Former Brisbane Lord Mayor and Catholic Priest Jim Soorley has sparked outrage among the clergy by calling for all denominations to pay taxes. In the wake of a brutal cost-cutting national budget Mr. Soorley believes religious bodies should also play their part. All religious bodies are currently exempt from paying land rates and taxes. And yet the Churches are among the single wealthiest organisations in the world.

Unfortunately it is other areas of the economy that must make up for the shortfall created by the tax-exempt Churches. And many of those areas are already pushed as far as they can go.

jim-soorley-420x0“Why should they be exempt?” Mr. Soorley asked reporters rhetorically. “Rates are collected to pay for vital infrastructure in our cities. The churches and their followers use this pubic infrastructure and they should pay for them.”

Many churches already face intense criticism over their attitudes towards followers of other religions. Many are accused of covering up crimes committed by their brethren. Surely funds could be collected from these bodies and used to help the people harmed by their actions?

Mr. Soorley pointed to the Royal Commission into child abuse by the Catholic Church. It uncovered that the Sydney diocese alone controlled $1.238 billion in funds, most of which was tax exempt. With the growth of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Pentecostal faiths in Australia (and other more ‘dubious’ religious groups) the time had come, Mr. Soorley, continued for a national stocktake of church property.

Mark Coleridge, the Queensland Catholic Archbishop, countered by pointing to the education, health and social services run by churches of all faiths. He believed forcing churches to pay taxes and rates would end many of these programs, leaving constituents worse off.

What is clear is that those who belong to no religion benefit not at all from these programs.

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