AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION. If you've yet to take in the extraordinary New York Times series on the business of religion that Scott flagged yesterday, I urge you to take a look before it gets locked up behind the Times's pay-for-play archive walls. The multitude of exemptions enjoyed by religious organizations and their pastors that business reporter Diana B. Henriques has chronicled is truly amazing. Did you know that the Rev. Rick Warren (he of The Purpose-Driven Life) enjoys a tax exemption on his housing?
Pastor Warren argued that the tax break is essential to poorly paid clergy members who serve society.
The tax break is not available to the staff at secular nonprofit organizations whose scale and charitable aims compare to those of religious ministries like Pastor Warren's church, or to poorly paid inner-city teachers and day care workers who also serve their communities.
The great state of Florida seems to pop up time and again in the series. Henriques reports that Governor Jeb Bush signed into law an exemption for religion-oriented theme parks, and notes that, despite the finding of such laws in other states as unconstitutional, Florida continues to exempt Bibles and other religious literature from sales taxes. The publications exemption is being fought, Henriques writes, "almost single-handedly," by a Wiccan lawyer named Heather Morcroft. (You go, girl!)