I read an article recently calling for the revocation of charitable status for churches in Canada, saying that it is a logical reality of the age. I respectfully disagree. Charitable exemption for churches is a good thing for Canada, regardless of whether we each agree with their specific mandate or not.
Communities of faith provide gathering places where human relationships can develop. Most faiths teach their members to obey the laws of the land for reasons greater than the fear of punishment. Churches also provide support and counselling resources for those who are facing difficult situations. All of these things are good for society at large.
Churches can sometimes respond to emergency situations quicker than the government can. Even when government does respond reasonably quickly, churches are still organized bodies that often contribute to relief efforts (Google “hurricane Sandy church response” for a recent example).
Churches run programs that are open to the community at large, not just for their members. They host teen seminars and games, kids’ activities, and community events. They collect food for the food bank, and open their doors for others in the community to use their facilities. I have never heard of a church precluding non-members from participating in its activities. This would seem to go against its mandate to reach out to the community. I checked websites at random for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian centres and they all had programs that were open to anyone who wanted to attend, regardless of their religious background.
The author of the above-noted article mentioned that some of the views of a church could be seen as political and that because the church promotes these views that charitable status should be denied. He states that granting charitable status to churches is inconsistent with denying it for other organizations that have a political agenda. I would state that there is a difference between having an opinion on an issue and having a political agenda. The purpose of churches is not political in nature. Most want to be a gathering place of praise, worship, and prayer, not engage in a political debate.
An example of another organization that has charitable status with a similar level of political involvement would be Planned Parenthood. On the Toronto web site, they state very clearly that they are a pro-choice organization. That is an opinion that could be seen as political. Does that mean that their charitable status be revoked? I don’t think so.
There are many other examples of organizations with charitable status that have opinions that could be seen as political. Therefore, having churches with charitable status is not inconsistent as the above-noted article’s author claims. Rather, it would be inconsistent to remove it.
What do you think? Should all organizations with political views have their charitable status revoked? (Respectful, on-topic comments will be published whether you agree with me or not.)