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News Update: Victoria, Australia, Considers Making Religions Justify Their Charitable Status

When people ask why it is that a religion like Jehovah’s Witnesses, which practices no actual charitable works, is given tax-exempt, charitable status in many areas, the answer is that local governments often view “advancement of religion” as a charitable work. Obviously there is much room for argument against this thinking, as not all religions are automatically helpful and benevolent, either to individuals or to society as a whole.

This may be why the state of Victoria, Australia, is currently considering ending all religions’ automatic charitable status, and withdrawing “advancement of religion” as the sole reason for a church to be given tax-exempt status. In turn, a religion would need to demonstrate their benefit as an actual charity from a secular (non-religious) viewpoint before they are granted exemption from paying taxes.

Whatever a person’s opinion of this type of law, if it should pass, this could be a serious wrinkle for the Watchtower Corporation in the state of Victoria. As said, Jehovah’s Witnesses practice no organized charitable works; they have no soup kitchens or food banks, no shelters for the homeless or victims of domestic violence, no orphanages. They operate no public schools or rehab centers, and their disaster relief work is usually performed only for members, and even then, it’s hit-or-miss at best. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even have clothing bins for needy persons. Their only “charitable” work is their preaching, which they feel helps people to “clean up their lives” and become better people.

Obviously I’m no lawyer and cannot predict the future, but presenting this argument, that the religion’s preaching work somehow helps people so much that Watchtower should retain its charitable status, may not be sufficient, if this law should pass. For one thing, Jehovah’s Witnesses offer no help to those who do want to better their life, as said. Instead, they simply read them scriptures and give them Watchtower literature that talks about god’s demands, and about some reward he’ll supposedly give to those who do somehow manage to get clean and sober. Witnesses then leave people to magically pull themselves up from their own bootstraps. This isn’t exactly the same as offering someone charity in their time of need!

I’m sure that, if this law should pass, the Watchtower Corporation will figure out some way around it, no doubt funneling contributions to another of their many, many legal entities. However, my personal hope is that this starts a wave of other states and countries following Victoria’s lead, demanding that religions do more than just proselytize and recruit new members to be considered an actual charity. Not only might this twist more financial screws into the Watchtower’s holdings, but it might also expose their lack of real charitable works to the world.

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Please visit this news story for more information about this proposed law.

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