Religion in Society

Atheists in Texas: Tax Churches to Support Education

| by American Atheists

By Blair Scott

They’re going to be out there every weekday in front of the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas: and they’re demanding that lawmakers begin levying a small tax on the wealthy churches of the Lone Star State in order to rescue public education.

The project is the brainchild of American Atheists State Director Joe Zamecki. Joe and a coterie of fellow activists hope to draw attention to the “war on public schools” that is taking place throughout the state. Indeed, every time the legislature huddles in Austin, there is a flurry of bills that would further erode the public education system, and undermine the quality of education in the classrooms.

Mr. Zamecki explains in the following announcement…

Public education in Texas is in a financial crisis. This year’s state legislature is about to slash spending on education, to include the laying off of possibly hundreds of teachers, and the closing of public schools all over the state. Apparently the state budget is short this year, by billions of dollars.

Right now, parents, students, teachers and others are rallying around their schools, and speaking out about the very real need to keep the teachers and schools we have now, as one of our state’s top priorities.

Meanwhile mega-churches and televangelists in Texas are doing very well. So the recurring theme of church taxation is in the air again, although it’s still a somewhat shocking idea to most people. Not so shocking as in the past.

Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church alone is doing famously well, operating in the physically largest church building in the USA, tax free. Like so many Texas mega-churches, Joel and his church have the ease of marketing that some corporations have, so we feel that they and other successful mega-churches could help with public education too. We’ve proposed just a 1% tax on profits taken in by just the top 1% of the most profitable mega-churches and televangelists in Texas. They can easily afford it.

Not the small, poor churches we hear about so much. This is not an idea to harm or hinder any churches in their operations. We feel that giving churches blanket tax-exempt status is giving them a special privilege. The overwhelming financial success of some of those churches has some economists standing in awe. The idea isn’t new, and it isn’t going away, as long as Texas’ children have a grossly inferior system of education, a financial balance like this is needed.

Studies show that our state is lagging behind in education very badly, and knowing that the current legislature with the Texas governor are working hard together, it’s clear that spending cuts will happen before any tax increases or new taxes are implemented. So without that normal financial balance, Texans are considering alternatives. This is one idea for an alternative that could solve the issue of insufficient tax funds.

As unusual and unpopular as this type of idea is, it just needs to be said again, loudly. And for those who feel that a church tax would invite churches and religious activists into the public schools, the legislature, and other areas of secular government existence: too late. They’re already well established in those institutions, which is one reason why we have a state/church separation movement. They just need to pay their admission fee, finally. It would really help the people of Texas.

Atheists and other state/church separationists will be picketing the2011 Texas State Legislature each weekday at 1 p.m. CST for the next few weeks, while the legislature works out a state budget. Our short and sweet message is: “Don’t close a SINGLE school! TAX THE CHURCHES!”