Author: Kara Mae Adamo.
Helloooo, all. I know, I know. It’s been a while. I missed you, too.
I am angry, and I would like to take this time to pass that anger on to you, my readers, in the hopes that maybe something can be done about this once and for all.
I mean, really, what is a blog if not a digital soapbox from which to fervently ‘shout’ out my angst and annoyances—specifically if I think some good might come of it in some small way? Think of me as an opportunist.
I, as many of you know and some of you may have simply guessed, am an atheist.
Wait, hold on: I’m going to stop you right there.
I am not saying ‘there is nothing’ or ‘there is no god.’ Far be it for me to pretend I know anything beyond my own little life and, even then, the mysteries far out-weigh the certainties.
As a lover of words, I chose to take them for their actual definitions. An a-theist is exactly that: someone who lacks theology. I am not an agnostic because agnostics are searching for the answers. I know I will never find them and I do not care to look.
I am, however, evangelically anti-doctrin. Doctrin is pointless in this day and age. I understand its historical and cultural purpose, and I revere religion for all that it has given us in the past…but we have microscopes now. And telescopes and satellites and cognitive thinking and, damnit, fancy poetic guesswork is nothing more than wistful attempts at believing in slightly different versions of Santa and the Boogie Man (the Devil). I do not need to be scared into doing good things. I do good things—or don’t do them—as I myself feel fit.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with my rather offensive views on religion and the study/adherence thereof, one thing is absolutely inarguable: that our nation—the US, for my foreign readers—was founded predominantly by AGNOSTICS AND ATHEISTS (No, stop…research it; these are facts) and the separation between church and state was put in place for a reason.
And so, I find it completely ridiculous and constitutionally incorrect to allow churches and other religious groups the right to skimp out on taxes when they are above all else glorified (ha) business institutions. Their product is a weird medley between faith and fear and their unprecedented ability to suck money out of people’s pockets is almost admirable if not incredibly profitable.
Churches have lobbyists and all other sorts working around the clock to ensure that they do in fact have a say in what our government does (take a look at the pledge before the 1970’s. It never said ‘under god’ until then). My argument is this: you have every right to sway people however you would like. I myself am exercising that right with this very blog.
But I pay taxes.
And you, fair churches, do not. And it is not just your actual steepled buildings that I am talking about. You are the titans of loopholes and I don’t think Jesus would approve of the hypocrisy. In fact, I believe he overturned tables at the temple for just this very type of thing.
A constantly infuriating example:
I live in Orlando, Florida: the tourist capitol of the world.
Here, we have Universal Studios, City Walk, Downtown Orlando, Restaurant Row on Sandlake, Park Avenue and Wet and Wild. And that doesn’t even skim the biggest portion of the town which, as everyone knows, is owned and run by that damned Fascist cartoon mouse. Within Orlando there is even an actual town literally owned by Disney. It is called Celebration and it is one of the creepiest places I have ever been in my life. Seriously. You pick a flower and somebody practically comes right up behind you and replaces it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have card-men painting the roses red. It’s in the middle of the Florida swamp and they actually have fake snow engineered for Christmas. Gross.
One thing that most people may not be familiar with, however, is an amusement park called The Holy Land Experience.
This is by far the most disturbing of all of Orlando’s various antics. First off, there is the name. I honestly don’t have enough time or energy to go on about why I find it offensive to multiple cultures the world-over.
But moving beyond that, the park’s main event (as with most parks) is its parade.
Would you like to know what happens during this joyous event?
Iiiiit’s the Crucifixion.
No—stop—really—I kid-you-not. It’s the freaking Crucifixion.
Even I am not sacrilegious enough to make that up. You can’t—it’s too perfect and awful to fit properly into a lighthearted joke. They actually have some homeless looking fool dress up like Jesus and fake-torture him through the streets to the delight and satisfaction of crying grown adults and small sure-to-be-traumatized children until they bring him to what, for the last 5 years, I have been lovingly referring to has the ‘Jeezitorium’: a gigantic collussium mock-up where they hang this guy on a cross like back in the good ole’ days.
Anyway, that horrifying process aside, what I am really upset about is this:
Thanks to IRS code section 501(c)(3), The Holy Land Experience, with its biblically based rides, full-staff, restaurants, creepy parade, special effects, and—yes–gift shops and all, has managed to be completely tax-exempt because it, technically, can consider itself a church.
“How the fuck?” You might ask? Well, once a year—one single, solitary, completely random-ass day out of the 365 they have to chose from—The Holy Land Experience allows free admission to everyone. They manage to pull this off by never releasing the day ahead of time. It’s just sort of a miracle for that day’s lucky patrons.
As a result of this blatantly sleazy loophole, this godforesaken monstrosity that I have the wonderful fortune of passing on my way to work each day manages to skimp out on more than $300,000 in city taxes—including the taxes to care for the roads that lead to its, literally, pearly gates.
I have been bitching about this for nearly half a decade, though…so obviously something must have set me off on this little rampage.
“What was it?” you ask?
You see, I currently work in the restaurant business. At present, I work at a fine-dining Brazilian Churrascuria. It is an all-you-can eat steakhouse. It is my job to feed others freshly charred decomposing flesh on skewers.
Let it be known that, while I am a strict vegetarian, as an atheist, I reserve the right to sell my proverbial soul for money.
Think of it as a cholesterol-filled stepping stone to other things.
So, anyway, since it is that festive time of year, we restaurant folk have been up to our noses in customers and such. Since my restaurant is virtually right next to the huge convention center on I-Drive, we get a lot of business from corporate events and such. Which means more shoes for me and less time attempting Portuguese on a daily :).
All was well-and-good until I started noticing a disturbing trend: churchy groups are coming in and, because they are all churchy, are weaseling their way into tax-free dining.
Tax-free dining at a fine-dining all-you-can-eat steakhouse. Just so you know, the flat-rate BEFORE DRINKS is $45.50 a person.
Two things: a.) how is your ability to stuff your fat mouth with all of the innocent animal flesh in the world helping spread the word of God/why the hell is this legal, and b.) (what is perhaps more enraging) you know that money came directly out of the offering plate. And I thought sending little brats to church camp was pushing the envelope on the definition of ‘charity work.’
For shame, churchy-people. For shame.
Here is my platform on why this is absolutely wrong:
For one, church tax exemptions violate the Establishment clause (precedent: William O. Douglas, LLB, US Supreme Court, Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York, 1970).
Second, by lifting this completely ridiculous exemption, as much as an annual $71 billion in revenue could be used to help create solutions to our present economic crisis (you know, the one so many conservative church-goers like to pin on Obama even though Dick Screw-the-Poor-Cheney is responsible for a significant chunk of it).
And third, charitable events are not exclusively managed by churches and, in fact, are effectively being managed by private businesses and government social services (social services that could definitely use a leg up visa-v the $71 billion we would receive annually if they paid their taxes like the rest of us).
Not to mention the fact that, since churches are really only supposed to be there for religious practices, they should really not be subsidized at all…especially since, as a former Wiccan, I can guarantee that my completely legitimate coven would have never qualified for the same treatment.
All of that or—for an easier option—I would like to file myself as the The Holy Church of Kara and therefore stop seeing massive chunks of my paycheck disappear before my eyes.
And for God’s sake stop using your stupid tax-exempt status on over-priced beef and chemical-filled soft drinks.
Hugs and Kisses,
For those who are interested in being awesome, sign this petition to stop the madness once and for all.