loophole for religions must be closed. For all religions. The Government should bite the bullet and take tax-free status away from the Catholics, the Christians, the Muslims, the Buddhists. It must start taxing religions.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon and a bunch of brave ex-Scientologists have made some allegations of appalling behaviour by the Church of Scientology under the protective blanket of Parliamentary privilege.

Mr Xenophon said :

There are allegations of false imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical violence, intimidation, blackmail and the widespread and deliberate abuse of information obtained by the organisation. It is alleged that information about suspicious deaths and child abuse has been destroyed, and one follower has admitted he was coerced by the organisation into perjuring himself during investigations into the deaths of his two daughters.

This isn’t the first time such allegations have been made. These are matters for the police. That will in itself be an interesting process. But the allegations also prompted Mr Xenophon to call for Scientologists to begin paying tax.

Too bloody right.

Churches - all of them - can and should be distinguished from their charities. Churches do a lot of great work. So do secular non-profit organisations. If they are in the public interest, if they are helping the needy, if they meet standards of transparency and cost effectiveness, let them keep the tax-free status. But the religions themselves must start paying their way.

In response to Mr Xenophon’s comments in Parliament, the Scientologists defended themselves by comparing those who criticised them to bitter ex-spouses. Well, often ex-spouses have reason to be bitter. Again, a thorough police investigation is needed – although it will be difficult work if allegations of intimidation, violence and even murder stand in the way of witnesses coming forward, and if allegations of Scientologists shipping evidence off to the US are true.

The second defence the Scientologists brought to bear is that they are a “bona fide” religion, as if that is proof of innocence.

It’s almost the opposite, a cynic might say.

They said:

“The Church of Scientology internationally has grown from one Church in 1954 to more than 8000 Churches, Missions and groups in 165 countries today. The Church sponsors an international human rights education initiative as well as the world’s largest nongovernmental drug education program. Four new Churches have opened in 2009, most recently the Church of Scientology of Rome on October 24, with a new Church opening in Washington, DC, on October 31. In April, three new Churches were dedicated: in Malmo, Sweden; Dallas, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. The Scientology religion has expanded more in the past year than in the past five years combined and more in the past five years than in the past five decades combined.”

So they’re big. So what?

It’s a slippery exercise to distinguish a religion from a cult. Academics, governments and courts have been trying to do it for decades. Often they are defined based on their size. Which would mean that all spiritual movements start as cults, then arbitrarily become religions once they pass a pre-determined membership point. That seems superficial and also dangerous – wouldn’t a cult do anything to achieve “religious” status?

They used to argue that a cult was a cult if it was not a culture’s primary religion. That’s pretty hard to stand up in our postmodern, multicultural world.

History is also sometimes taken into account. If it’s been around long enough, it’s a religion. Again, spurious.

The ATO defines a religion as involving “belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle and acceptance of canons of conduct that give effect to that belief”. Vague to the point of uselessness.

Most religious movements are similar in structure. They have rituals, emotional and often financial investment, charismatic leaders, tenets. They have their own language. They posit life as a journey with a specific goal, which will only be attained if certain prerequisites are met. For some this may be the 10 commandments, for others it’s wearing purple Nikes, for others it’s being achieving higher states through being audited. Different keys to different heavens.

The debate is an interesting philosophical one, but when it comes to the legal issues, the taxation decisions, it’s clear we must treat them as though they are all the same. Take away the taxpayer support for the non-charity part of their operations. Redistribute the money through all charities, or through welfare. Australians are free to believe whatever they want, but the taxpayer has no obligation to prop up their faith.

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    • RivahMitch says:

      07:03am | 26/05/12

      I don’t personally care what you do in Australia but here in the USA, this is an absurd proposition. First, our Constitution specifically says “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. One of our earliest Supreme Court cases denied states the right to tax the Federal government because “the power to tax is the power to destroy”. Hence, allowing the government to tax religious institutions gives it the defact power to “prohibit the free exercise thereof”. Perhaps some folks worship at the alter of government but many of us here do not.

    • Mary Laloyianni says:

      02:48pm | 16/12/09

      The best way for religions to be charitable to the community is for all of them to be taxed and the money used for public services, such as housing, dental, medical, education. Tax-free rules were introduced to help struggling not-for-profit organisations pay their bills and keep afloat. When introduced no-one envisaged the Sanitariums and big mulit nationals that make hundreds of millions of dollars. Any organisation making a profit should pay tax for the advancement and progression of all Australians. Tax-free laws are being abused by organisations and individuals. A referendum is needed on this topic. In fact the next referendum Australia has also need to address other issues, such as trading hours of liqour outlets and pubs. Many years ago there was no violence on the streets and referendums determined trading hours of pubs. The government stopped asking the public what it wanted and now there all night alchohol trade accompanied with violence on the streets. Again - AT THE COST OF THE TAXPAYER.

    • Rick. says:

      08:08am | 04/12/09

      Religious bodies should be taxed the same as any other hobby group, but with all the usual deductions for their defined charity activities.

    • Peter B says:

      09:37am | 24/11/09

      Followup to my last post. See this table at the ATO web site. “Tax concessions - an overview - Tax basics for non-profit organisations”

      http://www.ato.gov.au/nonprofit/content.asp?doc=/content/33743.htm&mnu=45419&mfp=001/004

      As far as I can tell, religious organisations only get the same benefits as other non-profit organisations.

      (Note this is as distinct to religious-based charities, like World Vision or St. Vinnies, which DO get tax exemption in the same way as non-religious-based charities like Red Cross).

    • Peter B says:

      09:27am | 24/11/09

      How are churches tax exempt? Donations are NOT tax exempt - as any church member will know - and church employees pay income tax. T

    • Burkie says:

      12:07am | 24/11/09

      There is no logic whatever to exempting a religion from tax as there is no measurable benefit to the community from a belief in God. Monotheism need not and should not be rewarded from the public purse. We are talking about how a government should spend our hard-earned here. HOWEVER, there is clearly a measurable benefit from many of the works that religious folks perform, regardless of what you or I think of the logic of their motivations. It is perfectly reasonable to me that my tax dollar is spent subsidising such works as Vinnies, Salvos, Anglicare and Caritas. Surely the smart folk at the ATO could devise a system which rewards those works, based on a measure of outcome. Yes, assessment will be potentially fuzzy, because how can the poor old ATO define a ‘good work’, but it will be way better than having to subsidise every enterprise of every mob who moves into a recently closed carpet warehouse and calls themselves a church. Well-run genuine organisations with transparent accounting should actually benefit by finding the charity marketplace less crowded. And it would be fascinating to see what happens to the numbers of well-groomed, toothsome, soft-rockin’ new Christians when their pastor’s tax exemption is removed and he moves into real estate instead. (Obviously Australian Idol would be axed for lack of contestants, but small loss.)

    • Jay says:

      01:46pm | 23/11/09

      Oh wow, some epic pieces of nonsense here. The equally unprovable—believeinitbecausesomeguytoldmeto-sky god is apparently fine, but Xenu isnt?

      As for this from Nora:
      “Silly girl, churches have been ‘paying their way’ for two millennia. Who do you think started universal education? Who do you think started hospitals? Who do you think developed the concept of the dole and other charitable payments? Who do you think fought to abolish slavery?”

      Umm, Nora, think you’ll find that for most of its existence, the christian religion has done little more than bled the local populace of its money so that its bishops and abbots live in palaces, building cathedrals that take a century to build and cost dozens of lives (read into how the purchase of sins to pay for the new St Peters cathedral which sparked the entire reformation)... Denied education to same people (remember that the Catholic mass was still performed in LATIN until the 1960s) and argued against the abolition of slavery (in the US as opposed to the UK - religious tripe can inspire anything you want it to) because the bible gave them precedence for its acceptability. STARTED schools and hospitals and were the bastions of science during the middle ages? Oh please! Thats such religious apologists fantasy, you really need to read a little deeper than what they hand out to you after church on sunday…

      But hey what would I know, an ex-christian athiest who is a good and moral person without needing to be bullied into doing so like the majority of christians who cant believe you dont need religion to be a moral person (says more about the flock than they realise)

    • Bethany says:

      09:58am | 23/11/09

      Religious organisations should pay tax. Charities should not. I would have thought this was practically self-evident.

    • EssJay says:

      08:38am | 23/11/09

      To Colin says: 07:13pm | 20/11/09: Those from the “anti-religious” are indeed bright and base their convictions on scientific evidence, observation and fact, whereas the religious have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to justify their voodoo, supernatural superstitions.

    • Colin says:

      06:13pm | 20/11/09

      As usual the comments coming from the anti-religious indicate that section of society isn’t too bright.

    • EssJay says:

      03:57pm | 20/11/09

      To Lucas says: 03:55pm | 20/11/09: Your argument “these donations are already given post income-tax.” is ridiculous. It’s like saying companies should not be taxed because the money that we spend with them is post-income tax.

      Donations to the Church are income for the Church and should be taxed as such, just the same as for the rest of us.

    • EssJay says:

      03:34pm | 20/11/09

      Heliocentrism may have been first posited by Copernicus. But Galileo observed the planet Jupiter through his telescope and viewed it’s moons orbiting the planet. This confirmed to him that heliocentrism was indeed the case, that it was the Earth which moved, not the Sun, hence his belief in it. He faced the Inquisition because of his beliefs and was ordered to renounce them, which the Inquisition deemed to be heretical, and to state that the Earth did not move. He was ordered imprisoned, which was later commuted to house arrest for the rest of his life. If this is not correct Nora, why then did Pope John Paul II in 2000 issue an apology regarding the trial of Galileo?

      Whilst the Church extols the “virtues” of monogamy, it completely ignores the issue of safe-sex. What happens in the case of a married couple where one partner has HIV, say from a blood transfusion, and the other is negative? Condoms could provide a barrier to transmission, but under the edict of the Church, are not be used. So what is the couple meant to do? Abstain for life, or risk having unprotected sex?

      Spin as much as you like about child sexual abuse, but I think you’ll find that in the US, just as one example, the Catholic Church has almost been bankrupted because of rampant, child sexual abuse. But it’s not just isolated to the Church in US - it’s happened the world over. So why did so much of it occur within the Church and why did they hush it up Nora?

    • Lucas says:

      02:55pm | 20/11/09

      The crux of the issue is should private donations to a church be taxed? The answer to this is no, as these donations are already given post income-tax.  This would be another example of governmental double dipping, of the worst kind.  Should tennis clubs pay company tax?

      However, should churches or non-profit organisations who run businesses on the side (for profit) be taxed (e.g. Music industry, Food industry)?  Quite simply, yes, at the current Company Tax rate.

      All organisations should have their finances opened for assessment and auditing, and if not, I would encourage not to be so generous with donations towards them.  Choose wisely who you donate to - there are so many worthwhile options.

    • Nora Charles says:

      02:12pm | 20/11/09

      @EssJay - you might actually want to know something about what you’re talking about.

      Look at the way the likes of Galileo was treated by the Catholic Church because of his correct determination by scientific observation of heliocentrism .

      Fail
      Heliocentrism was first posited by Copernicus years before. Galileo got into trouble for not allowing his work to be peer reviewed.  One of his ‘evidences’ was tides were a result of Earth’s movement around the sun. Obviously wrong.

      So it was obviously right that the Catholic Church (the leading scientific publisher of the day) wanted more evidence before challenging the long-held Aristolean view of geocentricity.

      The Catholic Church’s opposition to the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS is just downright irresponsible.

      Wrong. Do some research, you’ll find that the most successful long term African AIDS projects have partner-limitation (monogamy) as a core goal.

      Think for a second. You can hand out as many condoms as you like but until you change attitudes to casual and other risky sexual behaviours you are not going to reduce HIV transmission.

      The Christian Church, particularly the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for - a lot of it not good, such as child sexual abuse

      Do you want to take a look at News.com.au’s home page today, story after story of teachers (women as well as men) sexually abusing students? Should we close down schools? Do we say going to school is bad for children?

      Of course not.

    • EssJay says:

      12:50pm | 20/11/09

      To Nora Charles says: 10:06am | 20/11/09: What tripe. Look at the way the likes of Galileo was treated by the Catholic Church because of his correct determination by scientific observation of heliocentrism . The Church only admitted they were wrong some 400 years later when Galileo was pardoned by John Paul II. The Catholic Church’s opposition to the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS is just downright irresponsible. You state “Christianity created the very revolutionary notion of the equality of every man”. That’s true unless you are gay of course and then you are discriminated against and vilified by the Church and certainly not equal. I could go on, but I won’t. Please don’t try and rewrite history. The Christian Church, particularly the Catholic Church has a lot to answer for - a lot of it not good, such as child sexual abuse. But let’s leave that to another time shall we?

    • John says:

      12:33pm | 20/11/09

      Maybe a lot the non-believers just do work without recognition because they do not belong to a religion and therefore are not counted. They are many charitable organizations that are not religious. Example -Médecins Sans Frontières, The Red Cross, United Nations Children’s Fund, Amnesty International, Oxfam International to name a few.

    • EssJay says:

      11:24am | 20/11/09

      To The Ghost says: 09:47am | 19/11/09 & 10:32am | 19/11/09: So the conclusion you can draw from your comments/quotes is that the Church must turn a profit - there must be a payback, a return on their investment e.g. an imposition of their beliefs on those they are assisting. It makes a mockery of samaritanism. Obviously you and the Church are doing it for the wrong reason. I do good for other people too, but unlike you, I don’t expect anything in return. It is enough for me that I have helped someone, usually anonymously.

    • H of SA says:

      11:17am | 20/11/09

      Chris L. It’s pretty irresponsible to say what you have without doing some research. Here is a starting point:

      William Wilberforce

    • Nora Charles says:

      09:06am | 20/11/09

      @ Chris L

      the church condoned slavery and actively hindered emancipation.

      Rubbish. The campaign against slavery was fought almost single handedly in parliament by William Wilberforce who was also actively supported by his church. Who do you think John Newton was? Do you even know?

      Christianity created the very revolutionary notion of the equality of every man.

      Sure some misguided people have tried to use the Bible for their unsavoury agenda, in the same way people have used Charles Darwin’s work to create the equally unsavoury promotion of eugenics.

      In fact religion has often been the balast dragging on social and scientific advance.

      Bollocks. Completely untrue of Christianity. During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was the pioneer of scientific research. Leading scientists were Popes, Bishops, Abbots and Priests.

      Some names you might know: Bede, the Venerable, Roger Bacon, Nicolaus Copernicus, Michael Stifel, William Turner, John Napier, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Carolus Linnaeus, Charles Babbage, Gregor Mendel, John Ambrose Fleming.

    • H of SA says:

      09:05am | 20/11/09

      @ Chris - oh that old religion vs science chestnut. How tired of it the informed are. As has been said before, those that play religion and science off against each other typically have little understanding of either subject. Do you think that researchers are exlusively non-church goers or something? That there are no faithful scientists? Who do you think does research - people! And outside of this country and the united kingdom, the vast majority of people profess to faith in a divine being

    • Chris L says:

      11:36pm | 19/11/09

      Nora Charles 8:35am the church condoned slavery and actively hindered emancipation. In fact religion has often been the balast dragging on social and scientific advance.

    • davido says:

      11:13pm | 19/11/09

      Remove all tax exempt status for charities and religions. Simple and fair.

    • SteveB says:

      10:56pm | 19/11/09

      Lachlan says:10:38am | 19/11/09
      “The reality is church funds are via donations which go back into these services.
      Perhaps a better understanding of the good work churches do would be good before the usual church bashing “

      You honestly believe that donations are the only source of Church income? You should probably get some understanding yourself.

    • Andrew Goff says:

      07:04pm | 19/11/09

      @Lynda Hopgood: The flying spagetthi monster awaits with his open noodly appendages.

      I believe in God, find guideance from the ethical brain that God gave me. Can I please be tax exempt?

    • Nora Charles says:

      06:26pm | 19/11/09

      @Jay - are you a member of Hillsong? If so this is a question you should be asking of them. If you are not and you’d like to make it your business, then you should join the church.

      All the non-profits I’m involved with (and yes, one of them is a church) have books available for review by appointment.

      @ Jasper - hey it’s not just me saying it. Professor Arthur C. Brooks from Syracuse University published research in 2006 that showed religious people gave 30% more to charity than secular people.

      Harvard professor Robert Putnam and University of Notre Dame scholar David Campbell show in a study published this year that religious people are three to four times more likely to be involved in their community than those who are not religious.

      There are two studies. And as for MSF, I think you’ll find that there are a few doctors working for them who are Christian too

    • Jay says:

      04:53pm | 19/11/09

      Nora - explain how we’re yet to see the comprehensive accounting of Hillsong, to name one? many have asked to look only to be meet with silence…

      Steven says:10:22am | 19/11/09 - ” their political views” ” engage with the brethren, as with any other constituency “, “We live in a democracy and the Brethren are a law-abiding group of people within our society”. Mate, the EB forbid their followers from voting, and paying tax. So I think Paul has a point that until they actually involve themselves in our democracy, they can stop using their tax free dollars lobbying a government that they don’t believe in.

      Thanks Strawman, your argument did not address what was said - but nice try.

    • Concerned says:

      04:49pm | 19/11/09

      There is definitely an element of dodginess when it comes to Scientology. When I was in my teens I was convinced by some guy in the street to do a ‘personality test’ which then led to being told Scientology could fix all the ‘problems’ they had uncovered in that test. Being inquisitive and open to learning new things I aksed a few more questions, but was told I couldn’t have any more answers until I bought this book or paid a certain sum of money which struck me as odd, who would charge to teach about their own ‘religion’? Then they told me they only sought religion status to avoid paying tax. After leaving they continued to hound me through the mail for years, making my parents worried about what kind of cult I’d gotten mixed up in (This was 15 years ago before all the headlines). They should definitely have to pay tax, and i hope they come under more and more scrutiny in the future. they have too much power already, this is the first article I’ve read about them that even lets me leave a comment!

    • Jasper says:

      04:44pm | 19/11/09

      “isn’t funny how the anti-religious crowd are always the last to do the heavy lifting when it comes to caring for people”

      How on earth can you prove that assertion? With actual attendances at most churches at an all time low, exactly who do you think is donating money to all the church-based charities?

      Just because there is a dearth of non-religious based charities (Doctors Without Borders is about the only one I can think of off the top of my head) does not meant that the non-believers are not doing any of the heavy-lifting.

      Your comment is just another variation of the old rubbish that non-believers are not as ‘moral’ as believers. What a load of self-important, holier-that-thou clap-trap.

    • Kevin Unleavened says:

      04:36pm | 19/11/09

      The leader of Australia’s largest and most militant cult sits an arm’s length away from Senator Xenophon on the cross benches.

      Like Jimmy Swaggart, he went on television begging for money to pay his legal bills, and claiming destitution despite having received one or another parliamentary salary since the early eighties.

      His not so faithful lieutenant is a Sheela-like character who bides her time waiting for the day when she’ll take control of the compound.

      The poor deluded souls that follow him, mostly young and impressionable or emotionally disturbed, believe they can harness the power of the earth’s core, not unlike Xenu and his volcanoes, and make solar panels work at night.

      Some of the more hardcore members of the cult can be seen donning bizarre animalist costumes while begging on the street.  However these people are not harmless: they account for more arrests for affray and violent disorder than all the Islamists and white supremacists combined.

    • H of SA says:

      04:27pm | 19/11/09

      @Pedro. Please explain how you are subsidising religion unless you are making personal donations.

      An inconvenient truth for you, as Churches are actually funding some welfare out their own pockets - and therefore meeting welfare needs that would otherwise have to be met by the taxpayer - the Church is actually subsidising you.

    • TLC says:

      04:22pm | 19/11/09

      It is about time to change the law and we all have to pay tax.
      If the Churches want money they must fill tax forms as we all do.
      They can claim for any charity work they do.
      I know well what happen to the donations as I have 5 close family members as priests and nuns.
      Only the nuns are very poor and work for nothing,the amazing thing is that what donations they get most of it go to the Church dominated totally by very fat priests and bishops.
      I bet if ordinary person knew what is happening with their hard saved money,they would never donated to the Churches.
      This is the total abuse of human person, the most needy and poor, as they give the biggest donations.
      This is the biggest injustice in our system. We all have to pay tax.
      I think you know what Jesus said about paying tax.
      Something like this I think"Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s”.
      Now is the time to give to Caesar.

    • Jasper says:

      04:07pm | 19/11/09

      Barb: another Christian with a poor grasp of scripture, Matthew 22:21 reads: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”

      So there is no scriptural precedent for Christians to refuse to pay taxes, quite the opposite in fact.

    • The Ghost says:

      03:16pm | 19/11/09

      Australians are free to believe whatever they want, but the taxpayer has no obligation to prop up their faith.

      Great! Does that mean, as a taxpayer I can opt out of paying for an ETS because of the Climate Change cult?

    • Dave says:

      03:10pm | 19/11/09

      There’s only 2000 Scientoligists in Australaia. So none of this matters.

    • Nora Charles says:

      02:55pm | 19/11/09

      Philip Trouchet has a paucity of understanding regarding non-profit organisations (of which churches are categorised).

      Law states that a non-profits’ books have to be audited by an independent auditor each year. Those books are already open to their members to see at any time they want.

      Not even your average small business has to go through that rigmorole.

      The entire premise of Tory’s article is not based on fact but a reflexive hatred of all things religious (specifically Christian, most likely).

      Just as an aside, isn’t funny how the anti-religious crowd are always the last to do the heavy lifting when it comes to caring for people.

    • H of SA says:

      02:12pm | 19/11/09

      An interesting part of this thread is that there are both secular and faithful people with a pretty clear understanding of how taxing religious organisations would pretty much destroy the welfare system in Australia.

      Which of course would be litterally life-destroying for those who rely on these services to keep them fed, clothed and housed away from abusive parents.

      Sadly, this connection does not exist in the main article. Which has either been ignorant of, ignored or decided to withhold this more informed understanding. About the standard of information what we expect of the ‘Tiser - now its made its way onto the Punch.

    • Philip Trouchet says:

      02:11pm | 19/11/09

      I fully agree ! All Churchs & so called Religeons,Cults etc. should all be Taxed if they make money. I also agree that those that show genuine charitable benefits & expenditure should get full deductions on all costs for such charities duly audited ! Philip T.

    • Pedro says:

      01:58pm | 19/11/09

      Religion is more business than anything else. So they should be taxed just as any business is. If we were all allowed to turn our beliefs into a religion where would we be? I dont have any spiritual beliefs, so why i am subsidising religious organisations money making schemes

    • Michael Waters says:

      01:52pm | 19/11/09

      Curious that an entity named Xenu was the reported prophet of Scientology, and a politician named Xenophon may lead to it’s undoing. Coincidence? Or a distant relation angry about not getting a share of the tax-free winnings.

    • scientology is dumb says:

      12:48pm | 19/11/09

      im sick of hearing the same old church of scientologys excuse that al the complaints are coming from disgruntled members. is that their only excuse. HOW BOUT BEING SERIOUS AND TRYING TO CORRECT THESE OBVIOUS PROBLEMS YOUR CHURCH HAS AND STOP TRYING TO SWEEP IT UNDER THE MAT AND ATTACK ANYONE WHO SPEAKS OUT. The actions of the church over the last few days has only reinforced everyones beleief that this is no religion but a cult and scam. enough already

    • Jasper says:

      12:44pm | 19/11/09

      Simon Ingram, you’re wrong because there is one pre-requisite for Christian belief: the belief that Jesus Christ is our (you’re) lord and savoir.

      It’s called a pillar of belief and all religions have them. If the basic statements that says “this is what a Christian/Muslim/Pastafarian is” is not a pre-requisite then what on earth is?

    • AdamC says:

      12:17pm | 19/11/09

      The commercial activities of churches should be subject to the usual taxes on profits and capital gains, with deductions for their good works and religious activities. I agree that there should be no blanket exemption.

      On the subject of Xenophon’s attack on Scientology, I must confess I admire the man for his ability to score headlines. But I do not admire him for making his claims behind the shield of parliamentary privilege. If these accusations are so credible, he should have made them outside the building.

    • Joe Stephens says:

      11:51am | 19/11/09

      @Paul: generalisations will only get you so far. e.g. taking a sample of “some of these christians”, then assume their beliefs are the same as the church’s policy. Eventually people are going to start thinking your just making stuff up.

    • Catherine H. says:

      11:51am | 19/11/09

      Nick Xenophon has showed courage in raising the issue of tax relief for Scientology. I applaud this.

      Most comments here though show complete ignorance of the actual tax regime for established church institutions. Go back and read @Nora Charles’s comment.

      Also: don’t confuse the issue of the tax status of the Church of Scientology with debates about the social or other value of religious institutions in general.

    • Paul says:

      11:39am | 19/11/09

      @steven you have the feeble mind. Bigot? When I was in the states some of these christians gave me the distinct impression that muslims were less than gods chosen and that more bombing of arab countries, including Iran, was somehow righteous. Can you provide any evidence for a more globally peaceful church policy?  Its time for cashed up religious fundamentalists of all colours to stay out of politics and leave the rest of us in peace. And spend on charity not wars.

    • DG says:

      11:00am | 19/11/09

      I don’t think that any one is against granting dollar for dollar tax exempt status to charities. The church’s resources that go to the acquisition of property etc will be subject to the same rates, taxes and duties as everyone else. The donations from a church to a charitable organisation will be tax deductible against the tax liability of the church from it’s income sources (including tithing and the likes).

      So long as the church truly is spending its money on charitable services rather than building an empire there is be no increase to the tax liability.

    • terence galvin says:

      10:39am | 19/11/09

      presumably worthwhile religions would be putting all profits back into helping people,  therefore no tax would be paid.
      But i do think all religions should pay rates on any property they own. Why should their land not have rates levied, after all we all know there are a number of old churches that end up on the market. Most of the land was granted for free by governments or councils, yet no capital gains tax paid when land sold.

    • Trjn says:

      10:26am | 19/11/09

      Simon Ingram, you may want to think about what you just said.

      “Point 1: “They posit life as a journey with a specific goal, which will only be attained if certain prerequisites are met.” ...Trusting in him is your only hope. Relationship, not religion.”

      Trusting in Christ is the pre-requisite.

    • Simon Ingram says:

      10:05am | 19/11/09

      Point 1: “They posit life as a journey with a specific goal, which will only be attained if certain prerequisites are met.”
      - Not true for Jesus Christ. Jesus went out of his way to state, restate, emphasise, re-emphasise, in teaching after teaching, parable after parable, that you CANNOT earn your way to heaven, and cannot get there by meeting “prerequisites”. Trusting in him is your only hope. Relationship, not religion.

      Point 2: Churches themselves do charitable work that meets great needs in our community. They don’t form organisations and structures to do it. They just do it. It is our response to what our Lord has done for us. So you cannot distinguish between “the church” and the “charitable organisation which benefits the community”. To make every church pay tax would be to cripple many organisations that feed the hungry, clothe the poor, provide shelter to the homeless, plead the case of the widow and the fatherless.

      Do you want to spend all of your time feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and providing shelter to the homeless? A bit busy? Well how about we let the churches do it for us instead and have the decency not to tax them out of service while they are trying to do it.

    • Joe Stephens says:

      09:55am | 19/11/09

      We should definitely start taxing religion and all other forms of charity and non-profit organisations. I am sick of seeing volunteers getting away with blue murder!! All these ribbons are being sold without tax, if we taxed pink ribbon day.. you beauty none of us would be paying tax!! Leave mo-vember alone though.. that’s a jolly good time, and some what of a conversation starter too.

    • BPobjie says:

      09:42am | 19/11/09

      Ah, Tory Shepherd…they warned us that when the Devil came, he would be in seductive guise…

    • Beau Brummell says:

      09:38am | 19/11/09

      Absolutely agree, Tory.  And that’s a good point about separating the charities from the corporate arm of religions because that’s the first card they’ll play. Having said that, the charity sector is full of rorts too and needs a thorough examination.  Unfortunately, the power of religious organisations is too great for any government to dare take on.  You can’t pick off one outfit, like Scientology, as they would challenge it legally and most likely win. Off with all their heads, I say!

    • Lachlan says:

      09:38am | 19/11/09

      If you want to tax churches then you would be taxing the charity arms of those churches. The reason Scientology isn’t a church is that it’s a for profit organisation which follows a corperate structure with a paid board. It shouldn’t be the benchmark for religious organisations and their charity bodies. If you were to tax the catholic church then you would be taxing St Vincent de Paul, Fr Chris Orileys youth off the street program as well as the catholic education system. I would presume the argument is sound if your ok with the government paying for these services. Would you also tax the nuns who visit the elderly? The reality is church funds are via donations which go back into these services.
      Perhaps a better understanding of the good work churches do would be good before the usual church bashing

    • The Ghost says:

      09:32am | 19/11/09

      Here’s another thing for the anti-religious mob to contemplate.

      People like me to who happily give their money to church for their good works are also taxpayers.

      So, we pay our taxes, give additional money and many of us are also actively involved in charities we fund through additional donations.

      What about you?

      Sure, you’ll give 20 bucks when there’s a bush fire or tsunami but how many of you get off your arses and do something more than hands-off, hypocritcal moralising?

      How many of you spend nights as volunteers feeding the homeless?

      How many of you spend time visiting the elderly or housebound? (No, visiting grannie once in a blue moon doesn’t count)

      How many of you spend time building hospitals and orphanages in third world countries?

      Yeah, thought not.

    • H of SA says:

      09:23am | 19/11/09

      Oh and to pre-empt any - tax the Chuch but not the charitable wing (e.g Tax the Uniting Church but don’t tax Uniting Care) - ummm do you think a significant part of a churches charitable funding might just come from the Church? Certainly more than from the private doner.

      Tori your talking about major cuts to the funding of Australians most significant charities. Child Protection as a start would collapse without foster care which is provided by Church organisations.

    • Steven says:

      09:22am | 19/11/09

      Paul, it’s a shame that you want an organisation to be investigated on the basis that you don’t like them or their political views. Seriously, what a pathetic position and feeble state of mind you have. John Howard and the Liberals were prepared to engage with the brethren, as with any other constituency, and this apparently warrants investigation in your mind. We live in a democracy and the Brethren are a law-abiding group of people within our society. The fact that they happen to be conservative in their lifestyle - and religious! - tends to arouse the bigotry of people such as yourself and Tory Shepherd but it doesn’t preclude them from having the same rights to freedom as any other peaceful group or individual in the country.

    • Dave says:

      09:16am | 19/11/09

      Actually, Co$ isn’t growing, it’s a dying cult. City of New York State Uni has an 8-annual religious research with a random sample size of 50.000, In 2001 there were 13 Scientologists in this group, in 2008 this went down to 6, which would roughly mean 25.000 +/- 25.000 followers in the US. In Australia hundreds left in the last year, perhaps about half the congregation.

      Nevertheless, do not underestimate them, they have been convicted again and again and again in the past decades, all over the world. Unfortunately, our societies memory span seems to be shorter than the half-life of a Scientologist. However this story will evolve, a group of hard core believers will remain, governmental oversight will relax and in 10 or 15 years time another set of stories like these will surface. Because this is what ‘das System Scientology’ (to borrow the tile of a German government report) is designed to do. Luckily the Internet ensures that the circle of potential dupes is shrinking and shrinking…

      So, folks, please remember this for once and for all: these people are DANGEROUS.

      DANGEROUS.

      Stay away from them and agenda to tell your kids to stay away from them, for whenever they reach young adulthood.

    • H of SA says:

      09:15am | 19/11/09

      This article displays a profound misunderstanding of the issues.

      Who do you think runs foster care, homeless relief, family support, free health check ups? Anglicare, Centacare, Uniting Care, Salvation Army….these are all religious organisations and they are the only ones sticking their hands up to deal with poverty in Australia.

      Start taxing the church and watch these chartiable organisations which are already stuggling to provide enough care go down the gurgler. Did you honestly not realise what Churches spend theiir money on when you wrote this article?

    • Barb says:

      09:06am | 19/11/09

      If Christian Churches start getting taxed, Christian’s will stop paying taxes to the Government and we will set up an opposing organisation that we will gladly give our money to - Christian’s are ordered to follow God’s word not politician’s. Christian’s have never needed a government, through history we have simply found governments’ useful in organising things.

    • G says:

      09:00am | 19/11/09

      Ah the sweet sweet irony. 

      When I have heard people I know from various ‘bona fide’ religions like Christianity or Catholicism express their disbelief and mockery at the inane scientology organisation who believe in an alien race. 

      Whilst themselves believe in a invisible mega-awesome creature who lives in the sky and has unlimited super powers, and don’t blink an eye…  I can’t help but laugh.

      Give scientology another few hundred years and it will be bona fide too.

    • Jimmy F says:

      08:46am | 19/11/09

      They should be taxed a higher rate. Surely God will provide? haha

    • The Ghost says:

      08:47am | 19/11/09

      I find it hard to believe that no one is interested in the subject, but here goes…

      To quote Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington DC:

      ““People want the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian organizations to give their resources to the secular community when our doctrines on compassion and giving to the poor agree with their concepts and needs. Unfortunately, when our doctrines strongly contradict popular concepts, many communities want to take our money and press the mute button on our teachings. The community cannot have it both ways. If you want our help, you have to receive it on our terms.

      “Finally, the biblical Jesus, who confronted both the political and religious hypocrites of his day, would never let himself be blackmailed into becoming a permanent agent of any corrupt government.”

    • AB says:

      08:43am | 19/11/09

      I will say straight up that I do not believe in any religion (especially not scientology), however I am not against any of them either. I think people believe in what they need to believe in to cope with the demands of life. I just find it fascinating that so many people are getting very fired up about the nature of this particular religion. Are the beliefs of this ‘religon’ really that much more ‘crazy’ than the beliefs of catholics, christians, hindus etc etc etc.. Many of the claims in all religions seen pretty far out there…

      With the money side of things, i am aware that most religions take and somewhat expect money from people, infact there are some churches in South Australia that enforce people wanting to join the church to sign over 10% of their Wage…
      How is this in any way a good thing…

      Just interesting to see how they different religions go about things.
      just my thoughts…

    • Peter says:

      08:42am | 19/11/09

      If it is only “charities” that should retain tax advantages, where does that leave organizations like the scouts, surf lifesavers, and other community-based not-for-profit organizations?  This proposal sounds like a case of religious descrimination to me, and looks to be based on Tory’s oft-stated personal bias.

    • Trent Cox says:

      08:23am | 19/11/09

      To borrow your phrase Tory, too bloody right. There is absolutely no reason that religion, whatever its stripes, should enjoy tax-free status. It beggars belief that in the 21st century we still allow stone age beliefs a free ride when it comes to scrutiny and an equal footing in society. The concept of God does not stand up to scientific examination, nor do any of the ridiculous claims made in the Bible, the Koran,  the Torah or any other religious text.

      Let’s call religion what it is - an established set of contradictory and untruthful lies masquerading as fact that is perpetuated through the indoctrination of children. If I were to set up a business today founded on such pathetic principles, without any evidence whatsoever, and tried to claim tax-free status, I’d be laughed out of court and met on the steps outside by the guys in the white coats.

    • T.Chong says:

      08:09am | 19/11/09

      The Jesuits (or one of the many different sects within the Catholic church) famously claimed “give us the child for the first 7 years, and you have a christian for life” (many varios forms of this statement exist) either way, why is this not also “brainwashing”?.  “Onward Christian SOLDIERS” again it should make one wonder why one cult is acceptable and others not. 
      The Catholics, like the Muslims,Zionists, Hindus,Prottys and many other fundamentalists have killed many more than Hubbards followers in all their magic spaceships could ever do.

    • EssJay says:

      08:09am | 19/11/09

      Tax all religions. But don’t just stop at tax, remove all exemptions. Make them all subject to anti-discrimination acts, equal opportunity acts etc. Some of the criticisms of gays, particularly by the Catholic Church and it’s members, is in my opinion, nothing less than vilification and they should be prosecuted for it.

    • Paul says:

      07:46am | 19/11/09

      @matt no mate, just be a good citizen and go back to sleep. (Have you heard of google or the public record?)

    • Faye says:

      07:37am | 19/11/09

      Tax them all.
      Any charity work they do comes with strings attached anyway. Look at the damage the Catholic church has done to Africa by preaching about the evils of contraception, how many people have died of AIDS because of the ignorance and bias of missionaries.
      It is obscene that businesses belonging to the church such as Sanitarium are also tax exempt.
      We do not have a true separation of church and state while we have tax breaks for religion.

    • Nora Charles says:

      07:35am | 19/11/09

      Churches - all of them - can and should be distinguished from their charities.

      That’s a silly statement for a start. Churches do their charity work *because* of their beliefs, not in spite of them. They cannot be separate because the charity work is the raison d’etre of Christianity (see Bible and Great Commission).

      if they meet standards of transparency and cost effectiveness, let them keep the tax-free status.

      They already have to, both in respect to receiving tax exemption and grants for specific programs. All Christian churches make their financial records open for members to see and indeed church members are encouraged to take an active participation in fiduciary and administrative functions.

      It’s not the churches’ fault that you’re too lazy to look.

      But the religions themselves must start paying their way.

      Silly girl, churches have been ‘paying their way’ for two millennia. Who do you think started universal education? Who do you think started hospitals? Who do you think developed the concept of the dole and other charitable payments? Who do you think fought to abolish slavery? The Government? No. The Media? No. It was the churches, specifically Christian churches.

      Epic fail on this piece Tory.

    • alan says:

      07:34am | 19/11/09

      I aree to charge all religions if that includes Evolution, wich has no scientific basis, but requires tons of faith and is preached to us every sunday and throughout the week on Telli.

    • Lynda Hopgood says:

      07:28am | 19/11/09

      Can we start up an atheists’ church and claim tax exemption status as well?  I, and many others, approach our atheism with an almost religious zeal, so why not?  wink

    • Liz says:

      07:26am | 19/11/09

      And the Sanitarium company which is run by the Seventh Day adventists and pays no tax?
      Doesn’t the good work of churches bcome negated by the harm,damage,abuse and misunderstanding of people and their lives.Perhaps compensation could be paid for those thinfs out of their tax breaks.

    • Socrates says:

      07:09am | 19/11/09

      iansand 07:15 is right.  Religious bodies should be taxed the same as any other hobby group, but with all the usual deductions for their defined charity activities.

    • Gina H says:

      07:07am | 19/11/09

      If we remove the tax free status from religions, where do we stop? What about all those ‘non-profit’ community organisations? They function in a similar way to many religions, certainly in a social sense. Imagine the uproar when the local footy clubs are all taxed!

    • pcanon says:

      06:52am | 19/11/09

      Scientology charges fees to receive it’s services which they promote as leading to “self improvement”  -  just as do psychologists (with the glaring difference that they have a specific training degree after their name which none of the deliverers of Scientology services do) & yet psychologists cannot claim “tax exemption”. 

      Plus Scientology is careful NEVER to use the word “fees” but rather always uses the word “donations” - I thought “donations” were a voluntary offering so how come Scientology requests VERY LARGE & SPECIFIC “donation” amounts?  - this is patently deceitful. 

      And the “tax exempt” status granted by the government serves to further mislead the pubic that it is indeed a bona fide “religion”  - it has to be revoked & hopefully this time it will get through via Senator Xenophon - good on him!

    • Matt says:

      06:25am | 19/11/09

      My alfoil hat is buzzing.

    • iansand says:

      06:15am | 19/11/09

      Remove the automatic tax exemption, but allow the usual tax deduction for expenditure on charitable works.  It will be a zero sum if all the income is spent on charity, and we will have the opportunity to see all the good work the churches do.

    • DG says:

      05:36am | 19/11/09

      RAmen!

      As for defining cult - The Macquarie Dictionary (4th edition) may help there: a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

      Insofar as a body (whether religious or not) provides a charitable service, I completely agree with the granting of tax deductions, even substantial tax deductions. But granting tax exempt status for a belief in a “supernatural”  (read: unnatural) source of guidance or power? I’ve never understood it personally.

    • Paul says:

      05:19am | 19/11/09

      Churches in Australia are sitting on over a billion dollars in assets and businesses, yet they still want government handouts and taxbreaks. Sounds like the coal industry! The secretive Brethren Church I think needs closer scrutiny, especially after their shady political links with Howard/Liberals in the last election

    • bec says:

      05:13am | 19/11/09

      No, not all the charities - I don’t want my money going to crackpot groups like Mercy Ministries.

 

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