Religious Charity! What Is It Good For? Absolutely… We Don’t Know?

Scott Morrison will hand down the budget on 3rd May with one glaring omission – the nation's irreligious.

A national poll in March showed 64 per cent (1) of Australians oppose religion being tax-exempt. Yet hundreds of diverse church denominations avoid an estimated $31 billion (2) in tax each year, simply because of the historical anomaly of 'advancing religion'.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (3) (ACNC) administers over 60,000 charities with almost 60% being secular organisations. Whereas a number of religions run hundreds of private enterprises in schools, hospitals, aged care, and a variety of other private businesses – none of which pay income tax, GST, rates, car registration and a raft of other taxes.

Religious institutions are not legally required to keep financial records, unlike non-religious charities, leaving us with a huge question mark as to what is going on and how much is being spent on services to people in need.

It is astounding that religions, who endorse conservative candidates and launch aggressive and often dishonest media campaigns on social issues such as same-sex marriage and voluntary euthanasia, have this much political sway – let alone financial leeway.

When only an estimated 8 percent (4) of the Australian community regularly attend church services, in this period of budgetary crisis, the federal government should reconsider it's approach to the organisations that are exempt from anti-discrimination laws and from workplace legislation that allows them to pay below-award wages and enforce unfair working conditions.

Financial transparency and paying a fair share of tax – we should expect more from Australia's religious institutions and more from our country's leaders.

(1) 64 percent oppose tax-free religion.
(2) Religious tax-break to $31 billion annually.
(3) ACNC administers 200,000 charities.
(4) 8 percent of Australians attend church regularly.

Kylie Sturgess

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 3582
Parramatta NSW 2124

Phone: (02) 8007 4503