Warm Southern Breeze

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STOP THE ABUSE: Prime Examples Why ALL Churches & Religion Should Be TAXED

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Associated Press has reported today that Catholic parishes in dioceses throughout the nation have fallen at the feet of government for a pandemic bailout – all while sitting on massive piles of cash that GREW SIGNIFICANTLY during the pandemic – and without any government help.

(see: Sitting On Billions, Catholic Dioceses Amassed Taxpayer Aid)

That is at least TWO forms of fraudulent abuse of government:
1.) Asking for help when it’s NOT needed, and;
2.) Religion asking Government for help.

That the government has become involved in the promotion and promulgation of religion is a stench in the nostrils of our nation’s Founders, is a violation of our United States Constitution’s “Establishment clause” in the First Amendment, and a perverted corruption of Heaven – for those who believe religion is above the political fray.

For those who adhere to the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson had some STRONG words to the Danbury Baptists who sought assistance from him, shortly after he had become President in 1801. It was on January 1 the following year, that Jefferson replied to a letter sent to him by the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut.

While much is rightfully made of Jefferson’s reply, not much is ever said about what the Baptists had written to him. In a letter dated “[after 7 Oct. 1801],” the Danbury Baptist Association had composed a letter to Jefferson of much greater length than was Jefferson’s brief reply to them – 503 words versus 226 words.

Jefferson was newly President, having been inaugurated as the 3rd President, March 4, 1801, and served two consecutive terms – until March 3, 1809. A mere 7 months into his first term, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to him, in part, that;

“… religion is consider’d as the first object of Legislation; & therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expence of such degrading acknowledgements as are inconsistant with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondred at therefore; if those, who seek after power & gain under the pretence of goverment & Religion should reproach their fellow men—should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

Sir, we are sensible that the President of the united States, is not the national Legislator, & also sensible that the national goverment cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the Earth. …”

The style and use of language then, of course, is significantly different from style today, and is much more “flowery,” formal and ornamental. Today’s language is more straight-forward, and to-the-point… blunt, even. There are advantages and disadvantages to each style, of course, but the point is, for that reason, sometimes it can be difficult to “interpret” what the writer(s) are attempting to say, or what matter they’re trying to address. That can also be complicated by variants in spelling of words commonly used today, which are considered obsolete, and archaic. One such example or archaic spelling in their letter is the word “ancient” which they spell as “antient.”

But the the excerpts in the paragraphs above are the veritable “heart” of the matter in their letter. In essence, what the Danbury Baptist Association is asking Jefferson to do, is to “settle” a matter – in their favor – in a disagreement they had with a dissenting religious faction.

A bit of background knowledge is necessary for a more full understanding the matter which the Danbury Baptists’ letter addressed. The National Archives provides an excellently succinct backgrounder for the matter, as follows:

“At its October 1800 meeting, the association initiated a petition movement to redress the grievances of the dissenting minority against the Congregationalist majority in the region. Although disestablishment had not been an issue in the 1800 election in Connecticut, the movement was a call for the statewide repeal of all laws that could be understood as supporting an established religion. [Emphasis added. Ed.] In 1801, the petition movement tried to remain above partisan politics and cultivated support of some Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and other dissenters who might be sympathetic to their cause. On 8 Oct. 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association, meeting at Colebrook, Connecticut, voted that Elders Stephen Royce (of Stratfield), Daniel Wildman (of Wolcott and Bristol), Nehemiah Dodge (of Southington and Farmington), Stephen S. Nelson (of Hartford), and Deacons Jared Mills (of Simsbury) and Ephraim Robbins (of Hartford) “be a committee to prepare an address to the President of the United States, in behalf of this association.” The address and President Jefferson’s reply of 1 Jan. 1802 were reprinted in newspapers across the country, including Denniston and Cheetham’s American Citizen on 18 Jan. 1802 (Minutes of the Danbury Baptist Association, Holden at Colebrook, October 7 and 8, 1801; Together with Their Circular and Corresponding Letters [Hartford, 1801]; Shaw-Shoemaker, No. 109; McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 2:920, 985–8, 1004–5; Connecticut Courant, 25 May 1801).”

The letter by the Danbury Baptist Association dated October 7, 1801 was received by Jefferson on 30 December 1801, and is enumerated in Jefferson’s “Summary Journal of Letters.”

In essence, the Danbury Baptists were asking Jefferson to
rule in a semi-private matter
(a disagreement between Danbury Baptists,
and a differing Christian sect),
in which any hint of religion was going to be
eradicated from
the laws in Connecticut.
The Danbury Baptists opposed the measure.

Thus, it can easier be understood Jefferson’s reply to them. And while Jefferson’s letter is half the length of the one addressed to him by Danbury Baptists, it is much more succinct. In essence, Jefferson “shut them down” (at least quieted their clamor) by his reply, which in pertinent part read:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

“A wall of separation between Church and State.” There could perhaps be no more clear example for a case of “laissez-faire” than in Jefferon’s letter of reply to the Danbury Baptists.

And now, we have a multi-billion dollar, tax-free corporation coming and begging for a taxpayer-funded handout.

Could there be anything more onerous?

Could there be any greater example of an violation of the First Amendment’s “Establishment clause” – that government should not endorse any religion, nor show deference to any religion by providing special support and succor to that religion?

No.

When the Catholic church – or any religion – lobbies the government for special consideration and gets $1.4 BILLION in taxpayer-funded handouts, what is there to be said?

You read that correctly.

On July 10, 2020, in a story headlined “AP: Catholic Church Lobbied For Taxpayer Funds, Got $1.4B,” the Associated Press reported that;

“The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

“The church’s haul may have reached — or even exceeded — $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found.”

How about THEM apples, eh?

Sexual predators in the Catholic church, most often as clergy who were long known to be habitually chronic sexual predators, were found out, and rather than ‘fessing up, apologizing, and offering some kind of universal class-action settlement with all affected individuals, and forever closing out their case, the Catholic church deliberately shuffled money around to hide it from any prospective legal action, and applied for, and was granted, special protection under bankruptcy laws to stash their cash away from the victims, and their lawyers, who were preparing to, or were already suing the church for allowing their sexual abuse to continue, in some cases, for well over 40, or 50 years, or even longer.

If that is not the picture of corruption, I do not know what it.

And to think… the QAnon folks ~could~ have sunk their teeth into that meat, but instead chose not to, and rather, fabricated some far-fetched bullshit story that has so little substance, that it’s laughable. And right-wingers believed them!

THERE IS MORE GLOBAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSES RIGHT UNDER THEIR NOSES THAN THEY COULD EVER SHAKE STICK AT – INCLUDING ACCOMPANYING CRIMES AND CORRUPTION – AND QANON TYPES DELIBERATELY CHOSE TO IGNORE IT.

And, I can guarant-damn-tee it, that they’ll DO NOTHING ABOUT IT.

The United States Congress should pull the rug out from under the Catholic church’s feet – along with ALL other luxuriating religious criminal cabals – and:
1.) PERMANENTLY REVOKE ALL religious organizations’ tax-exempt status;
2.) MANDATE that they ALL pay taxes;
3.) ELIMINATE laws providing special treatment to ALL religious entities, including tax status, by changing tax code to reflect status change.

If churches and other religious organizations want taxpayer money, they ought to pay for it through taxes. That way as well, ALL churches would be free to their heart’s content to preach from the pulpit any kind of political tripe that they see fit, and not have to worry about losing their tax-free status… because it’d already be gone.

It is
LONG OVERDUE
for this
Government-supported
Criminal Clown Theater
TO STOP!

And the ONLY way to put an end to religious corruption and governmental support of religious corruption, is to REMOVE TAX FREE STATUS FOR RELIGION.

There is NOTHING in the Constitution that states, nor suggests, that religion should be tax-free.

NOTHING!

James A. Garfield, a Republican, who later became President, had something to say about the matter. And, at the time when he made the following remarks – Monday, June 22, 1874 – was a Member of Congress in the House of Representatives from Ohio’s 19th Congressional District.

Mr. GARFIELD. I desire in a very few words, not to argue the merits of this case but to give the ground on which the Committee on Appropriations made their recommendation. Having stated that ground, I shall leave the question to the discretion of the House.

James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831–September 19, 1881) was a Republican, and 20th President of the United States from March 4, 1881 until his assassination September 19, 1881. Before being elected POTUS, he was Member of Ohio State Senate, 1859-61; Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1863-80, and; Elected to United States Senate, 1880. He was a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, graduated college Phi Beta Kappa salutatorian from Williams College where he first worked as janitor, later becoming a teacher there, United States Army Veteran of the Civil War rising to the rank of Brigadier General, teacher, lawyer, and public official.

I agree with everything that the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. E. R. Hoar] has said about the worthy charitable work of this organization known as the Little Sisters of the Poor. I agree that they distribute their charity without the slightest regard to denominational belief. The only ground on which I make a distinction (and it is a distinction I wish the House to understand) is this: Here is an organization composed exclusively of people of one religious denomination. Under its charter the members are wholly and only of one religious sect, and of one society within that religious sect. I take it that no woman in America, not a Catholic, could be one of the corporators in this home. At any rate I take it for granted that the members would not act in conjunction with any corporation not of that sect as a joint controller of the institution.

Now, I make the point – and the Committee on Appropriations made the point – that we ought never to commit ourselves to the aid of an exclusively sectarian institution. I would say the same were this institution under the control of a Protestant church, even if it were a church to which I myself belonged. The divorce between the church and the state ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere in any State or in the nation should be exempted from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a church tax upon the whole community. [emphasis added]

If the House deems this a point that ought not to be considered, I shall be very glad to see these Little Sisters of the Poor helped. If the fifty-sixth amendment, making an appropriation for the work for the Women’s Christian Association were in favor of any one sect, I should vote very quickly to strike it out.”

–– James A. Garfield, Republican, then Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s 19th Congressional District, Congressional Record, 43rd Congress, Monday, June 22, 1874, Volume 2, Part 6, p5384

The United States Federal Government has also FAILED The People by FAILING to initiate a RICO case against the Roman Catholic Church. RICO is Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, and if any organization was ever corrupt, it is the Roman Catholic Church, for their DELIBERATE NEGLECT of known child sexual predators in their ranks, predominately in the clergy.

TAX ALL CHURCHES!

When the coronavirus forced churches to close their doors and give up Sunday collections, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte turned to the federal government’s signature small business relief program for more than $8 million.

The diocese’s headquarters, churches and schools landed the help even though they had roughly $100 million of their own cash and short-term investments available last spring, financial records show. When the cash catastrophe church leaders feared didn’t materialize, those assets topped $110 million by the summer.

As the pandemic began to unfold, scores of Catholic dioceses across the U.S. received aid through the Paycheck Protection Program while sitting on well over $10 billion in cash, short-term investments or other available funds, an Associated Press investigation has found. And despite the broad economic downturn, these assets have grown in many dioceses.

Yet even with that financial safety net, the 112 dioceses that shared their financial statements, along with the churches and schools they oversee, collected at least $1.5 billion in taxpayer-backed aid. A majority of these dioceses reported enough money on hand to cover at least six months of operating expenses, even without any new income.

The financial resources of several dioceses rivaled or exceeded those available to publicly traded companies like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, whose early participation in the program triggered outrage. Federal officials responded by emphasizing the money was intended for those who lacked the cushion that cash and other liquidity provide. Many corporations returned the funds.

Overall, the nation’s nearly 200 dioceses, where bishops and cardinals govern, and other Catholic institutions received at least $3 billion. That makes the Roman Catholic Church perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the paycheck program, according to AP’s analysis of data the U.S. Small Business Administration released following a public-records lawsuit by news organizations. The agency for months had shared only partial information, making a more precise analysis impossible.

Already one of the largest federal aid efforts ever, the SBA reopened the Paycheck Protection Program last month with a new infusion of nearly $300 billion. In making the announcement, the agency’s administrator at the time, Jovita Carranza, hailed the program for serving “as an economic lifeline to millions of small businesses.”

Church officials have said their employees were as worthy of help as workers at Main Street businesses, and that without it they would have had to slash jobs and curtail their charitable mission as demand for food pantries and social services spiked. They point out the program’s rules didn’t require them to exhaust their stores of cash and other funds before applying.

But new financial statements several dozen dioceses have posted for 2020 show that their available resources remained robust or improved during the pandemic’s hard, early months. The pattern held whether a diocese was big or small, urban or rural, East or West, North or South.

In Kentucky, funds available to the Archdiocese of Louisville, its parishes and other organizations grew from at least $153 million to $157 million during the fiscal year that ended in June, AP found. Those same offices and organizations received at least $17 million in paycheck money. “The Archdiocese’s operations have not been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak,” according to its financial statement. [emphasis added]

In Illinois, the Archdiocese of Chicago had more than $1 billion in cash and investments in its headquarters and cemetery division as of May, while the faithful continued to donate “more than expected,” according to a review by the independent ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service. Chicago’s parishes, schools and ministries accumulated at least $77 million in paycheck protection funds.

Up the interstate from Charlotte in North Carolina, the Raleigh Diocese collected at least $11 million in aid. Yet during the fiscal year that ended in June, overall offerings were down just 5% and the assets available to the diocese, its parishes and schools increased by about $21 million to more than $170 million, AP found. In another measure of fiscal health, the diocese didn’t make an emergency draw on its $10 million line of credit.

Catholic leaders in dioceses including Charlotte, Chicago, Louisville and Raleigh said their parishes and schools, like many other businesses and nonprofits, suffered financially when they closed to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Some dioceses reported that their hardest-hit churches saw income drop by 40% or more before donations began to rebound months later, and schools took hits when fundraisers were canceled and families had trouble paying tuition. As revenues fell, dioceses said, wage cuts and a few dozen layoffs were necessary in some offices.

Catholic researchers at Georgetown University who surveyed the nation’s bishops last summer found such measures weren’t frequent. In comparison, a survey by the investment bank Goldman Sachs found 42% of small business owners had cut staff or salaries, and that 33% had spent their personal savings to stay open.

Church leaders have questioned why AP focused on their faith following a story last July, when New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote that reporters “invented a story when none existed and sought to bash the Church.”

By using a special exemption that the church lobbied to include in the paycheck program, Catholic entities amassed at least $3 billion — roughly the same as the combined total of recipients from the other faiths that rounded out the top five, AP found. Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Jewish faith-based recipients also totaled at least $3 billion. Catholics account for about a fifth of the U.S. religious population while members of Protestant and Jewish denominations are nearly half, according to the Pew Research Center.

Catholic institutions also received many times more than other major nonprofits with charitable missions and national reach, such as the United Way, Goodwill Industries and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Overall, Catholic recipients got roughly twice as much as 40 of the largest, most well-known charities in America combined, AP found.

The complete picture is certainly even more lopsided. So many Catholic entities received help that reporters could not identify them all, even after spending hundreds of hours hand-checking tens of thousands of records in federal data.

The Vatican referred questions about the paycheck program to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said it does not speak on behalf of dioceses.

Presented with AP’s findings, bishops conference spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi responded with a broad statement that the Paycheck Protection Program was “designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or nonprofit employers, faith-based or secular.”

INTERNAL SKEPTICISM

The AP’s assessment of church finances is among the most comprehensive to date. It draws largely from audited financial statements posted online by the central offices of 112 of the country’s nearly 200 dioceses.

The church isn’t required to share its financials. As a result, the analysis doesn’t include cash, short-term assets and lines of credit held by some of the largest dioceses, including those serving New York City and other major metropolitan areas.

The analysis focused on available assets because federal officials cited those metrics when clarifying eligibility for the paycheck program. Therefore, the $10 billion AP identified doesn’t count important financial pillars of the U.S. church. Among those are its thousands of real estate properties and most of the funds that parishes and schools hold. Also excluded is the money — estimated at $9.5 billion in a 2019 study by the Delaware-based wealth management firm Wilmington Trust — held by charitable foundations created to help dioceses oversee donations.

In addition, dioceses can rely on a well-funded support system that includes help from wealthier dioceses, the bishops conference and other Catholic organizations. Canon law, the legal code the Vatican uses to govern the global church, notes that richer dioceses may assist poorer ones, and the AP found instances where they did.

In their financial statements, the 112 dioceses acknowledged having at least $4.5 billion in liquid or otherwise available assets. To reach its $10 billion total, AP also included funding that dioceses had opted to designate for special projects instead of general expenses; excess cash that parishes and their affiliates deposit with their diocese’s savings and loan; and lines of credit dioceses typically have with outside banks.

Some church officials said AP was misreading their financial books and therefore overstating available assets. They insisted that money their bishop or his advisers had set aside for special projects couldn’t be repurposed during an emergency, although financial statements posted by multiple dioceses stated the opposite.

For its analysis, AP consulted experts in church finance and church law. One was the Rev. James Connell, an accountant for 15 years before joining the priesthood and becoming an administrator in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Connell, also a canon lawyer who is now retired from his position with the archdiocese, said AP’s findings convinced him that Catholic entities did not need government aid — especially when thousands of small businesses were permanently closing.

“Was it want or need?” Connell asked. “Need must be present, not simply the want. Justice and love of neighbor must include the common good.”

Connell was not alone among the faithful concerned by the church’s pursuit of taxpayer money. Parishioners in several cities have questioned church leaders who received government money for Catholic schools they then closed.

Elsewhere, a pastor in a Western state told AP that he refused to apply even after diocesan officials repeatedly pressed him. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of his diocese’s policy against talking to reporters and concerns about possible retaliation.

The pastor had been saving, much like leaders of other parishes. When the pandemic hit, he used that money, trimmed expenses and told his diocese’s central finance office that he had no plans to seek the aid. Administrators followed up several times, the pastor said, with one high-ranking official questioning why he was “leaving free money on the table.”

The pastor said he felt a “sound moral conviction” that the money was meant more for shops and restaurants that, without it, might close forever.

As the weeks passed last spring, the pastor said his church managed just fine. Parishioners were so happy with new online Masses and his other outreach initiatives, he said, they boosted their contributions beyond 2019 levels.

“We didn’t need it,” the pastor said, “and intentionally wanted to leave the money for those small business owners who did.”

WEATHERING A DOWNTURN

Months after the pandemic first walloped the economy, the 112 dioceses that release financial statements began sharing updates. Among the 47 dioceses that have thus far, the pandemic’s impact was far from crippling.

The 47 dioceses that have posted financials for the fiscal year that ended in June had a median 6% increase in the amount of cash, short-term investments and other funds that they and their affiliates could use for unanticipated or general expenses, AP found. In all, 38 dioceses grew those resources, while nine reported declines.

Finances in Raleigh and 10 other dioceses that took government assistance were stable enough that they did not have to dip into millions they had available through outside lines of credit.

“This crisis has tested us,” Russell Elmayan, Raleigh’s chief financial officer, told the diocese’s magazine website in July, “but we are hopeful that the business acumen of our staff and lay counselors, together with the strategic financial reserves built over time, will help our parishes and schools continue to weather this unprecedented event.” Raleigh officials did not answer direct questions from AP.

The 47 dioceses acknowledged a smaller amount of readily available assets than AP counted, though by their own accounting that grew as well.

The improving financial outlook is due primarily to parishioners who found ways to continue donating and U.S. stock markets that were rebounding to new highs. But when the markets were first plunging, officials in several dioceses said, they had to stretch available assets because few experts were forecasting a rapid recovery.

In Louisville, Charlotte and other dioceses, church leaders said they offered loans or grants to needy parishes and schools, or offset the monthly charges they assess their parishes. In Raleigh, for example, the headquarters used $3 million it had set aside for liability insurance and also tapped its internal deposit and loan fund.

Church officials added that the pandemic’s full toll will probably be seen in a year or two, because some key sources of revenue are calculated based on income that parishes and schools generate.

“We believe that we will not know all of the long-term negative impacts on parish, school and archdiocesan finances for some time,” Louisville Archdiocese spokeswoman Cecelia Price wrote in response to questions.

At the nine dioceses that recorded declines in liquid or other short-term assets, the drops typically were less than 10%, and not always clearly tied to the pandemic.

The financial wherewithal of some larger dioceses is underscored by the fact that, like publicly traded companies, they can raise capital by selling bonds to investors.

One was Chicago, where analysts with the Moody’s ratings agency calculated that the $1 billion in cash and investments held by the archdiocese headquarters and cemeteries division could cover about 631 days of operating expenses.

Church officials in Chicago asserted that those dollars were needed to cover substantial expenses while parishioner donations slumped. Without paycheck support, “parishes and schools would have been forced to cut many jobs, as the archdiocese, given its liabilities, could not have closed such a funding gap,” spokeswoman Paula Waters wrote.

Moody’s noted in its May report that while giving was down, federal aid had compensated for that and helped leave the archdiocese “well positioned to weather this revenue loss over the next several months.” Among the reasons for the optimism: “a unique credit strength” that under church law allows the archbishop to tax parish revenue virtually at will.

In a separate Moody’s report on New Orleans, which filed for bankruptcy in May while facing multiple clergy abuse lawsuits, the ratings agency wrote in July that the archdiocese did so while having “significant financial reserves, with spendable cash and investments of over $160 million.”

Moody’s said the archdiocese’s “very good” liquid assets would let it operate 336 days without additional income. Those assets prompted clergy abuse victims to ask a federal judge to dismiss the bankruptcy filing, arguing the archdiocese’s primary reason for seeking the legal protection was to minimize payouts to them.

The archdiocese, along with its parishes and schools, collected more than $26 million in paycheck money. New Orleans Archdiocesan officials didn’t respond to written questions.

PURSUING AID

Without special treatment, the Catholic Church would not have received nearly so much under the Paycheck Protection Program.

After Congress let nonprofits and religious organizations participate in the first place, Catholic officials lobbied the Trump Administration for a second break. Religious organizations were freed from the so-called affiliation rule that typically disqualifies applicants with more than 500 workers.

Without that break, many dioceses would have missed out because — between their head offices, parishes, schools and other affiliates — their employee count would exceed the limit.

Among those lobbying, federal records show, was the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Parishes, schools and ministries there collected at least $80 million in paycheck aid, at a time when the headquarters reported $658 million in available funds heading into the fiscal year when the coronavirus arrived.

Catholic officials in the U.S. needed the special exception for at least two reasons.

Church law says dioceses, parishes and schools are affiliated, something the Los Angeles Archdiocese acknowledged “proved to be an obstacle” to receiving funds because its parishes operate “under the authority of the diocesan bishop.” Dioceses, parishes, schools and other Catholic entities also routinely assert to the Internal Revenue Service that they are affiliated so they can maintain their federal income tax exemption.

Estimates of the total subsidies enjoyed by religious groups did not take into account the amounts received from subsidies such as the sales tax subsidies, local sales and income tax subsidies, volunteer labor subsidy, and donor-tax exemptions.
Researchers at the Institute claimed that the tax subsidies which were unaccounted for could also amount to billions in tax savings.
Further, the Institute claimed that the subsidies should be cut for religious groups, or at least restricted to being applied solely to the charitable works of the marginalization.
Religious organizations also enjoyed approximately $6.1 billion in state income tax subsidies, along with $1.2 billion of parsonage, and $2.2 billion in the faith-based initiatives subsidy.
Churches in the USA receive approximately $71 billion in tax credits and tax breaks each year, according to the results of new research released on October 16th by the Secular Policy Institute.

While some Catholic officials insisted their affiliates are separate and financially independent, AP found many instances of borrowing and spending among them when dioceses were faced with prior cash crunches. In Philadelphia, for example, the archdiocese received at least $18 million from three affiliates, including a seminary, to fund a compensation program for clergy sex abuse survivors, according to 2019 financial statements.

Cardinals and bishops have broad authority over parishes and the pastors who run them. Church law requires parishes to submit annual financial reports and bishops may require parishes to deposit surplus money with internal banks administered by the diocese.

“The parishioners cannot hire or fire the pastor; that is for the bishop to do,” said Connell, the priest, former accountant and canon lawyer. “Each parish functions as a wholly owned subsidiary or division of a larger corporation, the diocese.”

Bishops acknowledged a concerted effort to tap paycheck funds in a survey by Catholic researchers at Georgetown University. When asked what they had done to address the pandemic’s financial fallout, 95% said their central offices helped parishes apply for paycheck and other aid — the leading response. That topped encouraging parishioners to donate electronically.

After Congress approved the paycheck program, three high-ranking officials in New Hampshire’s Manchester Diocese sent an urgent memo to parishes, schools and affiliated organizations urging them to refrain from layoffs or furloughs until completing their applications. “We are all in this together,” the memo read, adding that diocesan officials were working expeditiously to provide “step by step instructions.”

Paycheck Protection Program funds came through low-interest bank loans, worth up to $10 million each, that the federal government would forgive so long as recipients used the money to cover about two months of wages and operating expenses.

After an initial $659 billion last spring, Congress added another $284 billion in December. With the renewal came new requirements intended to ensure that funds go to businesses that lost money due to the pandemic. Lawmakers also downsized the headcount for applicants to 300 or fewer employees.

A QUESTION OF NEED

In other federal small business loan programs, government help is treated as a last resort.

Applicants must show they couldn’t get credit elsewhere. And those with enough available funds must pay more of their own way to reduce taxpayer subsidies.

Congress didn’t include these tests in the Paycheck Protection Program. To speed approvals, lenders weren’t required to do their usual screening and instead relied on applicants’ self-certifications of need.

The looser standards helped create a run on the first $349 billion in paycheck funding. Small business owners complained that they were shut out, yet dozens of companies healthy enough to be traded on stock exchanges scored quick approval.

As blowback built in April, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned at a news briefing that there would be “severe consequences” for applicants who improperly tapped the program.

“We want to make sure this money is available to small businesses that need it, people who have invested their entire life savings,” Mnuchin said. Program guidelines evolved to stress that participants with access to significant cash probably could not get the assistance “in good faith.”

Mnuchin’s Treasury Department said it would audit loans exceeding $2 million, although federal officials have not said whether they would hold religious organizations and other nonprofits to the same standard of need as businesses.

The headquarters and major departments for more than 40 dioceses received more than $2 million. Every diocese that responded to questions said it would seek to have the government cover the loans, rather than repay the funds.

One diocese receiving a loan over $2 million was Boston. According to the archdiocese’s website, its central ministries office received about $3 million, while its parishes and schools collected about $32 million more.

The archdiocese — along with its parishes, schools and cemeteries — had roughly $200 million in available funds in June 2019, according to its audited financial report. When that fiscal year ended several months into the pandemic, available funds had increased to roughly $233 million.

Nevertheless, spokesman Terrence Donilon cited “ongoing economic pressure” in saying the archdiocese will seek forgiveness for last year’s loans and will apply for additional, new funds during the current round.

Beyond its growing available funds, the archdiocese and its affiliates benefit from other sources of funding. The archdiocese’s “Inspiring Hope” campaign, announced in January, has raised at least $150 million.

And one of its supporting charities — the Catholic Schools Foundation, where Cardinal Sean O’Malley is board chairman — counted more than $33 million in cash and other funds that could be “used for general operations” as of the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year, according to its financial statement.

Despite these resources, the archdiocese closed a half-dozen schools in May and June, often citing revenue losses due to the pandemic. Paycheck protection data show four of those schools collectively were approved for more than $700,000.

The shuttered schools included St. Francis of Assisi in Braintree, a middle-class enclave 10 miles south of Boston, which received $210,000. Parents said they felt blindsided by the closure, announced in June as classes ended.

“It’s like a punch to the gut because that was such a home for so many people for so long,” said Kate Nedelman Herbst, the mother of two children who attended the elementary school.

Along with more than 2,000 other school supporters, Herbst signed a written protest to O’Malley that noted the archdiocese’s robust finances. After O’Malley didn’t reply, parents appealed to the Vatican, this time underscoring the collection of Paycheck Protection Program money.

“It is very hard to reconcile the large sums of money raised by the archdiocese in recent years with this wholesale destruction of the church’s educational infrastructure,” parents wrote.

In December, the Vatican turned down their request to overrule O’Malley. Spokesman Donilon said the decision to close the school “is not being reconsidered.”

Today, the three children of Michael Waterman and his wife, Jeanine, are learning at home. And they still can’t understand why the archdiocese didn’t shift money to help save a school beloved by the faithful.

“What angers us,” Michael Waterman said, “is that we feel like, given the amount of money that the Catholic Church has, they absolutely could have remained open.”

___

Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.

Contact the reporters at https://twitter.com/reesedunklin and https://twitter.com/mikerezendes.

___

Contributing to this report were Justin Myers, Randy Herschaft, Rodrique Ngowi, Holbrook Mohr, Jason Dearen and James LaPorta.

https://apnews.com/article/catholic-church-get-aid-investigation-39a404f55c82fea84902cd16f04e37b2

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Should Churches Be Taxed?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In response to Lakewood Church, and Joel Osteen’s initial refusal to open the doors of that facility to be a refuge from the torrential storms deluging Houston:

If I’m not mistaken (and I could be), late former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace advocated taxing churches & other religious institutions.

I think there is genuine merit in considering the argument – pro & con – why churches should remain tax-free institutions, particularly given that their ostensible purposes include Read the rest of this entry »

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Reinvigorating Our Workforce

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, February 7, 2016

Youth employment apprenticeshipsI have long advocated some type of national service for ALL – and ALL means ALL – for ALL have something to contribute.

Whether that service is by a paraplegic youth with computer skills, or a high school footballer with a strong back, or an art student with creative skills, every high school graduate can and should be expected to contribute to our nation through service to our local & state communities, and to our nation.Disabled-youth-can work

Were our nation to become serious about infrastructure repair & expansion, were our nation serious about jobs & employment, were our nation serious about economic vitality & personal responsibility, we would put our money where our mouth is by Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama Prison System Teetering on Federal Takover

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, August 7, 2014

Every single word in this OpEd is spot-on.

Alabama is on the verge of a complete takeover of it’s prison system. That is a VERY sad indictment, and fact. Further, most Alabamians are COMPLETELY unaware of the dangers the state faces.

Alabama is a state in crisis.

Fiscal crisis from a failure of long-term management, unwise, unsound policy, unnecessary prolonged and costly legal battles at the state and federal levels over inane laws which have had no positive effect upon the state, from policies and procedures which have only burdened the people, tax giveaways to corporations, funded corporate welfare, an inequitable personal income taxation system which has hampered and hamstrung state growth, and further placed the state’s citizens into poverty.

Face it folks… I don’t give a damn about what political colors you wear, or how or what you describe yourself as politically in Alabama… if everything were peaches and cream in the state, then why in the Hell is the state’s poverty level 18% – 4 percentage points ABOVE the national average?

Why is the state sick in their persons? Of all states, Alabama continually ranks high in rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc., even among CHILDREN!

Why does the state have a high crime rate?

Why are Alabamians largely “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command”?

WHY?

WHY?!?

WHY!?!

***
***

Why Alabama Cannot Wait on Prison Reform: Guest Opinion

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (center), speaks  speaks to media members during a tour as Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections (left) and warden Carter Davenport listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

Alabama State Senator Cam Ward (center), speaks speaks to media members during a tour as Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections (left) and Warden Carter Davenport listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

Guest opinion By Alabama State Senator Cam Ward
August 06, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated August 06, 2014 at 9:05 AM

By Cam Ward

Prisons are an issue that would never rank high on any list of priorities for the people of Alabama and understandably so.  With unemployment hovering near 7 percent and many schools in need of repair, people ask me why prison reform should be a major subject at this time. The answer is simple – because our failure to maintain a good corrections system is going to push over a fiscal cliff that we may never recover from.

For years as our corrections system became more crowded the political leadership in Montgomery turned their eyes to issues more palatable to the voters during election time. The general feeling for decades has been “let’s wait and deal with that when we have more money.”

As we waited our system grew to 192 percent capacity and despite this incarceration rate our state has the 8th highest violent crime rate in the country. Both of these statistics point to a failing system of corrections.

In addition to allowing for a broken system to continue down a path of inefficiency we have also created a fiscal nightmare of the likes our state has never seen before. While we spend Read the rest of this entry »

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Would President Obama privatize TVA & Kill the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shoals: Privatizing TVA is ‘a bad idea’

By Mike Goens
Managing Editor
Matt McKean/TimesDaily
4/21/13

Anglers fish below thousands of feet of power lines that run from TVA’s Wheeler Dam turbine systems. Those from the Shoals who work closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority said the federal agency should not be turned over to private companies. Matt McKean/TimesDaily

Anglers fish below thousands of feet of power lines that run from TVA’s Wheeler Dam turbine systems. Those from the Shoals who work closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority said the federal agency should not be turned over to private companies. Matt McKean/TimesDaily

If President Barack Obama needs help orchestrating an effort to privatize TVA, he shouldn’t expect much support from the Shoals.

Those from the Shoals who work closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority said the federal agency should not be turned over to private companies. They fear a privately owned TVA will lead to higher electricity rates, job cuts, more flooding problems and navigational issues on the Tennessee River and other waterways under TVA’s jurisdiction.

“The first questions you need to ask are what’s the gain for government and what would be gained by the community,” said Steve Hargrove, manager of Sheffield Utilities. “If the purpose is to make things better and there is reason to think it’s possible, I would be the first one interested in sitting at the table and talking about it. I just don’t see advantages of privatizing at this time.”

Obama brought the issue to the table through his 2014 budget proposal, which was released last week. He said selling TVA should be explored as a means to increase revenue by as much as $25 billion, money that could reduce the federal deficit and pay for other government services.

Hargrove has a unique perspective to the debate, having worked at TVA for 33 years before retiring as plant manager at Colbert Fossil Plant. He became manager of Sheffield Utilities in December.

His department purchases electricity from TVA and provides power to about 19,000 customers in Colbert County.

“I am a believer in the private sector, but I would fear their mission would be different than TVA’s,” Hargrove said. “The mission of TVA is not to make profit, and the mission of the private sector is to make a profit. They have to answer to a board that wants to maximize profits. When your primary goal is to make a profit, that becomes a higher goal than helping the community.

“TVA has had its problems, and bad decisions have been made, but its mission is good and they are an established part of the communities.”

Hargrove said residential rates for TVA customers in the Southeast are among the lowest 25 percent in the country and Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama’s Quandary: Nur$ing Homes, or Home Care?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, October 5, 2012

It’s almost like trying to patch a roof while it’s leaking.

October 04, 2012

This Week in Alabama Politics

By Steve Flowers
It is basic public policy that you either have to raise taxes or reduce government services. It has become a cardinal sin in Republican politics to even say the word tax much less enact any increase in revenue. Our legislature is now overwhelmingly Republican and they are real Republicans. They take their no new tax pledge seriously as does our Republican governor. Therefore, when the dicing and crafting of the 2013 budget was being processed, new revenue enhancement measures were not on the table. It is doubtful that you will see any tax increase proposals anytime soon in the Heart of Dixie.

The state’s new budget year begins this week. It will be horrendous. There are draconian cuts to basic state services. Alabama has a constitutional amendment that mandates a balanced budget. We are in dire straits but at least we are not deficit spending like other states. California is teetering on bankruptcy.

This past year’s budget was bad. Teachers and state employees pay was cut this time last year. However, if you think that last year was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is the year that the chickens have finally come home to roost. The federal stimulus manna from Heaven has provided a lifeline salvation for several years but those dollars are gone. This fiscal year may well be the worst dilemma since the Great Depression.

My contention is that it is worse than the Depression years. During that era the state Read the rest of this entry »

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Necessary but Not Sufficient: Why Taxing the Wealthy Can’t Fix the Deficit

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, October 4, 2012

NOW OR NEVER | SEPTEMBER 2012

Necessary but Not Sufficient:
Why Taxing the Wealthy Can’t Fix the Deficit

By David Brown, Gabe Horwitz, and David Kendall

In this paper we shatter the myth that taxes on the wealthy can come close to solving our long-term budget problem. We readily acknowledge that raising taxes on top earners is necessary, but it is not sufficient to solve the looming fiscal crisis. And we make clear that if entitlements are left on autopilot, burdensome middle class tax hikes become inevitable.

Even a 50% tax rate on the wealthy can’t fix the deficit.
Even 50% taxe rate on wealthy can't fix deficitThis is the first in a pair of papers that demonstrate that purely ideological fixes will not sufficiently address our fiscal issues. Our other report, Death by a Thousand Cuts: Why Spending Cuts Alone Won’t Fix the Deficit, proves that a cuts-only strategy cannot solve our budget woes without severely compromising our safety, security, and economic growth. Together, these papers make the case that a big and balanced fiscal package is the preferred way to avoid the fiscal cliff, prevent deficits from exploding in the future, and allow our economy to grow.

To stabilize the debt and create a positive economic climate for U.S. growth, most mainstream economists agree that annual deficits must be reduced to 3% of GDP. The question is: how do we get there?

In order to demonstrate that taxes alone cannot solve our budget woes, we explore three budget scenarios, all of which rely solely on Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama Governor Bentley gives Marshall county chicken farm $5K tax dollar$ to buy light bulbs during proration

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This is stuff for the Cobert Report!

Sad, but true folks…

Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley, MD (R)

Alabama Governor, Robert J. Bentley, MD (R)

Yes, you read that correctly.

Bear in mind also, that the state is already in a period of budgetary proration.

What’s that?

Alabama’s Constitution forbids debt spending, so the budget must equal – not exceed – the state’s revenue.

So, in accordance with the state’s Constitution, on March 16, 2012, Governor Robert J. Bentley declared a proration of  “10.6 percent for the state General Fund for non-education services, cutting budgeted spending by $188 million because of a shortfall in expected revenues.”

Can you smell the hypocrisy cooking?

Bentley awards grant to help business upgrade lighting

May 22, 2012

MONTGOMERY – Gov. Robert Bentley awarded a $5,000 grant to help a farm business in Marshall County reduce energy consumption and save money.

The grant will help Maze Farms Inc. Read the rest of this entry »

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Things Alabama ain’t got… Mega Millions Lottery

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, March 30, 2012

Some folks would say “common sense,” and to some extent, that’s probably true.

Well… better make that “to a great extent.”

But, a state lottery is another thing Alabama ain’t got.

And, the Republicans in the legislature in the past administration and the present administration seem to have absolutely no inclination to allow the people the opportunity to vote on it… whether to have state sponsored gammlin’, that is.

Folks’ve tried to get one for education but have failed. And, in a move called “proration,” the governor this year cut all state budgets across the board by 10.6%, excluding education, because Alabama’s state constitution, for better or for worse, forbids going into debt and requires a balanced budget. Bonds are a different matter.

But, one other thing the state’s legislature doesn’t do Read the rest of this entry »

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Why the idea of “SMALLER GOVERNMENT” is a myth

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, February 2, 2012

I never cease to be amazed at the silliness, tomfoolery, and outright stupidity – that’s being kind to so describe such behavior – that some elected fools… er, officials assert.

The Seat of Government

The Seat of Government (Photo credit: Ewan-M. via Flickr)

For example, one of the most popular, well-known and oft-repeated mantras of the TEA Partiers and other radical Republicans make is one of “smaller government.”

Allow me to be uncompromisingly forthright – also known as wholly blunt: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tom Coburn: End welfare for the wealthy

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, December 1, 2011

Congress, it has been recently noted, has the lowest approval rating since record-keeping of that type has begun. In fact, it was noted with significantly ironic disdain, that more Americans favor the United States becoming a Communist nation than approve of Congress. Disapproval of congressional action – or inaction – has been duly noted by all members of congress, house and senate.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize that I have excoriated Republicans and their presidential nominee wannabes for numerous reasons, not the least of which is their blind obedience to their corporate masters – which in essence, makes them high-powered prostitutes – whores, if you prefer – and for the greatest part towed the line refusal to modify or raise – even slightly – of the rich, which has been the proposal of “some random person,” otherwise known as Grover Norquist. The reader may be interested to know that Mr. Norquist was “promoter of the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” which was signed by 95% of all Republican Congressmen and all but one of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates – in which the signer promises to never, under any circumstances, support an increase in taxes.” That pdf document may be downloaded here.

Human nature what it is, many will be loyal to those whom sign their paychecks, particularly when powerful strings are attached to those checks.

And yet, while we respect loyalty, we also honor those whom stand upon principle, and whom are motivated and guided by selflessness and a genuine desire to help others – with liberty and justice for all – not just an elite cadre.

In that sense – especially in this Op-Ed – Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK, seems to be the voice of reason in the GOP. The reader may also be interested to note that Sen. Coburn was a signatory to that random lobbyist promulgated document. The lobbyist being none other than the Born-with-a-silver spoon-in-his-mouth-Harvard-educated Grover, whom federally-convicted felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff also fingered in his recent tell-all. It is interesting to note that Sen. Coburn has chosen the high road.

End welfare for the wealthy

By Tom Coburn, Special to CNN
updated 2:10 PM EST, Thu December 1, 2011

(CNN) — The debate in Congress this week about whether to pay for extending the payroll tax cut by imposing a new tax on millionaires will have nothing to do with solving our nation’s economic challenges and everything to do with election-year politics. Senate Democratic leaders have already signaled they will use the debate as a purely partisan exercise designed to embarrass Republicans into opposing tax cuts for the poor while defending tax cuts for the rich.

I intend to offer an alternative. Instead of punishing the rich with higher taxes, I will give Congress the option of helping pay for extending the payroll tax cut by ending welfare to the wealthy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mississippi River Flooding, Diaster Response & Economic Theory

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, May 16, 2011

The opening lyric to Hank Williams, Jr.‘s – aka “Bocephus” – 1982 song “A County Boy Can Survive,” is “And the Mississippi River she’s a goin’ dry.”

At this juncture, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Mississippi River has flooded to such an extent that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to open floodgates and allow excess water from the river to flow toward the Gulf of Mexico through alternate routes.

Weeks of heavy rains and runoff from the melting of an extremely snowy winter have raised Mississippi River levels to historic proportions. Over 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of farmland in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas along the river have been flooded, evoking memories of floods in 1927 & ’37.

On Saturday, the Corps opened two of 125 floodgates at the Morganza Spillway, and opened two more today (Sunday, 15 May 2011). The spillway is 45 miles northwest of Louisiana’s capitol, Baton Rouge. The Corps hopes that by opening them, it will Read the rest of this entry »

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The Impact of the Flat Tax Reform on Inequality

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some assert that everyone should pay the same rate of taxes, claiming that one “flat rate” would solve many problems.

I beg to differ.

The inequality of the so-called “flat tax” is quite simply, self-evident, because given that the cost of living is indexed similarly, the one whom has more income and wealth does not use as much to live, whereas the less fortunate and less wealthy use a greater percentage of their income to make ends meet.

Put another way, if it costs $500 annually to live, and you make $1000, that’s 50% of your income.

If it costs $500 annually to live and you make $10,000 that’s 5% of your income.

Who, then, does a flat tax benefit? Read the rest of this entry »

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