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Churches should not be Taxed

By Josepha Jabo

I agree with President Museveni that Christians need to audit themselves. He made this remark at the end of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Jubilee Assembly at Munyonyo on Saturday, June 8, 2013. The president highlighted 86% of Ugandans are Christians, 12% are Muslim and 2% are in an indefinable grey area (atheist or pagan). This means Christians make up the majority of the population. Although his comments did not go down well with some religious leaders—there is truth to the president’s statement.
Religious institutions need to do some soul-searching as materialism, rather than godliness, seems to have increasingly taken hold of the church through ‘glorification of the rich,’ which in God’s eyes is partiality (James 2: 1-10). This has manifested through themed services like ‘Celebrity Sunday.’ In addition, some churches see no harm in announcing to the congregation those who have made huge financial contributions to church projects, yet this is contrary to Christian teachings as seen in the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44).  A number of Christians also question why church envelopes have blank lines for the giver of offering or tithe to write his name and address on the envelope when this was not the case a few years ago, for the Bible teaches giving should be done in secret (Matthew 6:3).
Perhaps this is why various persons view churches as private businesses. Despite this, I strongly disagree with the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) that has proposed religious institutions, churches and mosques should be taxed to make the 2013/2014 financial budget more inclusive of all Ugandans. Religious institutions are not businesses. The money churches collect is for the spiritual nourishment of their followers. Above all, in the story of the half-shekel temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27) Jesus said the sons of the kingdom are free from taxation. Therefore, churches should never be taxed.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre