Good News: Montreal Is Taxing Churches

No more religious exemptions, Montreal is taxing churches: For the first time churches in Montreal are being forced to pay taxes, and some church leaders are very unhappy.

CTV Montreal reports that churches and church space not being used explicitly for the purpose of worship is now taxable property, and is to be treated as any other property as far as taxes are concerned.

As one might expect, those benefitting from the tax exempt status enjoyed by churches are not happy. Again, CTV Montreal reports:

Joel Coppetiers, the Minister at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church, was shocked when his institution first received a municipal tax bill…

“The indication is there’s not an exemption for the church as a whole, there’s only an exemption for those areas used for public worship and things directly related to it,” said Coppetiers.

And while some of those that benefit from the tax exempt status previously enjoyed by churches in Montreal are unhappy with the changes, others are celebrating the small step towards a more just and fair tax structure.

Indeed, subsidizing tax-exempt churches costs taxpayers money, a great deal of money.

For example, a recent report from the Secular Policy Institute shows that tax exempt churches  cost U.S. taxpayers $71 billion every year.

Among the report’s findings: Each year religious groups receive $35.3 billion in federal income tax subsidies and $26.2 billion property tax subsidies. In addition, religious organizations also enjoyed approximately $6.1 billion in state income tax subsidies, along with $1.2 billion of parsonage, and $2.2 billion in the faith-based initiatives subsidy.

Discussing the problem with tax exempt churches, Bill Maher makes a powerful case for ending tax exempt status for religious institutions, noting:

Why, in heaven’s name, don’t we tax religion? A sexist, homophobic magic act that’s been used to justify everything from genital mutilation to genocide. You want to raise the tax on tobacco so kids don’t get cancer, OK. But let’s put one on Sunday school so they don’t get stupid.

Maher’s right. We should tax the church. There is no reason why the non-religious should subsidize religious superstition.

Perhaps more important, tax exemptions for churches violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Bottom line: Montreal is getting it right. Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing religious superstition. It’s time to tax the church.

Church Notre-Dame Montreal (image via Max Pixel)

Church Notre-Dame Montreal (image via Max Pixel)

Source: Good News: Montreal Is Taxing Churches

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The Vaccine That Causes Autism Has Finally Found Its Proper Home

Too funny not to report… LOL. Enjoy!

The meeting of imaginary creatures has now come to order and there’s a brand new member.

VaccineAutismFakeBizarro2You can’t see Him, but God was the one taking the picture. He’s sitting next to Jenny McCarthy‘s moral conscience.

(via Bizarro by Dan Piraro)

Source: The Vaccine That Causes Autism Has Finally Found Its Proper Home

Bill Maher: All Religions Are “Stupid and Dangerous,” But Islam Is the Most Violent These Days

In an interview with CNN’s Van Jones last night, comedian Bill Maher answered a question about “radical Islamic terrorism” by saying he thinks all religions are “stupid and dangerous.”

MaherJonesReligionMaher made clear that different religions are problems in different eras:

I am an atheist… but, you know, all religions in my view are stupid and dangerous. But in different eras, they take the lead

That’s my point of view. It’s the point of view, by the way, of millions and millions of people in the world. And in this country. Religions are down all over. Why? I’d like to think I had something to do with it…

When asked if it was wise to alienate all religious people — including the overwhelmingly religious black community that is so important for Democrats at election time — Maher said his criticism was reserved for the ideas themselves, not all the people who believe them.

I didn’t say all religious people are stupid. I said all religions are stupid… My only loyalty, always, is to the truth. It’s not to a group of people, or it’s not to ratings. It’s the truth. That’s the truth as I see it.

He then elaborated on why Islam was a unique problem today, just as Christianity used to be a bigger problem in the past. But the way Donald Trump and Steve Bannon were responding to the threat, Maher added, was the wrong way to do it.

… In the 16th century, it would be Christianity that I would be going after for being way too intolerant and way too violent, ’cause that’s the age of the Inquisition. And they were. Now, that really is more Islam than Christianity.

I think they’re both dumb, and religions are all dangerous, but at this time in history, one is just more violent, more intolerant, and more dangerous.

The counterweight to radical Islam is secularism

… [The Trump administration wants] to make this a battle between the two religions, who, by the way, have been going at each over for over a thousand years. This does go back to the Crusades. I mean, it ebbed and flowed in history. But that’s the one thing we do not want. And, of course, it’s the dumbest thing [so] Trump’s gonna do it.

You know, for all the abuse CNN gets from the White House, it has its bright spots. Bringing on Maher, who has no problem criticizing religion, is a good move. Not all beliefs deserve respect, and some truths are difficult to hear. All the more reason to hear even more of them.

Source: Bill Maher: All Religions Are “Stupid and Dangerous,” But Islam Is the Most Violent These Days

Hubble Captures Brilliant Star Death in “Rotten Egg” Nebula | NASA

The Calabash Nebula, pictured here is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the sun.

Brilliant star explosion with orange jets, blue shockwave

The Calabash Nebula, pictured here — which has the technical name OH 231.8+04.2 — is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the sun. This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the star going through a rapid transformation from a red giant to a planetary nebula, during which it blows its outer layers of gas and dust out into the surrounding space. The recently ejected material is spat out in opposite directions with immense speed — the gas shown in yellow is moving close to one million kilometers per hour (621,371 miles per hour).

Astronomers rarely capture a star in this phase of its evolution because it occurs within the blink of an eye — in astronomical terms. Over the next thousand years the nebula is expected to evolve into a fully-fledged planetary nebula.

The nebula is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a lot of sulphur, an element that, when combined with other elements, smells like a rotten egg — but luckily, it resides over 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis.


Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

Text credit: European Space Agency

Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2017
Editor: Karl Hille

Source: Hubble Captures Brilliant Star Death in “Rotten Egg” Nebula | NASA

How Would Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain Donald Trump to Someone Who’s Lived on Mars for Decades?

Somehow, the words “Go back while you can!” were not part of his answer.

You can imagine the culture shock someone would have if they disappeared from Earth for a few decades only to return and see what we’ve done to the place.

This week, at a premiere of the movie The Space Between Us (all about a boy raised on Mars who comes back to Earth for a girl), Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked by Vulture what he would say to someone like that.

NdGTCBSHumanityHis answer was all about the different types of truths we have floating around right now.

The first, he said, is “an objective truth that can be established outside of your own mental state,” such as by the methods and tools of science. This is the kind of truth that is true “whether or not you believe in [it],” he said, “so I would recommend that if you base policy on any kind of truth, it should be that truth.”

The second truth involved someone that’s true just for you (like religion), even if you can’t objectively prove it.

The third category was reserved for someone like Donald Trump.

The third kind of truth, he said, is what he calls “political truth.” “That’s what’s true simply because you repeat it so often that everyone thinks that it’s true, even if it’s not the truth,” Tyson said.

Sadly, we’re living in a country where this kind of alternative truth — a.k.a. A lie — is spreading faster than we can contain it. We have to be vigilant and vocal if we want our society governed by objective truths.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

 

Source: How Would Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain Donald Trump to Someone Who’s Lived on Mars for Decades?

Two Rival NBA Stars Put Competing Hexes on the Ball Before a Free Throw and It Was Hilarious

Remember last week when a Rwandan soccer league banned witchcraft after a player was accused of (literally) cursing a goalpost so that his team could score — which they later did?

A couple of NBA players may have gotten the same idea.

On Wednesday night, in the fourth quarter of a close game, an Atlanta Hawks player missed a free throw that would have extended his team’s lead. When the ball bounced to the Orlando Magic’s Serge Ibaka, he said something to the ball — perhaps trying to put a hex on it, hoping the player would miss again.

IbakahexAtlanta’s Dwight Howard immediately grabbed the ball from Ibaka and issued a counter-hex before handing it back to the ref. It looked like he was telling the ball, “Don’t listen to that guy.”

HowardCounterhexHoward’s teammate made the next free throw — so much for Ibaka’s curse — and the team ultimately won the game.

It was entertaining as hell to watch.

My favorite part is Ibaka’s reaction after Howard’s counter-hex, as if he’s pleading to the ref about how unfair that is…

IbakaRef… and Howard laughing about the whole thing.

HowardLaughingThe NBA, I assume, has no plans to institute an anti-witchcraft rule.

 

Source: Two Rival NBA Stars Put Competing Hexes on the Ball Before a Free Throw and It Was Hilarious

Here’s a Wonderful Compilation of Two Fine Communicators Talking About God, Climate, and Science

Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson have said quite a bit in their interviews about God, climate change, and the wonder of science. Not that it’s a contest, but in this video, you get to see

those comments one after another. (Only one can win. Choose wisely.)

SaganTheMasterIf any parts stand out, please leave the timestamp/summary in the comments!

(via ScienceNET)

Source: Here’s a Wonderful Compilation of Two Fine Communicators Talking About God, Climate, and Science

Science-Themed Christmas Carols for the Whole Family

Finally! It’s the science-themed Christmas songs you’ve been waiting for. Now go memorize them and go caroling. Your neighbors will love it.

BlackHoleyNightThe death-by-black-hole song really brings out the holiday spirit.

(via AsapSCIENCE)

Source: Science-Themed Christmas Carols for the Whole Family

Quantum Is Calling — Sean Carroll

Hollywood celebrities are, in many important ways, different from the rest of us. But we are united by one crucial similarity: we are all fascinated by quantum mechanics. This was demonstrated to great effect last year, when Paul Rudd and some of his friends starred with Stephen Hawking in the video Quantum Chess, a very…

via Quantum Is Calling — Sean Carroll

Indian Citizens Have Been Arrested and Assaulted for Not Complying With New National Anthem Law

Source: Indian Citizens Have Been Arrested and Assaulted for Not Complying With New National Anthem Law

India’s Supreme Court ruled last month that all movie theaters had to play the National Anthem at the start of every screening, and all citizens were required to stand up for it. As if forced patriotism would make everyone love their country more…

They’re not messing around either. Now that the law’s in effect, people are getting arrested and assaulted for not complying:

Twelve people were arrested on Monday evening at a cinema in India, after they remained seated while the national anthem played.

The cinemagoers, who were attending an international film festival in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala, were later freed but they face charges of “failure to obey an order issued by a public servant, thereby causing obstruction or annoyance to others”.

And at a cinema in Chennai on Sunday, eight people who did not stand for the anthem were assaulted and abused, police said. The eight were later charged with showing disrespect to the anthem.

It’s a bizarre way to instill love of country, by making everyone participate in a mandatory ritual during an otherwise enjoyable and popular pastime. What message does it send to the rest of the world when Indian people have to be forced to say the anthem or else they won’t do it? It also stifles legitimate resistance to the idea. Anyone trying to be the Indian Colin Kaepernick will be swiftly punished. (To make matters worse, the law requires all doors to stay shut during the anthem, in order to prevent anyone from walking out. Only last week was an exemption offered for disabled people physically unable to stand up.)

Hindustan Times columnist Gopalkrishna Gandhi is right to say that forcing people to sing the anthem is the wrong way to get them to love the anthem:

The national anthem is not a traffic signal that has to be respected. It is not a tax that requires compliance. It is not a test that has to be submitted to. It is the poetic equivalent of collective pride, the lyrical expression of a nation’s resolve to advance from ancient primitivisms and medieval bigotries to a future in dignity and justice. If songs are sung because one wants to sing them, heard because one wants to hear them and not under orders, anthems are sung or played when the occasion and the moment for it is right, when the sound of it saturates one’s sense of belonging to the greatness of India, and the greatness of India belonging to oneself.

You can’t show pride in your country when it’s no longer a choice.

Those of us who hold unpopular beliefs — and have fought a lot of battles for our right to peacefully dissent — should recognize why India’s law here makes no sense. Just like the phrase “I love you” means absolutely nothing if you’re saying it under duress, this law is designed to backfire. The National Anthem will come to represent an authoritarian regime instead of the largest democracy in the world.

Somewhere, I’m sure, Donald Trump is trying to figure out how to implement this law in the U.S.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)