First Church of Tax Exemption

satire def

After his tour de force as interim host on The Daily Show in 2013, John Oliver moved over to HBO to host his own program, “Last Week Tonight“. There, he takes a more in-depth look at various subjects like Sex Ed, prison sentences, transgender rights, the tobacco industry and nutritional supplements. If you haven’t watched any of those, I highly recommend that you do. Oliver’s satire is bitingly funny and incredibly informative. Sunday night, he turned that satire on this question: Should churches be tax exempt?

Oliver’s latest episode actually concentrated on televangelists who preach prosperity gospel. I thought I knew the depths to which these shysters would sink, but I was oh, so wrong; as bad as I thought it was, it’s worse. Watching these people brag about how God has “blessed” them and then beg for more money from people who can’t afford it made my skin crawl. But, the worst was when Gloria Copeland claimed that watching her god-damned TV show was a better way to be “healed” of cancer than actually seeking treatment. As a cancer survivor (who has been through the hell of chemotherapy not once, but twice), I almost became physically ill. I cannot believe that shit is legal.

What’s even more unbelievable is that these assholes take in tons of money and much of it tax exempt. Mega-mansions, jets that cost millions of dollars, garages full of expensive luxury cars and just about every bit is tax-free. Why? Why are these assholes able to live in a manner that would make Pharoah blush and pay no taxes while the people who fund their lifestyle aren’t much better off than the Israelites enslaved by Pharoah go broke taking up their slack with the IRS? It’s that pesky “separation of church and state” thing, of course. Sounds to me like some changes to the Constitution might be in order.

This is a real problem, people. And, isn’t just televangelists and mega-churches, it’s all churches. I mean, let’s face it, for every big, flashy house of worship pushing prosperity gospel on the public dime, there are thousands more small community-based churches out there getting over on us by feeding people, helping them find housing and clothing, assisting with employment related activities (resumes, applications, internet access, etc.), affordable pre/after-school care for working families and generally providing a support system for their communities. Even worse, some of them have the nerve to complain that removing their tax-exempt status would have a serious negative impact on their ability to continue providing those services. What? Can you believe the chutzpah of these moochers?

Look, it’s high time that churches and other religious organizations paid their fair share when it comes to taxes. Will that mean some small, local organizations that do the good work Oliver mentions in the beginning of his show go out of business? Yes, it does. Will removing churches tax exempt status mean that some people lose their job because their organization can’t afford to keep them or maybe even stay open? Yes, it does. And, if those organizations go out of business, does that mean that the people they help will be left high and dry since many of them fall between the cracks that are inevitable with government programs like TANF and SNAP? Yes, it does. Yeah, I know it sucks and I’m sorry about that, but you know what they say: You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Is my fault that I’m not one of those eggs?