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[SIGNAL BOOST] Where does the First Amendment talk about first- and second-tier religions?

http://nebris.livejournal.com/4888952.html

I'm feeling...: irateirate
Comments

"Oh, but you don't understand! Those aren't *real* religions!"

(pardon me while gag)

Yes, and I have problems with the IRS take on the issue as well.

Alas, we pretty much *need* the tax exempt bit because the alternative would be doing like many countries have done (and a few still do) and having extra taxes if you are the "wrong" religion.

Given that, and the fact that there are people who *will* try to fake a religion to get the tax exemption (L. Ron *cough*) that means the IRS *is* going to have to make that sort of decision.

Sucks, but unless their rules are odder than I think, it probably sucks less than the alternatives.

Actually, I think a better take would be to simply eliminate the exemption for religion entirely. To the extent that a religious establishment/organization does charitable work, the monies collected for application to that work should be exempt, on the same terms that it is exempt for an organization such as CARE or UNICEF. But a blanket exception merely because they are a religious organization... no. Precisely because it then requires some sort of authority to make a decision amounting to "Is this a real religion?".

Thing is we *know* that allowing taxation of churches can be *badly* abused. And so far, those abuses are a lot worse than any we've seen in the "this is a church/this isn't a church" situation.

Also, trying to remove the tax exemptions will go over *so* well...

The abuse only comes when you allow/codify the taxation of churches AS CHURCHES. I am simply proposing that they not get any special dispensation from taxation merely because they are a church - if they run a school, the school gets the same treatment as a similar private-but-not-church-run school would get, neither more nor less. Their charitable work gets the same treatment as similar work from CARE or UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders or any other nonsectarian charitable organization doing the same work would get, neither more nor less.

The idea is to address the ACTIVITY, not the ORGANIZATION.

(And yes, trying to implement this would be ... difficult, as you point out.)

Ah, but you can *always* find ways to twist it by going after activities that are (or can be defined as) unique to a given religion. Say, taxing peyote use...

Remember, when designing laws, you have to consider how they can be gamed by people with malicious intent.

I like that idea, a good bit. That makes sense.

So, of course, it will never happen.

Certainly it does! But see kengr's comment above - and my response.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome is, though - this is the sort of thing where the Ninth Circus might actually rule correctly, and NOT be overridden by SCOTUS.

Damn. Poor guy has Starhawk on his side.

Smartass answer: in the bits that say "religion". (You didn't ask "Where does it say *different* things about them?")

But your smartass answer presumes that "first-tier" and "second-tier" is a valid distinction among religions. That presumption is, in essence, what the fight in California is about.

And in a way, it is.
First tier: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a large number of other religions I know nothing about (some of which probably fall under the "Paganism" category, but I don't know enough about them to group them into related larger categories.

Second tier:
- Sunnah, Shia and Sufi (part of Islam)
- Catholic, Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic, a number of other Middle Eastern denominations, Anglican+Episcopalian, Lutheran, Calvinist, and I'm probably forgetting a whole bunch (all Christian)
- Larger and Smaller Vehicle (part of Buddhism)
etc (you get the idea).

But smartassness aside, your point is that none of this matters (or should matter) as far as the 1st amendment is concerned, and I would tend to agree. But those categories *do* exist. :-)

Ah, but YOUR classification of first- vs. second- vs. et cetera is NOT the kind of tiering that the argument in California is all about. What they're doing is saying that whole broad top-level classifications are not worthy of protection - essentially, not only the inequality of dhimmi status for other Religions Of The Book in the Dar al-Islam, but the inequality of the 'heretical' religions not Of The Book, or that claim a founding after the early-mid-600s C.E., after the Seal of Prophecy. The argument in California is basically "These (mainstream, large-number-of-followers) religions are first tier, and thus deserve the protections of the First Amendment; these other (non-mainstream, possibly explicitly opposed to one of the 'first tier' [especially anti-Christian], doesn't-have-a-big-enough-crowd-of-followers-to-be-politically-important, usually viewed as evil by Good Christians) religions are second tier at best, and thus do not deserve the protections of the First Amendment.".

The real argument is "We can't afford to have gazillionty-ump chaplains, but we can't just say that, because the courts - especially here in California - have frequently ruled that expense is no excuse for denial of rights, so we have to deny that they should be covered by the Constitution using these insupportable theories."

*nod* I know - hence the smartassness disclaimer.

And going of on a tangent, I think the dhimmi was (or started being, at last) more a reflection of obligations (and a reasonable balance of obligations and privileges) than anything else (Muslim men were subject to conscription and or required to serve in the military - men of other religions weren't, IIRC. Kinda like, in most Western countries, citizens can vote in exchange for paying taxes and or other obligations, and permanent residents or non-immigrant workers have fewer obligations and privileges.) So it may not be as one-sided in its difference in treatment (IMO) as the one that started this discussion.