Tax stuff I think is interesting. It is either copied from my primary blog on forbes.com http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/ or stuff that I did not put there because being on forbes is a good gig and they have, you know, standards. Also some guest posts.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Would Obama Force Jesus to Hand Out Birth Control Pills ?
Originally Published on forbes.com on March 11th,2012
The Times required FFRF to alter its punchy headline, ‘It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church,’ to ‘It’s Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church.’ Barker called that decision “disappointing” and “a sign of the Catholic Church’s inordinate power to intimidate and muzzle criticism.”
Was the Times worried about the Spanish Inquistion or something ? I mean nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition:
The ad blames the Catholic Church for promoting “acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, overpopulation, social evils and deaths.” It says the bishops are “launching a ruthless political Inquisition” against women. It talks about “preying priests” and corruption “going all the way to the top.” In an appeal to Catholic women, it opines, “Apparently, you’re like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go.”
I have many more positive than negative associations with Catholicism. Father Charles McTague, who went on to be moderately famous, was one of the priests at St. John the Baptist in Fairview NJ when I was growing up. He drove around in a beat up old truck constantly helping refugees. The boys in the parish were always subject to being drafted into corporal works of mercy. When he gave us the eighth grade talk about possibly having vocations, he wanted to set aside our notions of how boring it must be at seminary. He told us how they got lots of ice cream and frequently played baseball. Since at that time I had no preconceived notion of what a seminary was like, I have ever since held a mental image of young men in baseball uniforms eating from large bowls of ice cream, whenever I hear the word.
Then I started reading what the bishops had to say on the issue. There is a conscience based exception for the church and its integrated auxiliaries that will allow it to offer a health plan that does not include contraception, but the exception does not apply to the many Catholic institutions such as hospitals and colleges that serve many non-Catholics and have them as employees. The bishops took exception to that:
The exemption provided for “religious employers” was so narrow that it failed to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations—including Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities—that help millions every year. Ironically, not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith
There you have it. If Obama had his way back then it would have been birth control pills instead of loaves and fishes. Way to tone down the rhetoric your eminences.
I used to be a puzzled by people who while thinking that practicing birth control is responsible, and not believing in papal infallibility and apostolic succession and transubstantiation remain Catholics. If God had intended people like that to remain Catholics, there wouldn’t be Unitarian Universalism – or the Episcopal Church if you really like those vestments. Conservative Catholics wonder the same thing, as you can see from this post in Popin Ain’t Easy. That is the challenge that FFRF is throwing out. I suspect they will not find many takers. Toward the end of the ad they say “There is a more welcoming home for you”, but I don’t think that FFRF provides that much of a home, their focus over all is too negative. Some people think the Catholic Church is their home, their family and you don’t quit your family because some of the senior relatives think that they are in charge.
I think I’m leaning toward the elegant solution that the Obama administration came up with to finesse the problem. Make the insurance companies pay. It beats paying for the costs of unwanted pregnancie. It reminds me of a memorable discussion about the birth control controversy that I had over 40 years ago.
During my high school days, I spent most Saturdays working for Tony. He owned a small bakery on AndersonAvenue that baked the best Italian bread in Fairview NJ, which probably means it was the best Italian bread in the United States. I’m willing to allow for the possibility that they do it better in Italy, but my judgment on that issue is suspended. He delivered to stores and homes within about 5 to 10 miles of the bakery. On Saturday, he delivered to his weekly customers and collected, which is why he needed a helper on the truck. He was a great talker and I learned many things from listening to him. Once in a very great while, he would want to learn something from me.
Since I was attending an elite Catholic high school (which counts no less than Antonin Scalia as one of its graduates), Tony thought I might be able to clarify the recent papal pronouncement on birth control – Humanae Vitae. His question went something like “So Pete what’s this thing about the Pope and the birth control pill ?”. We were studying this in theology class, so I gave it my best shot saying something about artificial methods. Tony pondered this for a while and shot back “He didn’t mean rubbers did he ?” and I replied that I was fairly certain that they were included in the ban. His response was “That’s ridiculous. If you didn’t use rubbers, every time you had an affair with your wife, she would get pregnant.”
Now the bishops haven’t been able to put much of a dent in that common sense attitude of the bulk of American Catholics. I guess they have to keep trying though, because that’s part of their job. The Church is a worldwide organization that has literally been around for millenia. It does not turn on a dime. I do not think that it is fair to accuse them of warring on women, for not wanting, based on principle, to pay for a prescription that according to Planned Parenthood costs $50 per month tops. Compare that to disposable diapers and daycare and college – don’t get me started. At any rate I think their critics, could also dial down the rhetoric a bit.
What Got Me Into This ?
I write about taxes and the specific items I write about come from the raw material that the system throws at me filtered through my criteria of practical utility, matter for reflection and humor. Recently there have been two Catholic cases both concerning real property that I found very interesting. One was about Phil Ting, the Assessor and Recorder of San Francisco, trying to ding the archdiocese for over 20 million in transfer taxes on some shuffling around of property in an internal reorganization. The other was about the assessors in Scituate, Mass taxing a Catholic parish church building that has been “occupied” by “vigillers” for over seven years. I mentioned that Ting’s unsuccessful assault on the Church had concerns about marriage equality in the background. I did not mention the possible connection to the clergy sex abuse scandals, because it was rather tenuous. Mentioning sex and molestation is the type of thing you do for search engine optimization and I certainly wouldn’t mention sex and molestation for that purpose.
Then there is clergy tax abuse as opposed to clergy sex abuse. That is what got me interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They are challenging the constitutionality of Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code, which allows an income tax exclusion for housing or cash payments in lieu of housing to “ministers of the gospel”. In a recent guest post Robert Baty, a retired IRS agent, connected the dots between the housing allowance and conscience exceptions to Obamacare. I had Mr. Baty to thank for pointing out the travesty of “basketball ministers“. He was upset by the political pressure that forced the IRS to allow such nonsense while he was working for them and has carried the struggle into retirement. Housing allowance abuse appears to be more of a Protestant than a Catholic thing. Two cheers for hierarchy and corporation sole, I guess.
In the comment section of Mr. Baty’s first post, I had a bit of a debate with Andrew Seidel of FFRF. I find FFRF on the overzealous side. It does not trouble me, for example, that Chick-Fil-A was giving a discount to people who brought a church bulletin in on Monday in a promotion called Holy Cow Monday. I am hoping to get a guest post from them soon which might set me straight, but right now I am struggling with the ad.You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.