Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki’s statement blaming the Kaikoura earthquake on “gays, sinners, and murderers” highlights the stupidity of our charity laws which define the advancement of religion a charitable activity and give tax exempt status to religions purely because they advance religion.
Public revulsion at Tamaki’s statement resulted in an on-line petition calling for the removal of Tamaki’s tax exempt status. Currently, that petition has over 120,000 signatures.
I guess many of these signatories, and others objecting to Tamaki’s statements, are really restricting their criticism to this specific example. But, let’s be clear. Tamaki’s statement was a religious statement. It is part of his particular advancement of his particular religion. He gets tax exempt status for saying such things.
Any argument for treating him differently to others advancing religion would be discriminatory – and could be seen as illegal itself.
Tamaki was advancing religion
Sure, some people might object to my calling Tamaki’s statement advancing religion – but we can’t pick and choose. Many religious leaders have made equally silly claims – in fact, such claims are only to be expected from religious leaders given the non-evidential nature of religion.
Of course, Tamaki and other religious leaders have the freedom to make ridiculous statements like this – just as we have the freedom to ridicule them – or ignore them. But what many people object to is that such ridiculous statements are being made by people we subsidise through their tax-exempt status. They are making these statements as part of their advancement of religion. And we are effectively paying them for making those statements.
There is no logic in this day and age, and in this secular society, for a religion or belief (including atheism) to be subsidised by the public purely for advancing their beliefs. In fact, it seems to me undemocratic for people with different beliefs to be forced to subsidise the advancement of a religion or belief.
We subsidise the Destiny Church – and Tamaki
The Destiny Church is just one example but the Charities Register certainly shows they have taken full advantage of this subsidy. Here is a list of Destiny Church organisations registered for tax exemption. You can check out their reasons (advancement of religion) and the financial statements via the links.
|Destiny Church Auckland Trust||CC29039||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Christchurch||CC31639||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Dunedin||CC31176||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Gisborne||CC31170||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Hamilton||CC29070||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Kaitaia||CC31465||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Nelson||CC29107||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Porirua||CC31406||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Rotorua||CC29108||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Taranaki||CC31434||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Taumarunui||CC31446||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Tauranga Trust||CC27986||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Te Puke||CC31454||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Thames||CC31461||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Wanganui||CC31439||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Wellington||CC31401||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Whakatane Trust||CC30992||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Church Whangarei||CC31001||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny International Trust||CC27985||Registered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Rescue Charitable Trust||CC50592||Registered||23/05/2014|
|Destiny Social Services Trust||CC31078||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Destiny Television Ministries International Trust||CC28102||Deregistered||30/06/2008|
|Empower International Trust||CC25962||Registered||17/06/2008|
|Fire And Destiny Centre||CC11272||Registered||5/10/2007|
Yes, I know, some people are going to react by telling me that religious organisations do good work – charitable work. And, I do not disagree with that in many cases.
But the point is that truly charitable work, helping the poor and disadvantaged, providing social and educational facilities, helping during disasters, etc., is provided for by the criteria defined as charitable. The advancement of religion is different – is related only to the advancement of a belief (in this case legally requiring belief in a supernatural entity). It has nothing to do with helping people.
True charity not harmed by removal of religious tax exemption
Those religions actually doing real charitable work would not be disadvantaged by removal of the advancement of religion criteria. They could continue to provide the real charitable services – and receive tax-exempt status for doing so.
Removal of the advancement of religion clause would not reduce real charitable work one bit. Nor would it prevent silly people like Tamaki saying ridiculous things.
But at least we would not have to face the fact that we financially support such silly people and their ridiculous statements.