Once again, Augusta, Georgia, finds religious controversy swirling about.
The big story last August was when the Freedom From Religion Foundation warned the city that its mayor and employees should not be sponsoring prayer breakfasts because government sponsored religion is unconstitutional — and now those pious events are called "The Community Prayer Breakfast" and are privately sponsored.
Now, a proposed tax increase has some pastors howling about Satan's dark intentions. In trying to fill a $1 million budget hole created in part by a statewide tax break for local manufacturers, the Mayor Pro Tem first suggested slashing church exemptions as a way to make up for less funding from the state.
"I'm not surprised at that," remarked Rev. K. B. Martin with the Augusta Baptist Ministers Conference to News Channel 12, "because it's really more of a satanic move. It's part of the movement to destroy the church and then you want to ask the question, why is society in the shape that it's in?"
Joe Bowles, the Mayor Pro Tem, retorted, "You know, racist preachers have their own opinions, and I sleep well at night."
Commissioners are looking at other ways beyond church taxes to make up for revenue, such as franchise fees on manufacturers, which Bowles says is actually a tax and defeats the purpose of the tax break that would encourage business.
Nationwide, church tax exemptions account for billions of dollars, contributing to city and state budget deficits. Over the last decade, church-related tax exemptions shaved off $145 billion from tax collections.
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