Monday, September 29, 2008

Free speech != Freedom from taxation

Aliance Defense Fund, a Phoenix-based group, organized a form of clerical protest yesterday, encouraging a number of pastors across the country to use their sermons to explicitly express views as to how members of their congregation should vote in this year's presidential election.

The purpose of this organized demonstration is to bring a challenge to the 54-year old law which prohibits charitable and tax-exempt groups from openly supporting any candidate for public office. The hope is the government will bring a lawsuit against one or more of these pastors and their churches, a suit which the ADF hopes to win.

The Post article has several quotes from participants, including "The point is the IRS says you can't (openly support a political candidate during a sermon). I'm saying you're wrong."

The entire affair has been portrayed as a matter of "Free speech". However, you don't get free speech without also assuming some responsibility. In this case, the ADF and the 33 pastors who participated in the protest yesterday want the right to express themselves in the political arena without the associated responsibility of actually contributing money (taxes) to support the political structure.

Gosh -- I'd like to have all the privileges of being a citizen without paying any taxes too. Doesn't mean it's going to happen, or should.

There is no suppression of speech here. Any pastor and church which wishes to participate in the political process is free to do so at any time ... with the proviso they pay taxes on the income they receive (and, I believe, property they hold). There is no Constitutional right to tax-exemption. The courts have continuously held, in cases such as Branch Ministries v. Rossotti and United States v. Christian Echoes National Ministry such exeptions exist at the grace of Congress. What Congress provides, Congress may also restrict, or remove altogether.

The ADF should be granted what it wishes for -- all 33 ministries which participated yesterday should be immediately slapped with tax assessments for the full 2008 year on all taxable incomes and properties. When the suit is challenged, appealed, and lost, the ADF and all 33 ministries should be forced to pay the costs the government incurred in defending the the suit.

After all, with the bang-up job all those deregulated corporate financial geniuses have done, we're going to need every extra dollar we can find.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Who says Zimbabwe is a 3rd world nation

Reading the news this morning, I ran across this story on the reprehensible state of health care in Zimbabwe, where medicine is unavailable and the system is in such general collapse, the best advice local doctors could give was "don't get sick".

Of course, given a 2005 Harvard study found nearly half of all bankruptcies in the US have been triggered by health crises, even among the insured, that same advice could be given to our citizens as well.

Further, as the DNC recently helpfully pointed out, McCain has been among those consistently voting to make it more difficult to claim bankruptcy protection. I suppose if you are among those who lose count of how many houses your family owns, a major medical bill isn't such a concern.