Sunday, March 05, 2006

Church organizations and taxes

I have returned to posting after several days' absence, as Nicole and I were able (Providentially) to attend Father Chris Rohmiller's funeral, spoken of last week here at the World. I want to personally thank all of my old college friends in the Dayton area for their hospitality to both of us in these preceding days of great shock to all of us. I especially want to thank Mark Regeic and R. Jason Howard, Esq. for both extending to us such a warm welcome as well as the use of their respective homes during the period of the funeral and the days following. We hope in the coming weeks to return the favor to you, and to do so under much happier circumstances.

I returned tonight from a weekend of grief in Ohio to find that some people are giving grief to TBN over the tax exemption of its mega-broadcast complex in Hendersonville. A judge has ruled that at least part of the massive spread (which includes the late Conway Twitty's old home) should be exempt from taxation.

A whole lot of people are crying foul, largely because many see TBN as a money-making affair. It is easy to see why some might view it as such, especially since why a television network founded to spread the message of Christ needs Twitty City as a part of its property. I agree with the judge's ruling, however, largely because to rule any other way sets a nasty legal precedent.

For example, what would prevent the State of Alabama from levying similar taxes on EWTN, TBN's Catholic counterpart? Right now, EWTN is exempt and will likely remain so (I doubt Montgomery wants very much to cross the Holy See), but in reality, if TBN had to pay taxes on all of its land and assets in Hendersonville, it could be argued that EWTN, whose assets, though numerous, are far more humble compared to those of TBN, should be made to pay taxes on its assets in the Birmingham area, which include two monastic houses, multiple television studios, a church, and a religious shrine.

Both TBN and EWTN have a right to engage in their mission free of interference from the state. To insure that their religious message can reach people without state interference, the tax man needs to leave them both alone.


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