Thanks for paying my property taxes
By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
Some years ago and on a lark, I sent 10 dollars to a California-based church and in two weeks received my Doctor of Divinity Degree. It hangs framed, proudly overlooking my study. I may perform weddings, bat mitzvahs, baptisms, communions, last rites.
(This church is pretty flexible.)
I’m told there’s even some alchemic formula – mine for an additional fee – through which I may deduct part of my mortgage or rent if I conduct intimate ceremonies in my rectory.
Why am I moved to reveal my spiritual entrails?
Because you’re now going to pay my taxes. (Thank you!)
You may have heard of the cozy digs and living arrangements at a former convent, DC’s C Street Center, where numbers of evangelical Christian congressmen and senators mingle. Nevada ex-Senator John Ensign frequented the pad prior to his resignation in a philandering and finance scandal two years back. In fact, you would have had no chance of hearing of the C Street home unless several of its current and former residents hadn’t been snatched up in numbers of sex scandals in the past few years, including a former South Carolina governor, Mark ’With-Argentina-I’m-So-Weary-&-Weepy-In-Love-Oh-Snap!-I-Guess-I-Won’t-Be-President-Now Sanford.
I’ve no issue with senators and congressmen sharing town-homes-away-from-home – that’s common. And if they share the same religious passions (in addition to their more earthy ones), who am I to object?
Yet I do question, and so should you, not their religion, not their living arrangement and not their choices of women who aren’t their wives. For all I care they can have a spirited interest in the Baboon House at the DC Zoo.
But their impious interest in my money? That’s a problem.
For years this C Street Center has enjoyed tax-free status masquerading as a church, receiving the perks a legitimate church gets – that is, it gets my money and your money in the form of a pretty substantial tax break. And a coalition of mainline ministers are so angry, so embarrassed it’s demanding the fraud end. The mainstream ministers say that, far from being a church, even if there is daily prayer and some wayward congressional soul-searching, the house is far more a club for powerful (if often backsliding) men.
C Street does not teach the public, as a church does, nor does it have the internal structure of a church. There is nothing vaguely like a church leadership there.
It also, because it has IRS church-designation, doesn’t have to open its books. Ever.
Its donations and support are secret, whether its tithings (and rents) come from sincere individuals or, say, from corporations or individuals with a sincere interest in, say, legislation.
The mainline ministers who want C Street’s tax-free status ended are right. The IRS should pounce on this scam as it does any flim-flam.
(Just leave My Sincere Ordination the hell alone.)
Jonathan Wolfman blogs at http://open.salon.com/blog/jlw1.
Short URL: http://reportergary.com/?p=25476