Letters to the Editor

The churches cannot have it both ways

Dear Sir,

We have a new government with a huge task ahead of them and already the natives are restless. Money is indeed tight and manna isn’t going to come raining down from heaven as quickly as the people want.

This brings me to a topic that has been raised before, and which really bothers me and needs to be revisited. That is the issue of churches paying their fair share of taxes.

The Government cannot do it all and the universal thought as to why churches do not pay taxes is so they will have the means of filling the gap left by the legislators and by providing charitable assistance to the downtrodden in our society. They will be up in arms, but just how much of that is being done? We have churches who have acquired huge amounts of wealth for themselves, including property and investment portfolios. Why is that allowed to happen at the detriment of society? Who are the beneficiaries of all those investments? Why are some pastors paying themselves such huge, CEO-figure salaries?

Many churches employ people nine to five, five days a week but do not include them as employees — rather, “church volunteers” — and so do not pay payroll tax for those individuals.

Some churches own multiple properties that generate large amounts of income. Once again, church elders manage those investments and pay themselves a wage but no payroll tax is being paid for the duties performed. Many churches are run just like a business, with a church board that operates as a board of directors.

Are they being paid? Why aren’t they being considered the business that they plainly are? Yes, many churches help the community but a lot of it is simply token and nothing meaningful. A few groceries or a meal once a week is not enough — not when you’re sitting on million-dollar assets.

Some wealthy churches do nothing at all, but operate like a business and reap all sorts of tax breaks. It is time the Government took a long, hard look at this and conducts an audit on the assets of the churches and exactly how much money they are bringing in and what they are doing with it.

I would ask for a voluntary census but closer scrutiny is in order. Those churches seen hoarding wealth while doing nothing for the community should then be deemed just what they are — business entities — and fair taxes paid accordingly.

This letter no doubt will ruffle a lot of feathers, but it is only fair. It is way past time that the churches did their part instead of looking out for only themselves.

I would add “and their members” but I know of many a case where church members have fallen on hard times, gone to their own church leaders for help and have been turned down.

Enough is enough. Besides the Salvation Army, what church is making a real, tangible effort to help the community?

It is time everyone chipped in and paid their share. The churches cannot have it both ways. If they want the tax breaks, they need to help the community. If they don’t help and want to act like the business corporations many are, then they need to be taxed accordingly.

Fair is fair.

LUCYNDA LEE

Southampton