Compulsory payments for advancement of religion – let’s get rid of that.

I read  recently how cynically humans use the word “freedom.” (I think it was in Jennifer Michael Hecht‘s Doubt: A History)  How often do you see a fascist or otherwise undemocratic organisation with freedom in its name or slogans?

This came to mind again when I saw this post Students: Free at Last. (At Say Hello to my Little Friend – a blog which has a smoking gun in its heading. The blogger justifies the graphic saying “it depicts the way I like to ruthlessly “whack” bad ideas.” Rather unfortunate use of gangster terminology – especially as he uses the blog to advance his own “bad ideas”).

This particular post is “whacking” the “bad idea” of compulsorily union membership. I agree that, in this case, it is a bad idea  – in principle. During most of my working life I supported unionism – and the union I belonged to was voluntary, a comparatively strong and active union because of that. In fact people of my “socialist” persuasion saw compulsory unionism as a right-wing fetter, promoting class apathy and, in most cases, ensuring a leadership complaint with employer interests.

But, in my experience, most of those who have campaigned against compulsory unionism did so because they were more opposed to the “unionism” part than the “compulsory” part. They had their own ideological reasons for their campaign and it wasn’t desire for freedom.

This is why I find this, and similar campaigns, by conservative Christian groups and blogs (as “Say Hello” is) hypocritical. Some of these groups don’t allow their own members to join unions, compulsory or not. And many of their policies are the very opposite of freedom.

For example – I oppose the classification of “advancement of religion” as a charitable purpose for purposes of tax exemption – and local body rates. In practice these means part of my taxes are used to subsidise the tax-free status of people, organisations and buildings whose only purpose is proselytization of ideas I find abhorent. I don’t see that a charitable purpose, nor would most New Zealanders. Yet provided these organisations or people are proselytising a supernatural world view they can get tax exemption. No real charitable work is required for this.

Sure, many religious organisations do genuine charitable work – and I have no problem with their receiving tax exemption for that part of their work. None at all.

But this subsidy for the “advancement of religion” is undemocratic on two grounds:

  1. It is available only to those who hold supernatural beliefs;
  2. We all pay for it through our taxes and rates, we have never been asked if we wish to and most people are just completely unaware of this imposition on their earnings.

I think it is hypocritical for conservative Christians to argue on the one hand against compulsory unionism, or deduction of union fees or their equivalent. Then, to argue on the other hand that the compulsory payment of taxes to subsidise their specific supernatural beliefs is somehow OK.

It is not.

If we want to talk about freedom lets not be hypocritical about it. Let’s recognise that this compulsory deduction from our earnings to subsidise the advancement of supernatural ideas also violates our freedoms – specifically our freedom to be treated equally, irrespective of religion or belief. And our freedom of, and freedom from, religion or belief.

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5 responses to “Compulsory payments for advancement of religion – let’s get rid of that.

  1. Daniel Schealler

    Reminds me of this quote from Yes, Prime Minister:

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: East Yemen, isn’t that a democracy?
    Sir Richard Wharton: Its full name is the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of East Yemen.
    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Ah I see, so it’s a communist dictatorship.


  2. I agree completely. I am generally pro-union and even pro-compulsory union to a degree… although I see your point about this creating apathy…. but I waver when it comes to student associations. Basically because they are not really unions at all, but another sort of thing entirely.


  3. Max – you are to some extent raising the problem of the difference between a dogmatic principled stand and dealing with the real situaton on the ground.

    In my day I remember (dimly) that the union provided a number of servies, cafetaria, theatre, health services, etc.

    With the new law other ways will have to found to accomadate those serviices, and also to enable democratic decisions about them.

    If not, then students will have lost some freedom.


  4. Furthering religion is not something that should get tax benefits. I’ve noticed lately too that they mostly aren’t doing as much charity as they are supposed to either (though not relevant to your point).

    Anti-union types here in the States only want their freedom to stomp on you, their serf. I live in a rabidly anti-union state and even though I have never had a union job I benefited from unions because one of the bosses openly said they fired the last guy who tried to unionize. But here’s the thing that union activist did for everyone else — they always paid better than most in the area so even those who didn’t have union jobs had benefited from union activist help. Had their been laws to protect employees in my state, I would have contacted the guy and the feds but it was a pure employment at will state, what the anti-union types want: they could fire you for ANY reason other than the few limits like race. (And in my non-union part of the U.S. they unabashedly do age discrimination too.)


  5. Excuse typo of “their” for “there.”


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