Guess how much money the combined churches in Australia make in one year.
I’ll give you a hint – it’s a truckload of cash.
Over $30 billion.
The Catholic Church owns over half of that – they make $16 billion a year.
Their wealth grows every year.
Some people refer to this hidden windfall as the ‘the purple economy’.
It’s a shocking amount of money.
You’re probably astounded by this figure. The average Australian thinks most or all churches are close to broke. It’s an all-too-common misconception.
You know Jesus warned us about the pitfalls of greed and wealth when he said ‘You can’t serve both God and money’.
You just don’t know the extent of all the real estate and financial investments held by traditional religious institutions in Australia.
The total wealth of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese alone is $1.3 billion.
The Sydney Anglican Church owns half of Glebe, all the best foreshore on Port Hacking, and a swag of prime Sydney real estate it managed to snag for free way back in the colonial days.
The older Christian denominations don’t make their money from the Sunday collection plate anymore.
That’s chump change now.
These carefully managed institutions are earning significant interest from investments gleaned from the estates of the faithful dying who left their wealth to the church.
Many churches don’t practice what they preach anymore. They have become landlords and investment managers. And everything they make is tax free.
The Australian Catholic Church is managed more like an investment bank than a charitable institution. They are now employing financial experts who know how to use money to make even more money.
Church income is earned and received absolutely free of tax.
The church tax exemption is thanks to an old law we inherited from the British.
The ‘pursuit of religion’ was always considered a charitable purpose and therefore exempt from tax.
Today we have the Charities Act which deems religion to be a charitable purpose and therefore tax exempt.
Churches don’t have to prove religion is ‘for the public benefit’.
We’re just supposed to accept it.
And because of this – about $30 billion of church money goes untaxed every year.
Imagine what the country could do with the tax from that much money.
Thankfully, times seem to be changing.
People are starting to ask questions about Australian churches.
The Child Abuse Royal Commission has uncovered large-scale child sexual abuse by clergy and deliberate attempts by church leaders to cover up these atrocities and stop the police from investigating.
The movie, ‘Spotlight’ won the Oscar for Best Picture last year. The film exposed the world to the crimes of hundreds of Catholic priests in Boston, USA. These priests were raping children while the Archbishop of Boston knew all about it.
Similar things have been happening all over the world.
You must be wondering why these churches are still afforded the privilege of tax exempt status. How can we allow these organisations to have tax privileges when they have abused our trust so shamefully?
Remember the days when we believed the churches were looking after our children and families?
Are those days over?
You remember when the church –
- Baptised our babies.
- Married us when we fell in love.
- Prayed for us and gave us comfort when we were distressed.
- Taught Sunday school to our children.
- Fed the unemployed and homeless.
- Conducted funerals and picked up the pieces when no one else would.
- Inspired us when we had lost our way.
Has the church’s focus changed?
Exactly what are churches doing to earn their tax exemption?
Are they doing as much as they used to ‘for the public benefit’?
How can we find out?
Shouldn’t only those churches who comply with child protection laws and work hard to help others be rewarded with tax exemption?
Shouldn’t tax exempt status be earned?
Tax exemption should be a privilege for charitable organisations, not an automatic right.
I propose that all churches be stripped of tax exempt status and replaced with a new system where those who want it will have to apply for it – and offer proof to make sure they are deserving.
Tax exemption should be a privilege reserved for organisations who are truly able to offer proof of their work for the benefit of the public.
The definition should be broad enough to capture many different ways of helping children, youth, young adults, singles, families, migrants and seniors.
Charitable activities will need to go beyond running Sunday services for believers; ministries will need to prove their benefits to the public based on their operations across all seven days of the week, year after year.
Tax exempt status should be renewed periodically, or else – forfeited. Churches will have to prove compliance with child protection laws and participate in continuing education.
Let’s strip churches of their tax exemptions and make them earn the privilege.
It’s time we demanded change.
The Child Abuse Royal Commission has uncovered too much criminal activity and entrenched organisational incompetence for Australians to remain trusting.
Are you comfortable with the church receiving a tax exemption on their billions of dollars of revenue?
Or is it time we forced these organisations to earn this right again?
If you believe that Australian churches should prove they are worthy of a charitable tax exemption – contact Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and paste in the email below.
You can be part of this positive change.
Now is the time to stand up and be heard.
Dear Josh Frydenberg,
Churches in Australia have never had to pay tax. They have been exempt from taxation due to their status as a charity, but as the Royal Commission has recently shown – All churches in Australia have a combined annual income of $30 billion, and this grows each year.
Australian churches have been scrutinised by the Royal Commission of late, and have continually demonstrated their incredible wealth in the defence of many paedophile clergy.
I believe churches should have to apply for tax-exempt status, and prove they are actually contributing to the community, instead of sitting on their wealth.
Please change the Charities Act, and force churches to prove they are working for the community, and using their wealth to make changes in our country. Churches who aren’t working for the community should have to pay tax on their income like other businesses in Australia. The churches working to benefit the community should be able to be tax-exempt if they can prove their acts of charity and goodwill.
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