The article “What and how much do US religious organizations not pay the taxman?” [Aug. 14 Tribunr-Herald] by Ryan Cragun is sadly deficient. It emphasizes outrageously wealthy pastors like Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen to make its argument. For many Christians, those pastors are an embarrassment to the values of Christianity and they are supported by only a small segment of evangelical Christians.
Cragun describes himself as a professor of the sociology of religion who has “long been interested in why religious institutions are exempt from certain taxes.” And yet his article is absolutely devoid of any discussion of why religious institutions receive this tax exemption. His entire article is limited to the “potential lost revenue for the U.S.” Unfortunately, it is not a very complete argument. An obvious place to begin is the freedom of religion clause in the U.S. Constitution — part of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. A second place to look is at the average income that most pastors, priests, rabbis, brothers, nuns, etc. actually make. Cragun presents a lot of statistics on “lost” tax revenues, but not a single statistic on the incomes of these religious workers. The vast majority of their incomes fall far short of the inflated incomes of religious celebrities like Osteen.
Finally many churches have ministries to help poor, needy and troubled people which are part of “religious purposes.” Do Christians give enough? The answer is “no” — a fact that many priests and pastors remind them of almost every day. But given all the factors that Cragun ignores, it seems that his article is basically a hit piece against religious organizations rather than an attempt to explain “why religious institutions are exempt from certain taxes.”
Labor Day offers a powerful reminder of the crucial gains experienced by American workers in the past century. In 1894, when President Grover Cleveland proclaimed the first Monday in September as Labor Day, Americans worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in abysmal conditions to eke out a living. They were treated as animals.
A century later, animals in factory farms still are.
Mother pigs suffer a lifetime in tight metal stalls. Their babies are torn away, mutilated without anesthesia, crammed into crowded pens for six months, then slaughtered in the dawn of their lives. Dairy cows spend their lives chained to a concrete floor. Each year, they are artificially impregnated to keep the milk flowing. Their babies are torn from their grieving mothers at birth and slaughtered for veal, so we can drink their milk.
As it was for American workers, relief for these sentient beings is in sight. Our supermarkets offer a rich variety of convenient, healthful, delicious plant-based burgers, veggie dogs and meat-free nuggets along with nut-based cheeses, ice creams and other dairy-free desserts.
This Labor Day, let’s all celebrate these plant-based options.