Preach Politics?

Thanks to Brother Calvin for this sweet gem:

So, why don't churches pay taxes?

I guess the argument was based on the Establishment Clause, and one strict view of the separation of Church and State. If we citizens give churches a free pass on taxes, then no one can say we are restricting them with burdensome regulations. Besides, there might be some social good in giving the churches an exemption -- they lift some of the load of education and social welfare from the shoulders of the citizenry. Let the church clean the bums off the streets, and set up some schools and hospitals, and the taxes are on us.

But does the old arrangement still have purpose?

In an age when the churches preached civility and social responsibility, the arrangement made sense. The people, given a weekly dose of the Christ's dictum "render unto Ceasar," might be more likely to be well-behaved and inclined toward the public good. The dark side, of course, was the church's tacit assent to government policies. When I grew up, the church that never preached against the Vietnam War implicitly suported that war.

But today's churches seem less eager to instill citizen docility toward government. Seems like they have become positively antagonistic to good order, peace and stability:

In Iowa, Walker Nickless, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, is so outraged by the Obama administration's policy on contraception access, he's arguing that his allies "have to stand up and violently oppose this," in order to prevent being overtaken by "darkness."

Franklin Graham, the controversial son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who recently appeared on MSNBC and questioned the sincerity of President Obama's Christianity. In fact, when asked if he would declare that the president is not a Muslim, Graham replied, "I can't say categorically, because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama."
 “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told a South Carolina audience yesterday. “And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom.”
Hmm -- use violence to oppose our political foes?  Disrespect the president of the United States? Whitewash repeated European wars, looting, invasions and massacres?

Today's most vocal churches, and their advocates, are attempting to redefine history by placing America in a position to impose a particular set of religious values on its citizens and on the world. This is not an imposition of Judeo-Christian values -- love of neighbor, forgiveness and care of the poor -- but of a particularly muscular and narrow view of Christianity that conflates the Cross of Christ with the throne of Caesar. It is arrogant, blinkered, self-assured and dangerous.

And worth paying for?

It's worth considering whether tax exemptions on church property have served their useful purpose. Churches, like any organization, have a free speech right to say whatever they want. But they should not get special privileges to foment discord and violence. The Establishment Clause is not violated when it treats the property of religious institutions  likethat of other institutions No more than religious freedom is violated by requiring churches to install sprinklers, inspect their boilers or CORI their workers.

It's time to put all institutions -- especially those who eek to limit freedom -- on a level footing. It;'s time to tax the churches.