Max Wallace has authored a book that lays out how Australia, and (almost only Australia) keeps the Churches on side with Government with these particular Tax deductions and handouts.
The first part of the book demolishes any ideas about separation of church and state in Australia.
In the 1998 DOGS case (Defence of Government Schools), the high court decided there was no separation of church and state in Australia.
This is why we had Peter Hollingworth an Anglican Archbishop as Governor General, and the Government can fund Chaplains in Australian schools.
Even though the Australian constitution is almost exactly written and intended to be the same in the church/state regard as the USA, it has a single word different, and that was enough for the High Court to determine their is no separation.
Looking back over 100 years to the founding of the Australian Commonwealth can't be easy, and parts of the constitution will have been taken from many models, but our interest is in Section 116.
I won't reproduce it here, as the wikipedia entry is quite through. But the interpretation of the meaning separation of Church and State is one that needs to be investigated, e.g. What does it all mean?
Some think it means that the State looks after the government of the people, and religion is just something funded by believers and and those particular principles of belief are just for themselves. This is how secularism works, and certainly the most desirable in modern society (until the human race grows up). This is the French model.
Some think it means the government will not establish a State Church, as it exists now in England. This is how the courts have interpreted the situation in Australia.
Some think it means that the Government will not tax you to pay for the support of a religions that you don't believe in. The situation in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, is actually much like this. The Government taxes it's citizens on behalf of their church.
Italy has the Tax Eight Per Thousand
In the US, the principle is that the state does not subsidise religion, also
Everyone is free to exercise their religion.
Religion can't be imposed on anyone.
There is no religious test for government positions.
There is no State religion.
Nice theory, but for those in the USA, this NYT article will probably interest you your separation of Church and state is slowly being eroded, your taxes going to support the religious, and civil laws being exempted for their benefit.
This is exactly what is happening in Australia, the taxes the church doesn't pay on it's profit making activities is made up by taxes the rest of the population pay. Australian Government money goes to religious schools, these schools that were setup precisely to be outside the government system, and to promote the religious views of the respective churches
But to sum it up, Australian Church / State separation is a DOGS breakfast, and the importance of the DOGS case takes some pages to go over in the book
So again it comes down to money, I have covered this before in my post about the lack of a Charity Commission in Australia
The Business Review Weekly estimated in 2005 the 5 biggest religious groups in the country had a revenue of A$23.3 Billion. It is summarised in this PDF from the Australian and New Zealand law and History journal and this page at the ADOGS website
The BRW also claim the Catholic Church is the biggest landowner in Australia, I can't confirm this, and finding out for certain is beyond my resources, as part of the problem is the parish systems and the different Australian states. The Catholic Church is spread across 200 religious orders, and if the comments by an ex-member of Opus Dei are to be believed, the accountants are completely disorganised, and it's very likely the Church doesn't know what it actually owns, and probably prefers it that way
The Second part is about Religion and Government
How much has religious thinking affected those we elect to Government?
In the last decade a National day of Thanks Giving has been informally held, although I have no idea how popular it is compared to Talk like a Pirate day.
Peter Costello is certainly keen on it, and even likes to make the occasional speech , John Howard was also keen to support this day of intellectual fiction.
So how is the Australian Government records for doing what is best for it's citizens, instead of furthering the Christian agenda?
- 2005 was a year to remember for the drug RU486, Tony Abbott showed his contempt for women by trying to have it restricted/banned, but it was made available during a conscience vote, it was noticeable the overwhelming number of woman in parliament voted for it.
- The lack of a Royal Commission into priestly Child Abuse.
- Sale of a radio transmitter to a fundamentalist Christian group so they can send their signals into Asia (Station is now closed)
- 20 Million gift for a World Youth Day, with the pope in attendance, but nothing for the World Atheist Conference in 2010.
Much of the book then goes in to the murky world of Charities and Government, and some comparisons of how other countries handle the relationship. Then continues with how some MPs deal with their religious convictions and the rest of the community, and the Liberal Governments attack on the human rights of citizens.
One thing Max Wallace says in a minor paragraph is how Dr Carmen Lawrence received hate mail and death threats when she spoke about Hill$ong Church in Parliament. This reminded me about this video of Richard Dawkins reading his hate mail. Ben Goldacre the author of Bad Science, just said on twitter that he does get abusive hate mail, and it would surprise many who it's from.
The book also has a short section on Black Collar Crime, and notes the Catholic Church had documention called On the manner of proceeding in cases of the crimes of solicitation in 1962 to advise on how to move Priests around, and threaten excommunication on anyone who made claims public.
This is the first time I have re-read a book immediately, it's full of shocking details of things that I never knew, but then again I have never been exposed to Religion. This was where I first heard of the Magdalene Laundries, and how they operated in Australia at least in the 1940s, and only due to the intervention of a "miracle" they didn't come to public notice at that time.
Australian Industry Commissions 1995 report (PDF) Charitable Organisations in Australia
The Catholic Church also gets income from Peters Pence.
It's only $US84 Million, but it's likely it goes into the Vatican bank, an organization with alleged links to the Mafia, a fencer of Nazi gold, and money laundering potentially even more corrupt than banks are generally supposed to be.(I take note that the Vatican Bank is the subject of many conspiracy theories, so anything written about it is highly suspect)
Do you know why I have credibility? Because I don't exude morality -- Bob Hawke