AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS - D.O.G.S.
PRESS RELEASE 107#.
BELOW THE STATE AID ICEBERG:
CHARITY INC AND THE BUSINESS REVIEW WEEKLY
"History has a very important economic aspect. One of the dangers of subsidizing religious institutions and granting them financial privileges ( such as exemption from income tax, land and municipal rates, sales and other taxes) is that such Institutions tend to become extremely wealthy to aggrandize and to become States within a State. The corrective has often been a more or less violent seizure of the assets of the religious institutions, sometimes by the existing sovereign, as did Henry VIII sometimes by revolutionary movements, which in many countries have had as one of their main objects the suppression of religious institutions and the seizure of their wealth.......Douglas J refers to this.....a government with mounting tax problems cannot be expected to keep its hands off the wealth of a rich church forever....it is not not unreasonable to prophesy that with reasonable prudent management, the churches ought to be able to control the whole economy of the nation within the predictable future." Justice Murphy, Dissenting Judgment, DOGS CASE 1981 146 CLR at p. 625
"Without adequate supervision or transparency, the not-for-profit sector is a ticking bomb." BRW March 24-30 p. 45.
The Business Review Weekly March 24-30 2005, Vol 27 gave vent to some of the rumblings predicted by Justice Murphy and Justice Douglas. This magazine ran a large, well researched article by Adele Ferguson on the $70 billion sacred cow of the Australian economy- Charities. The editor, Tony Featherstone launched the article in his Editorial as follows:
" The problem is that charities, especially those affiliated with religions, are a sacred cow that few are willing to challenge. Too many votes are at stake for governments to rock the boat, and links between big business and big charities are growing. The lack of debate and information is so bad that nobody really knows how big the sector is, how many genuine charities exist, how much they make, the size of their tax breaks, and the breadth of their operations. "
Yet the sector is worth at least $70 BILLION or up to 10% of the economy, and is the country's biggest employer. The BRW note that $70 Billion is a conservative figure and it could be much higher than this.
DOGS note that the religious organisations have built their enormous wealth and economic empire on the foundations of State Aid to their church schools - and the billions have escalated, untrammelled, unaccounted for, and unabashed, from there.
DOGS suggest readers get hold of the above article. But, for this Press Release, consider some of the following findings of this extensive research.
1. The big five churches had revenue of more than $21.7 billion in 2004. They do not have to file income tax returns, and unlike in most other countries, they do not have to pay tax on commercial businesses or capital gains tax on the sale of assets.
2. The Roman Catholic Church, which turns over more than $15 billion a year, runs schools, hospitals and aged-care facilities, but it also runs an insurance company, a mortgage broking business, car parks, a winery and controls more than $4 billion through the various super funds that it managed.
3. The Seventh-day Adventists run the Sanitarium food business, and Hillsong Church sells pop music, self-help books, television programs and even mobile-phone tunes for $4 each.
4. The churches are mega-businesses. Most churches own real estate in prime locations worth many many billions, and if they sell it, they do not have to pay capital gains tax.
5. The Roman Catholic Church alone is thought to have more than $100 billion in property and other assets in Australia.
6. The sector is powerful - financially and politically. Some of the bigger organisations have lobby groups more sophisticated than those of listed companies. Most of the bigger organisations have offices in Canberra.
INSIDE THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
The above is the Heading in the BRW article. Consider the following findings:
1. The Roman Catholic Church is the wealthiest non-profit organisation in Australia. If it was a corporation, it would be one of the 10 biggest in the country. Through its network of schools, hospitals aged-care facilities, employment services and other business ventures, it makes at least $15 billion in revenue a year. That figure does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars donated by its congregation on the collection plates of its 1500 parishes a year. Nor does it
2. The Roman Catholic Church is the wealthiest non-profit organization in Australia. If it was a corporation, it would be one of the 10 biggest in the country. Through its network of schools, hospitals, aged-care facilities, employment services and other business ventures, it makes at least $15 billion in revenue a year. That figure does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars donated by its congregation on the collection plates of its 1500 parishes a year. Nor does it adequately measure the revenue that it makes from its welfare "businesses".
3. The five biggest religious groups turned over $21.6 billion in 2004, with the Roman Catholic Church making more revenue than the other four put together. Through its vast empire of health and education the Church earned
i. at least $5.28 billion from its 1700 schools
ii. at least $5 billion from health, which includes 65 hospitals and more than 485 aged-care homes and hostels
iii. at least $3.2 billion from sinruance and property rentals
iv The church also has more than $4 billion in superannuation funds under management that BRW could locate.
iv. The church operates and insurance company, a multi-storey car park in Melbourne's CBD and a vineyard.
v. The church is the biggest employer in Australia - employing 180,000 people.
4. What makes the Roman Catholic Church unique is its size and structure. As one of the biggest organizations in Australia, and the biggest employer ( 180,000 people) its influence across education, health and welfare and politics is enormous. The BRW claims it is "unassailable". The DOGS are prepared to take the church on, so it is not unassailable. At its most triumphant , wealthy, influential and bully priest best, it is at its weakest- as history illustrates only too well.
The faithful are absent from the pews in ever increasing numbers. And, as the DOGS proved in 26 days of the Trial of Facts in the High Court, the churches lost all credibility, if not their soul, as they fell over themselves trying to prove that they were no more religious than State schools!
RISE OF THE EVANGELICALS
The BRW notes that attendance at Pentecostal "happy clappers" churches has jumped by 27% in recent years. They are run as slcik marketing enterprises and their founds, the pastors, exhibit all the traits of a commercial marketing director or chief executive.
The only difference is - they do not pay tax and most of their workers are volunteers, so they do not have to pay wages. Consider the following "MONEY POT" Pentecostal revenue earners in 2004.
i. Hillsong Church $40 million
ii. Christian City $38 million
iii. Paradise Community $ 5.3 million
iv. Cornerstone Community $ 3.8 million
AUSTRALIA'S TOP 200 CHARITIES:
The BRW lists the top 200 money earning charities. The following are Educational "Charities"most of which are in the first hundred wealthiest income earning charities in Australia
DOGS wish to note that with this kind of gross income (excluding capital assets) taxpayers should be asking why these "charities" require ever growing billions of public money for their enterprises.
THE PURPLE ECONOMY
Over the years, governments have consistently failed to tackle the sector. Max Wallace, an academic at the Australian National University, who is an expert in the role of the church and the state, says that since winning the 1996 election, the Howard Government has bent over backwards to favor religion.
" They are reluctant to do anything that would lead to the regulation of any aspect of religious activity. Contrary to the assumption, there is no separation of state and church in Australia!"
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|Last modified:Monday, 25 April 2005|