Donald Andrew Henson II

Posts Tagged ‘Separation of Church and State’

Obama Says Same Sex Marriage is OK

In Current events on May 10, 2012 at 12:43 am

I was just talking to my wife this morning about how I didn’t think President Obama is courageous enough – he has seemed content to nibble around the edges of the problems this country has, instead of coming up with the sort of new ideas we all thought he would. Well, endorsing gay marriage is not really a new idea; as far as the problems that I’d like to see fixed in the country go, I have to admit, gay marriage is pretty low on my list of priorities; as we say in the South – I don’t have a dog in the race.

However, I applaud his courage.  While my own views on this subject have been ‘evolving’ for years as well, I think he made the right decision. There are those who say they believe in a limited government – and then seem to spend all their time trying to legislate how I live my personal life. I guess they mean that government should be limited when it comes to educating children or making sure corporations take care of the people they employ. When it comes to looking into our bedrooms, suddenly, they seem to think the sky’s the limit when it comes to what government can do. These folks won in North Carolina yesterday – over 30 states now have similar laws.

I believe Mr. Obama made this decision because he too is a secularist, and there is simply no secular reason for forbidding same-sex marriages. To be honest, you’d be hard pressed to find a handful of Biblical scriptures that condemn homosexuality as well; by comparison, it’s pretty easy to find anti-gluttony scripture, yet a full two-thirds of Americans need to lose some weight. Check out the chuck-wagon gang at your local church, and you’ll see that religious folks can be very selective about which scriptures they really take to heart.

Some folks get upset when those who fight for gay rights compare their situation to the Civil Rights movement; I can see their point – one person being owned by another is really not quite the same thing as not getting to marry your gay lover – but both seem unjust, nonetheless. My wife is a Chinese national – less than a century ago, it would have been illegal for us to be married. Some good friends of mine just got engaged – he’s black and she’s white; again, this would have been illegal just a few decades ago. Why? Because a lot of ‘God-fearing’ folk decided it was wrong. Today, the country is split right down the middle on gay marriage; younger people tend to have a more positive view than older folks, but the older folks are more likely to get out and vote. But an idea or practice isn’t necessarily wrong just because a majority of people don’t like it. When you think about marriage from a non-religious, common sense point of view, you have to wonder why any person or any government body should have the right to decide for another when if comes to affairs of the heart – we should all be free to marry whom we wish. I certainly didn’t care about what the Methodists or Catholics might think when I got married – or the federal government, for that matter.

In fact – I’m going to sound like a libertarian here – government shouldn’t be making ANY decisions about who’s married and who isn’t – why are they in the ‘marriage decider’ business? Why does any US state, or any group of people within that state, feel they have the right to impose their ideas about marriage on anyone else?

To those who want to ‘protect the sanctity of marriage’ – well, good luck. Divorce rates aren’t any lower amongst church-goers than they are in the general population; in fact, in some denominations, they are higher. Where do we find the lowest divorce rates? Studies show that the more education an individual has, the lower the divorce rate. If we really want to ‘sanctify’ marriage, we should make sure our children get the best education they can get.

I realize that just because the President says something doesn’t mean that anything has changed; nevertheless, I’m encouraged to see a politician take a stand – based on reason – even if it might cost him a few votes. I hope that our politicians – and our populous – can begin to apply this sort of logical thinking to the even bigger problems our country faces.

Read the complete story here:  Same-sex couples should be able to marry: Obama | Reuters.

What Constitutes Charity?

In Religion and Government, Religion and Money on May 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA....

Your Tax Dollars at Work?

If I give a thousand dollars to my local opera company, and you give the same amount to Meals on Wheels, assuming we’re in the same tax bracket of say, 20% – we both get the same charitable deduction on our taxes. Opera is my hobby; feeding the poor and infirm is yours. Both organizations are non-profit, so we both deprive Uncle Sam of a couple hundred bucks. (Sounds like one of those 21st Century Insurance commercials.) Is this really the way things should work?

This is the issue Bill Maher raises this week on Real Time with Bill Maher – the nonsensical idea that all charitable contributions are created equal. In his trademark irreverent style, Mr. Maher ridicules the current system that shelters millions of dollars of much-needed revenue from the nation’s coffers.  (Read the transcript of his New Rules segment here. It sometimes takes a few days after the show’s initial airing for transcripts to appear.)

What exactly should constitute a charitable deduction? Perhaps a dozen years ago, when the government was running a surplus, it wasn’t a pertinent question. Today, however, with huge deficits, a staggering national debt, and no agreement in Congress about how to fix these problems, it’s time to have a look at what sort of activities the rest of us are subsidizing.

Last year, Mitt Romney made around 20 million dollars. If he paid his tithes, that means that 2 million went to the Church of Latter Day Saints. We know Mr. Romney paid an actual tax rate of 14%. This means that he didn’t pay the IRS around $280,000 that he would have otherwise owed. Since the US Treasury Department is not currently running a surplus, but a deficit, this means that someone – or a lot of someones – is going to have to make up that loss. What do we as Americans get in return for that loss of a quarter of a million dollars? I suppose that LDS might spend some of that 2 million dollars on feeding the poor and infirm; but I know for sure that they spend a lot of it sending young men in short-sleeve dress shirts out to neighborhoods all over America and the world in an effort to win converts. And in essence, you and I are subsidizing that activity.

It’s time to end this nonsense. If I give thousands of dollars to my church so they can have a swimming pool in the their new gymnasium, and you give thousands of dollars to the local homeless shelter, our contribution to society is not equal, and the IRS should stop subsidizing both activities equally. We can argue over the many other subsidies in our tax system – and we should – but certainly all of us can agree that food and shelter for the homeless and new swimming pools for upper-middle class Christians are entities that should not enjoy the same margin of entitlement. I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t be allowed to build whatever they want – I’m simply saying that I don’t want to foot part of the bill.

In fact, in a secular society, the government has no business encouraging the building of churches, mosques and synagogues or any other activity that is purely religious in nature; therefore, contributions that go in large part to that activity should not qualify for a tax deduction. However, curing drug addicts, giving job skills to the unemployed, finding new cures for illnesses – these are activities that benefit society as a whole, and should continue to qualify.

Government should neither encourage religious activity nor dissuade its citizens from participating in any way they see fit. All American citizens should financially support causes they wish to see thrive; only those causes that have positive benefits to the general populace – in this life – should be tax exempt.

Do you think your tithes should be tax deductible? Leave a comment and contribute to the conversation.