It is hard not to know who Joel Osteen is. His handsome face is on television every week as he preaches inoffensive, softball television sermons in front of a crowded stadium of devoted followers. His books have been on the New York Times best seller list. Would you be surprised to know that Celebrity Net Worth estimates Osteen’s worth to be at least $60 million?
I have watched some of Osteen’s sermons. They are catchy like a hit record. But nobody with $60 million in the bank should be allowed to get out of paying their fair share of taxes.
Evangelical Christians in particular like to seek cover under the church’s tax-exempt status, but don’t shy away from politics. There is no clearer example of that then with Donald Trump.
Donald Trump embodies the seven deadly sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. He had unprotected sex with a porn star within weeks of his wife giving birth to their son.
Before you feel any sympathy for Melania remember that she started sleeping with Donald while he was still married to second wife Marla Maples, who he was sleeping with while he was married to first wife Ivana. It is a disgusting swamp of DNA and entitlement.
Yet despite being everything the bible warns people of, Evangelicals have flocked to endorse Trump. And that, in turn, has bled into the QAnon counterculture – a belief system in which Donald Trump alone is leading the defense against a group of Democratic cannibal sex traffickers that is currently running the world.
How admitted QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene got elected to the House of Representatives is hard to grasp. And the Republican party has been so corrupted by the Trump cancer that she isn’t just a member of the party, she stands out as one of the primary spokespeople for the GOP. Republicans like Ted Cruz are giving Greene the pulpit to preach far right-wing conspiracy theories as if they had a shred of validity.
Donald Trump has never read the bible. He doesn’t go to church. He doesn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. Yet the evangelicals embrace him. Heck, they built a gold statue of him.
Look at the 2020 presidential election. 76% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. They knowingly voted for a white supremacist and Russian asset. That’s scary.
According to Sarah Posner, an investigative journalist who authored the book “Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Alter of Donald Trump”, during Trump’s occupation of the White House, evangelicals created an “echo chamber” whereby they blamed all Trump’s many mistakes on the Democrats and mainstream media. In her interview with USA Today, Posner stated that Trump followers are so conditioned by him to not believe the media that they are able to effortlessly accept Trump’s innocence in the attempted coup at the Capitol conducted under his direction and in his name.
According to a Pew Research Center Poll, there were more than 60 million evangelical adults in the US in 2018-19. A similar Pew poll in 2014 found 76 percent of evangelicals are white, 11 percent Latino, and 6 percent black.
And it is not Osteen alone who should be taxed on his excessive fortune. According to online magazine ETInside, Pat Robertson has a net worth of $100 million. Kenneth Copeland, who in 2016 said that Christians that did not vote for Trump would be guilty of murder, is worth over $760 million.
On the books there is supposed to be a separation of church and state in the U.S. Right now certain churches try to play both sides of the coin – claiming tax exempt status but then using their pulpit to preach on politics. I believe any church whose leader voices a political endorsement should immediately lose their tax-exempt status.
That’s a band aid though. What I think we really need is a wealth tax, as championed by Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ tax would only affect people with wealth of over $32 million (roughly 182,000 people). Under his plan, there is 1% tax on wealth over $32 million with gradual pumps up until reaching an 8% tax for wealth above $10 billion.
I suggest that this proposed wealth tax be expanded to cover churches with assets over a certain amount as well. It wouldn’t affect small churches, only those above a certain threshold. According to BigThink.com, a University of Tampa study found that the U.S. would gain $83.5 billion in revenue each year if religious institutions paid taxes.
I have no problem paying my fair share of taxes. And I don’t mind paying a little extra if it means the less fortunate are going to have food and access to healthcare. But I think big money churches should pay their fair share too.
Church taxes work in other countries (just as Universal Healthcare is available in 32 of the 33 developed nations). Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, and parts of Switzerland all have a church tax.
This isn’t about religion for me. I am a firm believer that each individual has a right to their own beliefs. I just think at a certain point in one’s accumulation of wealth, there should be some give back. I believe that for individuals, businesses, and religious organizations. When you amass a certain level of wealth, it’s time to pay your fair share.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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