The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

No Teacher’s Pet

Posted by thelamp on March 17, 2007

Alaska has a new property tax law, but the ACLU doesn’t like it. In one more ridiculous lawsuit, the adversaries of religious liberty are challenging a state tax exemption given to some religious educators. The state won’t be defending the Religious Educator Housing Tax Exemption on its own, though. The Anchorage Baptist Temple has stepped up to block an effort to strike down the law.

Tax bills are typically mundane, but leave it to the ACLU to find some subliminal government “endorsement” of religion in the Alaska tax code – of all places. This new constitutional hullabaloo is over a provision that excuses from taxes real property owned by religious organizations – if the property is used to house teachers employed by the religious organization.

This is a law that was duly introduced into the legislature and passed by the elected representatives of voters. The intent is to benefit the state’s education system, which includes schools run by religious groups.

Without the benefit of tax revenue to pay the bills, many faith-based education programs are strapped for capital and other resources. The state has a legitimate interest in bolstering education, whether public, parochial or religious.

Both the U.S. Constitution and the state’s version bar the government from showing favoritism for one religion over another, but all religious entities would benefit equally under the Alaska plan – not just Christian teachers. So, it’s hard to understand the ACLU’s objection.

Any time the word religion appears anywhere in legislation, it seems that the ACLU is prepared to go to court. Fighting such lawsuits is a despicable waste of taxpayer’s dollars.

Legislatures across America give tax incentives for any number of reasons. For example, free enterprise zones give tax breaks to businesses that invest in economically depressed urban areas. What’s wrong with giving tax breaks for the men and women who teach at a faith-based institution in the heart of such a community? According to state Rep. Jay Ramras, the Republican lawmaker who introduced the bill, the purpose behind the legislation is “developing at-risk neighborhoods by creating healthy homes in distressed areas.” Ramras said he hoped the tax exemption would create incentives for the religious community to develop areas of Alaska that have been forgotten.

The Center for Moral Clarity agrees with Ramras that religious organizations form the cornerstone of a healthy society. Consequently, legislators would be remiss if they did not explore innovative ways to help turn troubled neighborhoods around. God’s children are willing to help. It’s admirable that Alaskans would pass a law to help those who help others.



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