Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Organized Religions Should Pay Taxes

Manuel L. Quezon III now has a television talk show, The Explainer, on ABSCBN News ANC. Jojo Robles of newspaper Standard Today and I were privileged to be his first guests Tuesday night, discussing the Separation of Church and State. (Hope you saw it last night, if not catch the next Explainer episode with MLQ3 at 6pm Tuesday evenings.)

Jojo Robles and I did find common ground on one issue: we agreed that the Catholic Church, the El Shaddai, Jesus Is Lord, and all other organized religious groups SHOULD PAY INCOME TAXES. In particular they should pay property and sales and VAT taxes in full. But I do support a broad range of tax exemptions for such groups, including their expenses and investments relative to charitable works. I think this is but consistent with the position I have taken that the Church is no different from any other citizens organization in its rights AND duties.

As writers in our normal habitat of blogs or newspaper columns, we have the luxury of sculptors to chip away at the marble chunk of some topic, like "Separation of Church and State," hammering and polishing away at the subject matter until we can put it in some form that makes sense. There is, in other words, an art to explanation. It will be a challenge to bring that art of explanation into the television medium, which is by nature, ethereal, ephemeral, fleeting. Eye-candy. Sound bites. Cut to commercial or news feed. But if anyone can pull it off it may be MLQ3. And if he succeeds expect a show that advances the art of explanation in the Archipelago. Something big seems to be brewing all over ABSCBN News' ANC station, what with Maria Ressa declaring the intention to fight for our place in the global table of ideas.

During this debut episode of The Explainer, the challenge was to come up with an explanation of the Principle of Separation of Church and State. I'm pleased to say that my basic take on what the Constitution means by Separation of Church and State is actually shorter than the question: Every Church is just an NGO.

RICARDO CARDINAL SALUDO The only thing missing was a Cardinal's funny hat just now as the avuncular Palace adjuvant explained the CBCP's recent Pastoral Letter better and more expansively nuanced than Archbishop Lagdameo. But Saludo outlined the Palace's spin: (1) unctuous praise for the disinclination of the Bishops to support the second impeachment; (2) a liaison group between the police and the Bishops will be established to work on extrajudicial killings that the CBCP may have information about; (3) joint nationwide information campaigns between govt and the CBCP on chacha. But when Twink Macaraeg asked him how, after definitely rejecting the chacha move by people's initiative, the Bishops would now "suddenly jump into bed" with the Palace. His Reverence didn't like the figure of speech and said so with some irritation. But there seems to be a lil union of Church and State going on to fully coopt the CBCP, at least for "optical" purposes.

CARMEN GUERRERO NAKPIL Malaya columnist and writer, hosts a lunch at Cafe Havana, Greenbelt. I attended after a long absence. Glad I did too. Gemma Cruz Araneta was present, stunning and convivial, fresh from filming for her own TV show up in the Mountain Province; Prof. Jose David Lapuz of the University of Sto. Tomas is disdainful of the intellectual capacities of the current crop of Bishops in the CBCP, even while proudly calling himself Catolico cerrado. I got to talk at length with Adrian Cristobal, Manila Bulletin columnist. He agrees: we should quit celebrating the annual re-murdering of Jose Rizal and move Rizal Day celebration to his birthday (Rizal's not Adrian's!) on June 19. It would be a boon to education as school opens in June in the Philippines, and deprives the old Spanish Taliban the satisfaction of annually executing Rizal while we sing the national anthem with fervour burning. Ellen Tordesillas and I exchanged notes on blogging. She's a real pioneer among Mainstream Media writers, maintaining a vibrant weblog popular with OFWs, in addition to her columns in Malaya and Abante.


manuelbuencamino said...

Good show Dean. I liked the NGO explanation which pulled the rug from under Robles who wanted to portray the church as an NGO endowed with potentially dangerous powers.

Ah, the advantage of being your own man instead of drawing a salary from one of Gloria's closest cronies.

Cardinal Saludo, I like that.

Without Borders said...

i also advocate taxing the church and its properties. try applying the fly-in-the-soup test. in a party, you dont comment about your host's food when you see the fly in your soup because its free. in a restaurant, you complain about the fly because you paid for the food. the church is partaking of the country's political banquet without paying for their right to do so. they are free loaders, parasites who collect cash from the people, generate wealth off the sweat and blood of the people, and still they pretend to have the moral ground to call for "reforms".

manuelbuencamino said...

fly in the soup is treading dangerously close to a property qualification for voting. I believe citizenship should be the only qualification needed to participate in a country's affairs.

Are churches classified under non-profit organizations for tax purposes?Or do they fall under a special category?

Anonymous said...

I may have said that Mr. Robles was shallow,when he thinks that the churrch should keep things to themselves and stick to giving spiritual guidance,because they don't pay taxes.

I could be wrong,but they have the right to express,as the urban poor who(most) also do not pay income taxes except through vat and sales tax.

I was talking retroactive in my points above. But in the future,I wish that the church do pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

I guess commemorating the death of a hero is equating it to individual commemoration of a death of a love one.

We often bypass our loved ones'birthday and give attention to their death anniversary

Juan said...


On the Catholic Church classified as NGO by the State to define its relationship in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Constitution:

a)it, in effect, takes and promotes a position in a wider, or atleast, a parallel context of the issue: institutional secularism vs religious fundamentalism.

b)does Church-NGO, in that context, translates as Non-God Organization? secularizing the State's treatment of the Church?

c)on the other hand, how would that affect the Church's treatment of the State? as a God-less state?

d)the preammble invokes the help of the Almighty, but how should the State be open to it if the State is closed to a relationship with the Church as Church?

e)instead of the State imposing tax on the Church, the State should not be prohibited by law or custom from supporting specific, people-assistance, continuing, institutional, and class-equalizing schools and hospitals.

Rizalist said...

Welcome Andres!

(a)+(b) The concept of EVERY Church is an NGO is not limited to the Catholic Church. Remember that the Constitution allows ANY religious belief to be freely exercised and professed. So indeed it is a "wider context" that we want in the democratic space in the sense that ANY concept of God is allowed, or NONE at all. This does not translate to "secular" in any way because ANY church can be as spiritual as it wants to be, or not at all. The State doesn't care which! This is Democratic fundamentalism.

(c) The Church may treat the State just as any citizen, corporate or individual is free to do, within the bounds of the Law. The State is neither "God-less" in my conception nor "Godly" in the religious sense. That is necessary because the Religions used to kill each other over the question of "what is God?"

(d) Consider the thing that's printed on all pieces of American money: IN GOD WE TRUST!

This is not an establishment of religion if you look up Ben Franklin's explanation of it. Rather it emphasizes the idea that it is in the Good that we trust, not any church!

In other words, the State cannot be AMORAL or IMMORAL, but its morality is based on Law and Reason not Religion.

There is a big difference between morality and Theology. It is the latter that the State is forbidden to indulge in, orohibit!

Thanks for the good questions.

Juan said...

dean, thanks.

The compatibility of the spirit animating the institution of the State and that of the Church determines the kind of relationship between them, in that sense, the State is the resposibility, not a protagonist, of the Church. In the end, the Church has the greater accountability for the spiritual state of the State, atleast, in so far as its exercise the of intangible, immeasurable gift of power from Above.

Rizalist said...


Likewise! The State cannot possibly see its citizens as antagonists, whether organized together or not, in churches or other assemblies of human beings. For it is they that the State is meant to serve and protect. For the State, the limitation is the fact that its citizens do not agree on very much else that is NOT in the Constitution. Certainly in matter of religion (not morality!) there is great division among the citizens. The accountability of the State is certainly not to any Deity or set of deities, for that would foment civil war. Its accountability is soley to the people. But each person is accountable to his conscience. And there is where the intersection of the Church and State may truly lie: in our hearts and minds where such fine distinctions as these may not mean very much all the time, but where their fate as principles are decided.