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Yet another reason we need to go back to teaching Civics in the schools

Someone tried to make this point over on Fecesbook, on a friend’s post:

Footnote: If [the Left] truly want a total separation of church and state, we have to end tax deductions for charity donations since this is a subsidy to the church. Next, since our basic laws are a direct reflection of our basic 10 Commandments, we need to entirely re-write our system of jurisprudence to express the morals (or lack thereof) in whatever new system the left seems to want.

I think this person may have been trying to act as advocatus diaboli, but whatever; let’s address the idiocy of requiring religious institutions to pay income tax and/or no longer be able to accept tax-exempt donations.  (With regard to the second half of his statement, nobody is going to rewrite the basic law because — in my opinion — it can’t be done at this late date, and frankly, without at least a nod to Deity, there is no basis for the basic law, since much of the law does in fact have a moral base — it is morally wrong to steal, to lie (perjury), cheat (defraud), commit adultery, and frankly to fornicate with animals and members of one’s own sex (although this last seems to have fallen by the wayside in our degenerate days.  Without a moral component, your argument that it should be illegal to steal falls apart, because “why?”  “Because I said so” is not sufficient; I don’t care what you think, but I do in fact care what G-d thinks, and they were His Commandments.)

So.  Read Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists some time. He mentions a “wall of separation”, but what he means by it isn’t what the left means by it. Jefferson’s wall of separation is set in place to prohibit the federal government from interfering with the religious beliefs and practices of ALL religions, denominations, and sects, and (though Jefferson doesn’t say so in so many words) from establishing a state church or religion.*

But the concept of a “wall of separation” exists nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. It simply says that Congress cannot legislate the establishment of religion, or prohibit its free exercise.

The idea that a church should be established for non-profit purposes and therefore be tax-exempt grows out of the idea that the church (or whatever you call the congregation, depending on religion/denomination/sect) gives more back to the community than it would ever pay in taxes and that it is a force for good in society that should be supported, if only indirectly, by virtue of the government leaving it alone. It’s harder to see this in our day and age of welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other social safety nets we erected starting in the 1930’s to take the place of social safety nets for which the religious community (including fraternal organizations and suchlike) was typically responsible before the Great Depression.

But never mind all that. The plain fact is, a simple reading of the First Amendment clearly states that Congress shall not legislate to prohibit the free exercise of religion. Forcing churches to pay corporate income tax on their donations and tithes and membership dues (and also ending the tax-deductible nature of such donations from individuals) would be such a prohibition, or at the very least would stifle the maintenance and growth of religion. On the other hand, this is why the IRS has such a high bar to cross in determining who is eligible for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. (I’ve applied successfully on behalf of a couple of organizations for 501(c)(4) status in the past, and that’s a pain, but it’s nothing compared to what you have to do to get and maintain 501(c)(3) status.)

And the left definitely wants to stifle traditional religion, so it bangs the drum for a supposed “wall of separation” that never existed other than in the fertile mind of Thomas Jefferson (who was NOT present at the Constitutional Convention, or at the convention where the Bill of Rights was written and adopted), who invented the term but clearly (at least in my read of his Letter to the Danbury Baptists) didn’t mean it the way the modern left has chosen to interpret it.

That being said, ALL institutions are suffering unduly under what I firmly believe are unconstitutional orders put in place ostensibly to prevent the spread of disease. It would make a great deal of sense if everyone could come together and point out that the government may not restrict the right to assemble in the first place, regardless whether such assembly occurs at a church, at a fraternal hall, in a school, in a restaurant, in a theatre, in a park, or on a beach, or in any other place where people normally congregate. The First Amendment was incorporated to apply to the states long ago, so all these state and local orders cannot be, prima facie, anything but unconstitutional.

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* Note that it did not prevent the states from continuing to promote state religion.  Maryland, for instance, was very Catholic, and if you weren’t a Catholic, typically you had a hard time getting ahead.  Other states had similar restrictive and preferential traditions tied to religion and benefits for those who hewed to the state’s preference, if not indeed laws on the books ditto.  Incorporation changed a lot of that, though the vestiges continue to hang on today in many places.