Citizen Editorial: Churches & Taxes
Dear Jeff and Dale,
I listened intently to your interview with our Shelton Mayor Gary Cronce about our homeless problem and the proposal of tent cities. I have this to say about that:
Almost nobody doesn't like Father Joe Mikel, a well mannered and kind man, the pastor of Saint David of Wales Episcopal Church. I know this because he and I on occasion have spoken about issues and he has always been gracious in listening to me. I've also helped him do dishes in his kitchen feeding the homeless he cares so much for. His quest in life, seemingly, is to "give a sandwich to anyone who's hungry." I like that. A lofty goal indeed coming from caring humble man.
What I don't like is what he told the Shelton City Commission on Monday. He said:
"You want to tell us how to manage our property . . . we don't need you to come in and manage everything."
What troubles me about this his sentiment is the fact that his church doesn't pay any property taxes. He receives police services, he'll get fire protection should he need that, both being paid for by his juxtaposed neighbors left and right of his church and then beyond. He and his congregants avail themselves of the tax payer funding of road maintenance right in front of his church. Receiving these costly services all tax free.
We all have to pay more in property taxes because churches aren't carrying their own weight, they aren't helping out with one dime in this regard. Why is that? Why are we enabling churches? Why the free ride?
This is not chump change we're talking about here either. Studies are now best indicating local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion — to the tune of about $71 billion every year. That equates to a huge untapped resource going to waste right here in Mason County. Sure, we can take into account all the charitable groups graciously and willingly contributing, thankfully, but it's mostly many of those non-church groups contributing like Occupy Shelton, et al, (to give some credit where credit is due) and not just the church alone all by its altruistic self.
Church tax preferment should be a troubling concern to a struggling overtaxed society like Mason County, because, the number of Americans living outside any religious tradition continues to grow exponentially. It underscores the unfairness of taxing all County property owners in subsidizing religious institutions that fewer and fewer are utilizing these days.
That said: I have a proposal for my admired friend Father Joe:
Sir, Reverend Sir, would you, could you be the first Church in America to pay property taxes? This added money to the county treasury could ease the burdens of your neighbors and too it would give the county more needed funds to assist in accommodating the homeless desperately in need of adequate shelter.
You're a good man Joe, no one says otherwise. Do this for the good of our community.
Darrell Barker, Shelton
August 26, 2014