Friday, February 23, 2007

My legislative suggestion that will never go anywhere

Can someone give me a good, logical reason why U.S. churches are not forced to report how they spend their earnings to their members? They don't have to pay taxes on their property or their income (tithing).

They are forced to report their earnings in other western countries like the U.K. and Canada.

I bring this up because I believe the LDS church (mormons) should have to report how they spend their earnings and tithing to their tithe-paying members. It only makes sense that the people who dutifully give their hard earned money should at least see where those funds go.

In this country, the separation of church and state are treated as pillars - never the twain shall meet. This allows some religions to spend their money however they please.

Which is fine and their right. I just think that in order to remain tax exempt, some of these organizations need to send a report to their contributors each year.

It's not that difficult. Lots of charitable organizations do this all the time. I get a wonderful booklet every year from my alma mater full of all the many ways they spend their contributions. Building upkeep, salaries, scholarships, etc. They could even just post a word document on their website.

So why wouldn't a charitable organization be proud of what they spend their money on? If all the money is going towards helping those less fortunate, or the work of "the cause" - why all the secrecy?

Some major religious organizations (like the American Presbyterians) actually submit a report to their contributors each year. The membership actually (gasp) votes on what the funds are spent on. In my father in law's church, the majority of the money is spent on heating their building. The important thing is - the process are transparent. Everyone knows all the "good work" that their faith is doing.

My father in law argues, perhaps justly, that since I'm no longer mormon I really no longer have the right to say how they spend their money. So I'm saying this to all active mormons. Demand to know where your 10% (or more) goes. And if they won't tell you, ask why not. Public companies send detailed reports to their shareholders. Why shouldn't churches (and in particular the Utah LDS church) be held accountable for their income and expenses?

My proposal is that tax exempt organizations who make over a certain amount each year have to submit a budget to their contributors. Or they lose their tax exempt status. It's simple.

I'm a realist. My idea will never go anywhere. Religion is a sacred cow - much like parenting. But I'm still going to shout it from the soapboxes until my voice grows hoarse.


C. L. Hanson said...

Sometimes I think Mormonism will be the impetus to finally change this law. Considering the incredible wealth of the LDS church -- particularly in terms of real estate and for-profit buisness holdings -- they might motivate people to start thinking that merely being a church shouldn't exempt a corporation from ever having to give any kind of accounting.

Aerin said...

chanson - I think I'm inspired to do research of other major US religions and their policies. I wonder what I'll find. I think the Utah LDS church is unique in this regard.