Move By Govt To Impose Tax On Churches
THE issue of churches paying taxes is one that needs to be approached with caution, bearing in mind that churches are essentially charity-oriented and non-profit organisation. Since churches are expected to be representatives of the Almighty God in all their dealings, taxing them may be likened to taxing God. And is that appropriate?
Granted that government are continuously looking for more funds to execute projects, does that then justify taxing Churches who, as we know, provide very essential spiritual and social service. Indeed, it is on record that many churches today help to provide jobs for many, and also assist in the infrastructural development of the society. Also, a good number of them like the Catholic Church, are noted for their philanthropic activities, which permeates all segments of the society. It is on record also that many notable churches are good corporate citizens, ensuring that they support government in achieving its laudable policies. I know for instance that several levies such as land charges are always extended to the Church, which they honour amicably. When you juxtapose all the social service they render, you would realise that imposing addition taxes on them would be tantamount to an over-kill.
I believe strongly that churches should not be taxed because of the contributions they make to the society in the areas of education, health care delivery, etc. There is the concept of the separation of church and state. In this wise, it is morally wrong for the state to tax the church. The church should maintain its sovereignty.
On the issue of Churches conducting businesses, it depends on the type of business. Most of the business endeavours embarked upon by the Catholic Church for instance, are humanitarian in nature. The funds so generated are therefore plunged back for the good of the society. However, there are cases of people with questionable character using the church for nefarious activities. That is another issue that bothers on church licensing guidelines and monitoring, which a body like CAN and the law enforcement agencies may wish to look into. That notwithstanding, we have laws guiding business operations, and those involving non-profit making organisations. Any attempt to bend the law for selfish and egoistic reasons would only cause more problems in a complex society like ours where religion is a sensitive issue.
Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.