Monday, April 25, 2011

Franklin Graham Interview Reminds Me: Maybe It's Time For God Inc. To Start Paying Taxes

By Manifesto Joe

Did I hear somebody mention the First Amendment after reading that title? Here's the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I don't see anything in there about religious organizations of any kind being exempt from paying income taxes, or any other taxes.

For literally generations, the Graham family has been lording it over a multimillion-dollar evangelical and charity empire. International though they are, these organizations enjoy the protections and privileges of U.S. corporations. And -- unfortunately, like two-thirds of American-based corporations -- they pay not 1 cent of federal income tax.

I'll give the old man, Billy Graham, credit for having stayed out of partisan politics for his entire career. He has lived comfortably but not opulently, in contrast to many other televangelists, drawing a fixed salary from his enterprises. Although it has certainly come out, such as in his tapes made with Tricky Dick in the early '70s, that he has right-wing political and cultural views, he was shrewd enough to keep his trap shut publicly on certain topics. In the 1970s, he declined to join Jerry Falwell in the Moral Majority, staying admirably above the political fray.

Franklin Graham doesn't have quite the same compass. He ran into problems in the past with his right-wing sentiments, and also with his personal greed. This is from Wikipedia:

In 2001, The New York Times criticized Samaritan's Purse for having "blurred the line between church and state", in the way it had distributed publicly funded aid to victims of the El Salvador earthquake. Residents from several villages stated they first had to sit through a half hour prayer meeting before receiving assistance. In a statement, USAID said Samaritan's Purse had not violated federal guidelines, but emphasized the need for the organization to "maintain adequate and sufficient separation" between prayer sessions and publicly funded activities.

In 2003, Samaritan's Purse was widely criticized after its president, Franklin Graham, stated that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion", leading to opposition campaigns by Islamic leaders. Samaritan's Purse responded to accusations of being anti-Islamic by highlighting their long history of non-denominational cooperation and charity work in Baghdad without attempting to preach or proselytize.

Franklin Graham has also been criticized in the United States, for drawing a full-time salary from Samaritan's Purse, while at the same time receiving a full-time salary from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Non-profit experts have doubted that one person can do two full-time jobs leading organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world.

Now, Franklin seems to have really crossed the line when it comes to partisan politics. Following is an interview that aired yesterday on CNN:

You'll have to watch it using the link, because embedding has been disabled on YouTube by request. I couldn't imagine why.

To hit the high points, Franklin Graham said that President Barack Obama is "a nice man" and "a gracious person," but added that, in political terms, our country is in real trouble. He also seemed to indicate that he could support Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and lent some credence to Trump's embrace of "birther" conspiracy theories.

Our country is in trouble because a lot of rich people don't pay taxes

That includes you, Franklin. And your family's enterprises.

This year, I owed a lot more to the IRS than I expected. I've already paid a big chunk of it -- well, big by my standards -- and expect to be until fall paying off all of it. And I'm offended to find out how many entities that bring in megabucks are paying nothing, and even getting refunds.

That includes you, Franklin. And your family's enterprises.

I'd say, in view of the size of the current deficit, that it's time to revisit this notion that religious organizations should be tax-exempt. There are televangelists and megachurch pastors out there who are fabulously wealthy. Why shouldn't they be willing to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's? (Even if it is merely John "Orange Julius" Boehner?)

Churches and the social safety net

Another area that Franklin Graham got into was the social safety net, which he lamented about becoming so secular in the past century. A century ago, he said, if you were jobless and/or had nothing to eat, you went to the local church, and the pastor would help you. Since government has taken this function over, he said, it would take time to retrain all those people of God out there, so that whey would again know how to do all that.

Pardon me here, preacher -- some years back I happened to read a little book called The Jungle, published in 1906, and heavily based on novelist Upton Sinclair's personal experiences from a couple of years before, observing the Chicago slaughterhouses and such up close. It didn't seem as though churches were doing that much for society's poor back in those days.

In fact, about a third of the American people were living in grinding poverty back then. That was one thing that gave rise to a little something called the Progressive Movement, to try to get some things done in the public arena that churches and private charities obviously weren't succeeding in doing.

In addition to churches, I also seem to recall a little institution, common in those days, usually called the county poor house. The destitute would go there for three hots and a cot, in exchange for whatever they could do -- wash dishes, work in the fields if they were able, etc. It was sort of like a minimum-security prison, and it was supported with taxpayer money at the local level.

Unfortunately, it took until the 1930s for the U.S. to do much at the federal level to make up for what wasn't being done for the poor and the elderly. If you go back and read honest accounts of what was happening back then -- food riots, the churches and private charities being overwhelmed with demand, etc. -- then it becomes pretty clear why the federal government did, and had to, step in.

Franklin Graham and his family will never have to rely on Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security for that matter, to eat, clothe and house themselves adequately. It's easy for this sanctimonious little SOB to sit back and pontificate thusly. Neither he nor his will ever have to suffer.

Make the pious little shit pay taxes. Now.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


lunamother said...

From another lonely liberal Texan voice- happy to have found your blog, Joe :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I have a copy of "The Jungle" in my collection. I think TJ, "The Grapes of Wrath", and "Down and out in Paris and London" should be MANDATORY reading in MBA programs, Congress, religious schools, and finance schools. Then again, corporations and politicians are only in it for themselves, why would they acknowledge proof of the damage they do to everyone below them?


Jack Jodell said...

Manifesto Joe,
You are absolutely correct on a large amount of this here.
First, there is NO WAY you should have had to pay in this year. If our crybaby corporations ALL paid taxes as they should, and the wealthiest paid what they did at the start of Reagan's first term, not only would our deficit be far, far less, but you wouldn't have had to pay in at all!
Second, greedy little phony right wingers like Franklin Graham who go around claiming to be Christian while living a life of luxury while laughing all the way to the bank and openly supporting right wing causes WITH THEIR PARISHIONERS' MONEY, should DEFINITELY be taxed, at the maximum rate!
Third, churches should be taxed, but as a matter of consideration, at a very low rate, with the ability to take deuctions for LEGITIMATE charitable works they do. But this bullcrap of churches being run like multinational corporations, paying their ministers and clergy salaries commensurate with that of a CEO, MUST come to a screeching halt!