For the first time in Australian legal history, the Parliament's Senate Economics Committee is investigating tax law amendments
that might (if enacted) close a loophole exploited by religious organisations.
Currently, Australian Tax Office (ATO) automatically grants tax free status to organisations that make "supernatural claims". This means Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Scientologists, Jews, Zoroastrians, and some Buddhists all do not have to pay tax, but the Raelians do (they believe in little green space men, who are not supernatural by definition).
Historically, religious organisations may have provided public benefit - helping the poor, clothing the homeless, providing shelter to the destitute, and building houses for those devastated by God's natural disasters among other things. However, these organisations also exist to promote their theology and spread the message of salvation, or whatever voodoo mojo they happen to believe. This component of religious behaviour is arguably not
in the public interest - especially in a country which is striving for multiculturalism and cohesive inclusion.
Today the President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia
(David Nicholls) issued a press release regarding their submission
to the Senate Economics Committee:
For the first time in the history of Australian politics a representative of a national atheist organisation has been asked to appear before a Senate Inquiry. This is a significant event for the Atheist Foundation of Australia and all freethinkers.
David Nicholls (President of the AFA) will participate in a teleconference on Monday 28th June 3:30 PM – 4:15 PM (EST). He will be commenting on the AFA Submission (No. 25), “Parliament of Australia: Senate: Committees: Economics: Inquiry into Tax Laws Amendment (Public Benefit Test) Bill 2010.” The Submission can be viewed here.
The conference will be broadcast live on the 28th June.
Given the vast number of religious based submissions
it is unclear how loudly our rational and secular voice will be heard, but it is important for all Australians that any tax breaks given benefit everyone, and are not limited to magical thinking sub sets.
Religious organisations wishing to continue providing charitable services are quite free to do so under the same rules, regulations, and scrutiny secular charities have endured for decades. Open financial books, regular audits, and demonstrating your services are beneficial to society are all required by all organisations not trying to please space ghosts. In a modern society, why are beliefs in spirits, ghosts, afterlives, or telepathic comic deities relevant to you tax status?
When have they ever been?
Hat tip: Seantheblogonaut