ethel’s words

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WHENCE THE POWER OF CHURCHES?

The urgent time has come to examine the special privileges of churches and religions. One reason for their insurmountable power is that they are a remnant of the “divine” credo that our founding folk rejected, but could not quite extirpate.

The power of churches remains and some religions still use the language of Divine government--viz., “The kingdom of God”, “the Prince of Peace”, and at least one (The Latter Day Saints, Mormon) declares belief in obeisance, loyalty, or obedience to kings, meaning “secular” kings (pardon the oxymoron).

The manifestations of the Divine Right of religions include their power to impose their prescriptions and proscriptions as “government”; the entanglement of Christian accoutrements with government, such as prayer in secular public meetings, use of the Bible (capitalized!) as a loyalty or “truth test”, and above all, the right of churches to own land, have water rights, own businesses, and pay no taxes for all the protections they receive. Wow.

A result of Divine Power is the fear that permeates a culture that supposedly is free of ESTABLISHED religion. Few dare to criticize or challenge a religion or a church’s privilege, or even ask that churches obey laws.

Minority (within that society) religions are persecuted by the majority religion, viz., Jews and Catholics in southern United States; Mormons in their early years; Jehovah’s Witnesses. Native religions have to go to court to get the right to practice their religions and philosophical lifeways.

The value system of Christianity is no doubt responsible for the status of children as “property-of-parents”. In some cultures children belong to the group--the society. The ten commandments--so adored by Christians--give no protection to children; indeed, no kindness to anyone or anything.

There was a time, fairly recent, when any Church, like any secular group, that was openly politically active, was threatened with loss of--or lost--their tax-exempt status. Today, we have the example of a presidency elected mainly through religious activities and on religious beliefs. At least one church (Mormon) though hiding political activities in secret meetings, also blatantly exercises the political power of their wealth.

Now, the “Divine”, with their colossal corporate wealth, and church wealth, escape taxes and yet are de facto political
entities. Other Political Action Committees cannot give the tax advantage of deducting contributions from taxation.

We should remind ourselves that George Washington declared, in the Treaty of Tripoli, that the United States of America “is in no sense a Christian nation”. Today, we are perilously close to having a State religion: namely, that same overweening, smothering, punitive Christianity, exercising Divine Power.

Ethel C. Hale