"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. 

"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.


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 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        


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



1 Catholic Education NSW Catholic 1836.8
2 Anglican Schools (National) Anglican 1442.8
3 Catholic Education Victoria Catholic 1369.4
10 Uniting Church Schools (National) Uniting 545
12 Non-Denominational Schools Christian 474.3
13 Catholic Education Western Australia Catholic 472.1
18 Catholic Education South Australia Catholic 367.3
25 Christian Schools Christian 315.1
27 Lutheran Schools (National) Lutheran 271.8
36 Catholic Education (ACT) Catholic 133
38 Inter-Denominational Schools Christian 128.6
44 Australian Catholic University Catholic 108
45 Presbyterian Schools Presbyterian 107.9
46 Jewish Schools Jewish 105.2
48 Catholic Education Tasmania Catholic 99.2
49 Muslim Schools Muslim 94
51 Seventh Day Adventist Schools SDA 88.5
68 Steiner Schools Steiner 47.9
82 Assemblies of God Schools Assem..of God 41.4
83 Pentecostal Schools Pentecostal 41.2
89 Catholic Education NT Catholic 38
98 Greek Orthodox Schools Greek Orthodox 31.6
108 Brethren Schools Brethren 27.8

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.


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 favour 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!"