Rick Warren is the Pastor of his own MegaChurch, the Saddleback Church in California. He is a Christian preacher, which essentially means he lies for a living. He tells the mythical tale of the virgin-born Jesus, Son of the mythical Yahweh, to his flock as if it were truth, and he sells books and interviews Presidential candidates and is generally a famous sort of individual. Mr. Warren chose to insert his Christian nose into Federal Government business as the Congressional and Executive Branches aired their differences of opinion regarding the best way for the United States to avoid defaulting on its obligations.
This is unseemly enough, as religious leaders should try to stick to tales of Jonah living in the belly of a whale or how Noah got polar bears and penguins onto a wooden boat in the Middle East. No, Pastor Rick felt that the Progressive Tax Code of the United States was within his bailiwick and chose the communication forum Twitter –recently used by politicians for Town Hall Meetings, Debates, and to send photographs of their genitals to women– to speak out. “Half of Americans pay NO taxes. ZERO. so they’re happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay taxes.” This from a man who declared his entire salary as tax-exempt because it was used for housing. More on that in a moment.
This is a common lie spun by Republican Congressmen to denounce any proposal that the wealthy should pay a higher tax rate. They cry that the wealthy already pay the bulk of the taxes in this country and that 50% of Americans don’t pay any! The last Senator to beg for tax mercy for the wealthiest Americans was Senator Orrin Hatch who cried,”The top 50 percent pay somewhere near 98 percent of all income taxes. 51 percent don’t pay anything.”
There are Americans whose income levels are such that they fall into a Federal Income tax bracket that has an effective tax rate of 0%. My daughter is one of those. She earned just under $10,000 last year as a 19 year old college student waiting tables to get by. She had both Federal and State Income Tax withheld all year and when she completed her tax forms, the Federal and State Governments refunded her taxes. They did not refund her Social Security and Medicare taxes though, commonly called payroll taxes. All Americans pay these. In fact, the average middle class American family will pay Social Security payroll taxes on 100% of their income, while the millionaire will only pay it on 1/10 of their income as there is a cap at which point no further Social Security tax is taken.
The lie only grows from there. Property taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, utilities taxes, telephone taxes and more are paid by all Americans and hit the lower income Americans the hardest as it’s a larger percentage of their income. So when Pastor Rick said that “HALF of America pays NO taxes. ZERO,” he was lying just as much as when he says that he believes that the bodies of dead men rose from their graves when Jesus died and went to visit old friends in the city (see Matthew 27:51-53). But what really makes Pastor Rick’s encroachment on the Federal Government’s business so reprehensible is the special tax treatment he and his MegaChurch get from the US Government. The Saddleback Church gets a free ride, paying no income tax on the donations it receives from its membership or other donors. Last December Pastor Rick begged the sheep to send his poor MegaChurch money as they were in desperate need of funds. He received $2.4 million in one month, and paid zero taxes on it. If that isn’t disgraceful enough, Pastor Rick deducted his entire salary from the Church as a “housing expense” and paid no taxes on it. He was audited, the IRS sent him a tax bill, and he sued them. Eventually, Congress intervened and literally wrote a new law while the IRS lawsuit was still open, saying that a clergyman’s housing expense is unlimited and tax exempt.
There’s a little rule the IRS has to allow Pastor Rick’s MegaChurch to retain this exalted and privileged free ride. They cannot use their influence over the flock to push their political agenda. If so, they lose that special place in the hearts of our government officials and must pay the Piper just like everyone else. It would appear quite obvious that Pastor Rick used his position as a rich and famous story teller to push his false and misleading political agenda. I’d expect a visit from the Taxman is in order. I doubt it will happen though, as our religious leaders get away with figurative murder in this country of ours, with its wall of separation between church and state crumbling like most of our infrastructure.
But at least I can state the truth plainly here, for my Faithful Readers and anyone who may stumble across this little essay by searching for the accurate combination of keywords; Rick Warren and Liar.