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Fri Sep 15, 2017, 04:34 PM

It Is Long Past Time for Special Privileges for Church and Clergy to End

Today's story about the Vatican Priest/"Diplomat" involved with child pornography and then allowed to escape to the Vatican and avoid prosecution in this country tells part of the story. Along with the long history of the RCC hiding child sexual abuse, it becomes clear that this sort of special privilege must be ended, once and for all.

As for many other occupations, the clergy should be mandatory reporters of sexual abuse of children. And that should include removing the sanctity of the confessional for all crimes that involve injury to people, from murder to sexual abuse. The state should not care about religious rituals in any way. If someone confesses committing a criminal act that involves injury or abuse of another person, the priest or pastor should be required to report that to the police. Failure to do so should result in criminal charges and punishment.

Privileges of clergy, along with diplomatic immunity, should end when they involve crimes against persons that result in injury, either physical or mental. We should not tolerate such sheltering of clergy members. Nobody else gets that privilege. Nobody at all should have that privilege. Allowing criminals who harm others to escape prosecution and punishment should end, once and for all.

Further, those who aid and abet such crimes by failure to report or by moving such criminals away from jurisdictions to hide the crimes should be prosecuted and suffer serious penalties for their actions.

No religious belief or ritual should override the law. Not when injurious crimes against people are involved, especially.

If it were up to me, all privileges of religious organizations would disappear. No tax exemptions whatsoever. Let religious organizations meet the same responsibilities that must be met by other non-profit organizations. If you own property or buildings, you should pay the same property taxes as other property owners. If your organization is profitable, it should be taxed as a business. If your religious organization owns for-profit companies and profit-making properties, they should also be taxed the same as everyone else, as should all profits from such entities.

It is wrong for our secular government to provide privileges for religion. There is no justification for it. Let all pay their way, and let all be subject to the same criminal laws. That is how things should be in a secular democracy that has the language of our 1st Amendment in its founding documents.

It is time for churches and other religious organizations to pay their fair share and to be subject to our criminal and civil laws.

Enough!

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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply It Is Long Past Time for Special Privileges for Church and Clergy to End (Original post)
MineralMan Sep 2017 OP
Wellstone ruled Sep 2017 #1
MineralMan Sep 2017 #2
Bradshaw3 Sep 2017 #3
Angry Dragon Sep 2017 #4
MineralMan Sep 2017 #10
Angry Dragon Sep 2017 #11
Jim Lane Sep 2017 #5
TomSlick Sep 2017 #6
Pope George Ringo II Sep 2017 #7
TomSlick Sep 2017 #8
Pope George Ringo II Sep 2017 #9
Lordquinton Sep 2017 #12
TomSlick Sep 2017 #13

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 04:39 PM

1. When you have a certain

Religious Group that runs over 350 for profit companies under a Non Profit Umbrella in order to avoid any and all taxes,that bits. This Group grosses somewhere north of 3 billion a month.

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Response to Wellstone ruled (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 04:42 PM

2. Indeed. We need to change some laws in that regard.

We also need to outlaw the bookkeeping practices that make such situations possible. It's a matter of justice and fairness. We should have no laws respecting an establishment of religion. Treat them the same as any other business, because that's what they are - businesses. They can worship as they please, but they cannot break the law with impunity. That is how it should be.

A Pox on Religious Privilege!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 04:49 PM

3. Yes and yes

I don't know the history of religious sanctuary but I doubt that it originated as a way to protect child sexual predators. Nor did religion originate as a way to avoid paying taxes.

You add in the fact that most evangelicals support an evil POS like drumpf and it is obvious that greed and power - which have been a couple of pillars of religions for centuries - are now the real reason they exist.

Agreed. End all religious privileges.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 04:55 PM

4. DOWN WITH GOD!!

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Response to Angry Dragon (Reply #4)

Sat Sep 16, 2017, 10:14 AM

10. Which God? Our God!

Other Gods? No other gods! Ours is the bestest God!

What of other religions? False religions. Fake religions, believe me!

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #10)

Mon Sep 18, 2017, 08:41 PM

11. just the one they call god

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 06:51 PM

5. Nonprofits, including churches, ARE taxed on unrelated business income.

 

For an overview, see the Wikipedia article on the Unrelated Business Income Tax. The specific applicability to churches is set out in IRS Publication 1828 (see the discussion beginning on page 19).

As for diplomatic immunity, here again the law doesn't distinguish between the religious and the secular. Diplomats, whether ordained clergy or not, have immunity from criminal prosecution for even the most heinous crimes. So do our diplomats abroad. Changing that rule would require a major upending of international law.

The specific case of a Vatican diplomat raises a unique issue -- whether we should have such diplomatic relations at all. It has been argued in the past that sending an ambassador to and receiving an ambassador from a religious institution is unconstitutional (in fact, I think JFK took this view). On the other hand, Vatican City is recognized as a sovereign and independent nation. That it's religiously run and that it's very, very small don't deprive it of its sovereign status. On the other other hand, in the case of Monaco we do formally accredit an ambassador but it's the same person accredited as Ambassador to France, because there's no need for a separate embassy in Monaco. By that logic we don't need an ambassador to the Vatican because our embassy to Italy is right there to handle anything that comes up. On the other other other hand, your post wasn't about our ambassador there but about their ambassador here, and Monaco (another very tiny country) does have an accredited Ambassador to the United States. If she were to commit child abuse or murder or whatever, she'd be entitled to diplomatic immunity, so why should a different tiny country elsewhere in Europe be treated differently?

Having gotten to the "other other other hand" level concerning diplomatic immunity, I'm going to take a complete pass on the priest-penitent privilege in the law of evidence.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 08:18 PM

6. I have two disagreements and one caveat.

First, the priest/penitent privilege is long-standing. Making clergy mandatory reporters would be contrary to the privilege. It is not the only privilege that would be subject to challenge under your reasoning. The attorney/client would also have to go - and with it our criminal justice system.

Second, the immunity of diplomats is a matter of international law. It often chaps but it is important. We don't want US diplomats arrested when serving in other countries on trumped-up charges. Diplomatic immunity is important for the purpose of diplomacy.

I'm less sure about the tax exemptions and deductions for churches. I suppose that would be OK if the tax exemptions and deductions for all charities were eliminated. It works for me - I don't make charitable contributions for the purpose of getting a tax deduction. However, my bet is that charitable organizations would suffer. I wouldn't want to see the government getting to choose which charities to benefit and which not.

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Response to TomSlick (Reply #6)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 10:23 PM

7. It's a difference in fundamental assumptions

Under a non-religious perspective the clergy either deserves no special status or in the worst-case scenario requires extra monitoring. The relationship is viewed as more akin to the astrologer/client relationship than the attorney/client relationship and so has no implications for the latter. The United States doesn't recognize many long-standing traditions such as serfdom or Sati and age by itself does not confer legitimacy to a custom.

For one example, diplomats from Sealand don't get recognition because their claims to nationhood are not taken seriously. If you're not buying what the RCC is selling, there's a logically consistent argument that the Vatican requires as much diplomatic courtesy as Sealand and no more. There's also an argument that Methodists, Satanists, and the FSM don't have their own diplomats so the RCC shouldn't get special treatment and be the only religion with diplomatic privileges. Admittedly, there's a pragmatic counter-argument that relations with the Vatican have been helpful in certain circumstances in the past and such might be useful again, but I'm not here to settle the question, just point out that there do exist arguments against diplomatic recognition.

It can also be said that the government already picks and chooses worthy charities by dispensing tax-exempt status in the first place. At a minimum, there's nothing in their track record which suggests religious charities should have any kind of inside track on tax exemption.

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Response to Pope George Ringo II (Reply #7)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 11:08 PM

8. The basis of US law is the Common Law.

The Common Law is based on history. The elimination of any historical Common Law privilege would be a dangerous precedent. Spousal privilege is based on history. Attorney/Client privilege is based on history. Physician/Patient privilege is based on history. All privileges prevent the disclosure of information that is relevant and, prosecutors would argue, necessary to prevent or punish crime. The Common Law recognizes that these privileges are necessary for a greater public good.

If your objection to the Priest/Penitent privilege is based on a dislike of the Roman Catholic Church, I suggest that the government in general or the courts in particular ought not be in the business of deciding which religious group it likes and which it doesn't.

Your argument about diplomatic immunity is a distinct issue. The Vatican is not Sealand. It is difficult to argue that the Vatican is not a sovereign state. The fact that state is controlled by a church does not change that basic fact. It's a unique state but a state.

Similarly, the issue about tax exclusion/deduction is a separate issue. Again, I have no philosophical objection to removing the tax exclusion/deduction for religious organizations if it is also removed for all charitable organizations. I'll grant you there are a lot of grifter religious organizations. Similarly, there are a lot of grifter secular charities, so let's be fair and treat all charities the same.

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Response to TomSlick (Reply #8)

Sat Sep 16, 2017, 12:37 AM

9. I don't think you're making much headway on either point.

Making an argument on the sanctity of Common Law only requires one point to falsify it and I can think of two off the top of my head. Marital rape was first enshrined in Common Law some 300 years ago and finally disappeared in the U.S. in the last of the 20th Century. Society changed its priorities from "husbands' rights" (privileges, really) to women's rights (actually rights), the laws were changed accordingly, and hundreds of years of Common Law was worth so much used toilet paper. Just as the Common Law provided for slavery and Maryland, e.g. ended it by statute in 1864, without any precedents being set. Similarly albeit with less violence, if society as a whole decides clerical privilege is not something to take seriously, it won't be taken seriously. This need not impact anything else society decides still should be taken seriously and can be addressed by itself as everything in Common Law has a de facto severability clause. While it obviously won't change as long as society overall still sees value in a clerical privilege, the plain fact is that non-theists aren't going to see that value and are okay with seeing it go away. I'd also point out that the government actually does decide which religions it likes. Do FSM clergy get clerical privilege? Satanists? How about the Heaven's Gate guys? Branch Davidians? If somebody gets it and somebody doesn't, then the government has drawn a line.

Taiwan currently has a "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States" because we won't recognize an embassy. China actually does argue that Taiwan isn't a country, although they themselves lacked an embassy in the United States for a while too. I would suggest that the Vatican is no more a country than either China or Taiwan, yet we've denied both of them embassies before. I seem to recall some periods when Cuban diplomats in D.C. were a little rare too. Never mind situations like France 1940-44 with multiple contenders just on our side. I do recall some times that relations with the Vatican have been helpful in past dealings with third parties, which I agree is an argument on whether or not we should recognize the Vatican, but China and Cuba demonstrate that there's no particular reason we must.

And admittedly those are unkind comparisons for clerical privilege, but the proverbial "dustbin of history" is not chock full of wonderful ideas we should go back to. If we discarded an institution, there's generally a reason. Still, they aren't friendly and I apologize if they're taken as such. But the Common Law arguments you're making once applied to them, like it or not.

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Response to TomSlick (Reply #6)

Mon Sep 18, 2017, 10:20 PM

12. Clergy are mandatory reporter in about 20 states

Including California. If Doctors and Therapists can report, priests are no different. Render unto ceaser and all that.

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Response to Lordquinton (Reply #12)

Tue Sep 19, 2017, 08:22 PM

13. I'm curious.

Are you aware of any prosecutions for clergy - especially Catholic priests - failing to report based on a sacramental confession by the perpetrator? I would expect a Catholic priest to go to jail - and stay there - before breaking the bond of the confessional. Of course, I'm not a Catholic and base my opinion only on what I've read. The Catholic websites I have found suggest that a priest may withhold absolution unless the perpetrator confesses to authorities.

Reporting based on seeing an injured child, or a child saying s/he has been abused, should not be controversial.

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