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We would all lose if churches were taxed

By Lyle Shelton - posted Friday, 21 March 2014


When I pool my money with other parents to make our local junior AFL club work, I don't expect the Australian Taxation Office to slug the club with a tax bill.

We have already paid our taxes and this mutual income is used to provide a benefit to our kids.

Sport also provides a demonstrable public benefit and it is better for us to pay for it than the government.

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When we run a sausage sizzle or a cake stall, that money goes into club coffers and is not taxed. There would be uproar if it was.

When I go to church on Sunday, a bucket is passed around and I often put money in. Actually, I usually give electronically and often wonder when the bucket will become obsolete.

This money can be used to pay the wages of pastors, buy pigs for villages in Vietnam, improving sound equipment for the Friday night youth group and running community outreach programs. And yes, to the annoyance of some people who really dislike religion, people are told about Jesus as these programs are administered.

In fact, it is the teachings of Jesus that have inspired Christian churches to good works for millennia.

For hundreds of years as charity law evolved, advancement of religion has always been seen as providing a public benefit.

No one is forced to convert to Jesus but certainly his life's message is spoken about as food is handed out, people in debt are helped and youth events are run. This freedom to speak should not be restricted as Australians are savvy enough to know when religious enthusiasts go too far.

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Churches and Christian charities do not amass profits to make shareholders rich, they invest all of their income back into entities which exist to benefit others.

As the Abbott government takes the axe to our overseas aid budget, churches like mine are increasing their giving through partnerships with poor people in developing nations who need our help.

There is no evidence of systemic abuse of funds by the not-for-profit sector. Where the rules aren't followed, there should be enforcement but no serious case has been made that money given to churches and Christian charities is not benefiting the community.

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About the Author

Lyle Shelton is Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby based in Canberra.

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