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December 17, 2011

It's time to tax the churches

How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- It's Time to Tax the Church | | AlterNet
Not all churches or all ministers are rich, but some of them are very rich indeed. And that's no surprise, because society subsidizes them through a constellation of generous tax breaks that aren't available to any other institution, even non-profits. For example, religious organizations can opt out of Social Security and Medicare withholding. Religious employers are exempt from unemployment taxes, and in some states, from sales tax. Religious ministers -- and no other profession; the law specifies that only "ministers of the gospel" are eligible for this benefit -- can receive part of their salary as a "housing allowance" on which they pay no taxes. (Compounding the absurdity, they can then turn around and double-dip, deducting their mortgage interest from their taxes, even when their mortgage is being paid with tax-free money in the first place.) And, of course, churches are exempt from property tax and from federal income tax. We're all paying for the special privileges afforded to religion. Your taxes and mine have to be higher to make up the revenue shortfall that the government isn't taking in because these huge, wealthy churches don't pay their own way. By some estimates, the property tax exemption alone removes $100 billion in property from U.S. tax rolls. (And it's not just the big churches where that exemption bites: According to authors like Sikivu Hutchinson, the proliferation of small storefront churches is a major contributor to poverty and societal dysfunction in poor communities, since these churches remove valuable commercial property from the tax base and ensure that local governments remain cash-strapped and unable to provide basic services.) Just about the only restriction that churches have to abide by in return is that they can't endorse political candidates -- and even this trivial, easily evaded prohibition is routinely and flagrantly violated by the religious right.

December 14, 2011

Did a Muslim Cleric really ban women from touching phallic foods?

Maybe? I mean, it isn't crazier than saying women can't drive because once women drive there will be no more virgins (which a Saudi official said last week) or, y'know, throwing acid in the eyes of women trying to learn how to read (thanks, Taliban!). But is it parody or more examples of religious misogyny? Muna Khan: Bananas, cucumbers, carrots, oh my
Sometimes a cleric has to issue an edict for the jokes to write themselves. This was evidenced on Thursday in a so-called edict by a Muslim cleric calling for a ban on women touching phallic-shaped fruit. It was bound to elicit outrage and ridicule alike. The brouhaha erupted after the publication of a report in the Egyptian newspaper Bikya Masr on Thursday, which quoted the website El-Senousa, on which an unnamed cleric in Europe said that women shouldn’t touch fruit/vegetables such as bananas, cucumbers, carrots and eggplants because they resembled male genitalia. The only way women could eat these fruit was if there presented to them by “a third party, preferably a male related to them such as their father or husband should cut the items into small pieces and serve it to them” the newspaper quoted the cleric as saying. It set social media forums aflame with Twitter users suggesting other fruit that should be banned for resembling female anatomy (hint: peaches). The ludicrousness of the matter also attracted the attention of news outlets, many of whom ran the story ─ and everyone had a good laugh, or a good cry, while a whole lot of Muslims hung their heads in shame. It was a good day on Twitter for cucumber jokes and the story should end here except for one teeny tiny thing: no one can verify this story.

December 05, 2011

Fake Kristen Stewart tells the story of Jesus and the manger

Awesome. I love her impression. Joe. My. God.: Jesus Is, Like, Totally Magical

November 23, 2011

Saint revealed to have used carbolic acid to create stigmata effect

Joe. My. God.: FAKERY: About That Stigmata, Father...
Italian historian Professor Sergio Luzzatto has discovered documents including a letter from a pharmacist who arranged carbolic acid for Pio. Professor Luzzatto suggests in Padre Pio: Miracle and Politics in a Secular Age that it was the corrosive acid that caused the bleeding on the saint's hands. He also said many had expressed doubts and suggested the Vatican only canonised Pio – real name Francesco Forgione – because of public pressure. "Human beings – and particularly the most fragile among them – will still need to look at figures such as Padre Pio to get, if not miracles, then at least consolation and hope," Professor Luzzatto said, according the the Sun.

November 22, 2011

A Jesus pamphlet is not a substitute for a tip

This $10 Tip Is Not The Best Way To Show Your Gratitude To Your Server - The Consumerist