To the Christian Right, their think tanks, cronies and so called legal "experts," separation of church and state shouldn't (and doesn't) exist–except when churches are asked to pay their fair share. This approach has been being tested in Mission, Kansas since December of last year to the current time, where the mayor approved a plan to tax churches for road use in order to fill budget gaps.
Erik Stanley from the Allied Defense Fund, is representing the churches of Mission, KS. The Allied Defense Fund is a right wing organization who, in typical right wing fashion, believes that Christianity is under attack:
Throughout our history, America has been a land defined by religious faith and freedom. Religious freedom is our first and most fundamental, God-given right deemed so precious that our Founding Fathers enshrined it in the U.S. Constitution.So why is religious freedom under attack in America today?
For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other radical anti-Christian groups have been on a mission to eliminate public expression of our nation's faith and heritage. By influencing the government, filing lawsuits, and spreading the myth of the so-called “separation of church and state,” the opposition has been successful at forcing its leftist agenda on Americans.
Their targeted attacks on religious freedom are more serious and widespread than you may realize. In courtrooms and schoolrooms, offices and shops, public buildings and even churches…those who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced.
Keeping the Door Open for the Spread of the Gospel
The Alliance Defense Fund is committed to keeping the door open for the spread of the Gospel by protecting your constitutional right to hear and speak the Truth. Together with its growing army of nearly 1,900 allied attorneys, ADF has defended attacks on religious freedom…
Can you imagine what tomorrow will look like in America if the opposition is not stopped today?"
It's clear that plenty of people believe this rhetoric of persecution and talk like this (and also about how unfair the 501 (c)3 tax status is for churches) has been going on for years.
Still, Stanley did, at least, acknowledge that the separation of Church and State is not something that one normally hears from the ADF, but he said “there should be a separation here.” Actually, one cannot pick and choose where a separation must be. Either it must be everywhere or nowhere. So, if churches are funding political campaigns for their own ends and pushing frivolous lawsuits against a variety of different places, then they should pay taxes. They can afford to. Typically, houses of worship are generally exempt from federal and state taxes because they are seen as providing beneficial services for society."
Stanley's opinion on separation of church and state is especially ironic considering that during the election for George W. Bush, fundamentalist churches were donating campaign funds to Bush and actively telling their churches to vote for him, which is also a violation of church and state, particularly because churches are generally considered a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status which exempts them from paying taxes. (A particularly interesting take on the Bush administration's connections to Dominionism is here.) Bush was also giving taxpayer funds to Pat Robertson's ministry in 2002, and consistently funding right wing religious organizations through his faith based initiatives program with taxpayer dollars. To say that the Religious Right was running the White House during the Bush years would not be an overstatement. For the Christian Right, the Bush years were days of haymaking. It's interesting when a Democrat gets elected how much the public hears about the supposed "persecution" of Christians in this country. Their next line of attack: 501 (c)3 so they can have even more political clout than they did in the Bush years.
It is also ironic that the ADF is attacking the ACLU as a "radical anti-Christian group." The ACLU has defended the rights of millions of Christians throughout its long history. If the best and brightest of America's law schools work for ADF, one has to question their ethics, education and sense of professionalism to make this sort of attack. Perhaps the churches of Mission should consider alternate representation if this law advocacy organization outright lies about the ACLU.
The mayor of Mission, Kansas says she feels pretty comfortable with the tax plan according to Bridgette LaVictoire of LezGetReal:
"It was just a fair way to spread the cost among those who are generating the traffic," said Mission Mayor Laura McConwell, "to help pay for the roads that you need to bring people in either for your business or for the churches or to people's homes. "We discussed it also with our attorneys … to make sure we weren't stepping on anyone's constitutional rights before we instated it," she said. "I'm pretty comfortable with what we've chosen."
The Christian Century records the response of the Allied Defense Fund:
According to the lawsuit filed in December, the city calculated the number of trips generated to and from a property based on a manual of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
The manual estimates that a church produces an average of 5.8 vehicle trips per week for each seat in a sanctuary. That led to a fee of $898.77 for First Baptist Church of Mission, and $1,685.19 for St. Pius X Catholic Church.
Stanley said state courts in Idaho and Florida have ruled against similar fees, determining that city-imposed fees were invalid because they were not authorized by state legislation."
Churches have to make a decision. Either they don't contribute funds to elect the president of their choice, they don't fund political machines like the Christian Coalition, they don't fund whatever lobby turns their crank, OR they drop 501(c) 3 status and pay taxes like everybody else–then they can do what they want with their money. This idea that churches get to pick and choose what they want is a dangerous thing; as we have seen during the Bush administration when just before the 2006 midterm elections fundamentalist Christian dominionists controlled both houses of Congress, four out of nine seats on the Supreme Court and the White House. If churches get to fund political candidates with no retribution from the IRS or anybody else, that means churches en masse can literally control the country. As you can see in the below video from September of last year, dominionists like David Barton are not afraid to stand up to the IRS on this issue:
These who the opponents are–not the rest of us who are taxpaying voters. The people you have been shown today are the opponent. They don't care about what religion you are. They pay lip service to religious freedom while at the same time denying religious freedom to anyone but themselves. This is what dominionism looks like–both soft dominionism and hard dominionism.
This is what Christ has to say on the subject of taxes:
Matthew 22:18-22 (King James Version)
18But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
22When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way."