By Ken Perrott 22/11/2016

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki’s statement blaming the Kaikoura earthquake on “gays, sinners, and murderers” highlights the stupidity of our charity laws which define the advancement of religion a charitable activity and give tax exempt status to religions purely because they advance religion.

Public revulsion at Tamaki’s statement resulted in an on-line petition calling for the removal of Tamaki’s tax exempt status. Currently, that petition has over 120,000 signatures.

I guess many of these signatories, and others objecting to Tamaki’s statements, are really restricting their criticism to this specific example. But, let’s be clear. Tamaki’s statement was a religious statement. It is part of his particular advancement of his particular religion. He gets tax exempt status for saying such things.

Any argument for treating him differently to others advancing religion would be discriminatory – and could be seen as illegal itself.

Tamaki was advancing religion

Sure, some people might object to my calling Tamaki’s statement advancing religion – but we can’t pick and choose. Many religious leaders have made equally silly claims – in fact, such claims are only to be expected from religious leaders given the non-evidential nature of religion.

Of course, Tamaki and other religious leaders have the freedom to make ridiculous statements like this – just as we have the freedom to ridicule them – or ignore them. But what many people object to is that such ridiculous statements are being made by people we subsidise through their tax-exempt status. They are making these statements as part of their advancement of religion. And we are effectively paying them for making those statements.

There is no logic in this day and age, and in this secular society, for a religion or belief (including atheism) to be subsidised by the public purely for advancing their beliefs. In fact, it seems to me undemocratic for people with different beliefs to be forced to subsidise the advancement of a religion or belief.

Religious leaders. Destiny Church headquarters, Mt Wellington, Auckland. Wikimedia.
Destiny Church headquarters, Mt Wellington, Auckland. Wikimedia.

We subsidise the Destiny Church – and Tamaki

The Destiny Church is just one example but the Charities Register certainly shows they have taken full advantage of this subsidy. Here is a list of Destiny Church organisations  registered for tax exemption. You can check out their reasons (advancement of religion) and the financial statements via the links.

Charity Name Registration
CC29039 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31639 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31176 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC31170 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC29070 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31465 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC29107 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31406 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC29108 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC31434 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31446 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC27986 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31454 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC31461 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC31439 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC31401 Registered 30/06/2008
CC30992 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31001 Registered 30/06/2008
CC27985 Registered 30/06/2008
CC50592 Registered 23/05/2014
CC30131 Registered 30/06/2008
CC31078 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC28102 Deregistered 30/06/2008
CC25962 Registered 17/06/2008
CC11272 Registered 5/10/2007

Yes, I know, some people are going to react by telling me that religious organisations do good work – charitable work. And, I do not disagree with that in many cases.

But the point is that truly charitable work, helping the poor and disadvantaged, providing social and educational facilities, helping during disasters, etc., is provided for  by the criteria defined as charitable. The advancement of religion is different – is related only to the advancement of a belief (in this case legally requiring belief in a supernatural entity). It has nothing to do with helping people.

True charity not harmed by removal of religious tax exemption

Those religions actually doing real charitable work would not be disadvantaged by removal of the advancement of religion criteria. They could continue to provide the real charitable services – and receive tax-exempt status for doing so.

Removal of the advancement of religion clause would not reduce real charitable work one bit. Nor would it prevent silly people like Tamaki saying ridiculous things.

But at least we would not have to face the fact that we financially support such silly people and  their ridiculous statements.


Featured image: Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki gives a geology lesson. Blames sinners for earthquakes. Image Credit: YouTube.

0 Responses to “Why should we subsidise religious leaders and their silly statements?”

  • Greetings Ken and fellow Sciblog contributors and readers,
    I dropped an email to Ken about this post and to the Sciblogs editor. However, Ken suggested I make the conversation public and open, which I’m happy to do.
    The post raised the issue for me whether this post was really appropriate on Sciblogs – not because of the content per se, but because it struck me as not a post about science. I guess the subtext beneath the post is a comment by Brian Tamaki that links to a geological event – but that was not what the post really was about. I emphasise I’m not making any comment on what was said, but rather what was missing.
    For me, the question is simply “what should and shouldn’t appear on Sciblogs?”

    • Of course, any controls over content of SciBlog posts – either direct bloggers or syndicated bloggers, should be up to the SciBlog community. My feeling is that while we aim to have bloggers with expertise in a scientific or related discipline we would not want to control their posts to prevent non-scientific content.

      And I think that is a good thing. Communities and blogging platforms can suffer from the silo effect – become oblivious to, and not understand, other points of view. It is helpful for bloggers here to wake us up occasionally with views that may have no direct link to science. That may challenge our political and ideological views, for example.

      This has been brought home to me recently as I have blogged about some issues out of the direct science sphere – particularly the Syrian war, the US elections and the nature of the mainstream media. Suddenly I find that I am in a different community – or that commenters who have supported me on scientific issues are now opposing my political and other blog posts – or vice versa.

      I think this is great – suddenly the world opens up. I have to justify myself more, debate with people in a new relationship – contrary rather than supportive (or supportive rather than contrary). I have had to re-evaluate my judgement on news sources, learn to separate political positions from scientific (or pseudo-scientific) positions.

      This is a far more complex world than the silo-imposed conformity. It certainly has taught me to have a more open mind, stop wearing blinkers when it comes to consulting sources, but at the same time be far my critical in considering information.

      That is my experience – but, as I say, it is up to the SciBlog community to establish any restrictions if they are felt necessary. And as a syndicated blogger such restrictions cannot control my blogging patterns.

  • @John Pickering hi John, it isn’t technically “science” but we thought the post was very topical enough given the earthquakes and goes to the heart of what we are facing in a world of “post-truth politics” and people using institutions such as religion to push views that are increasing at odds with the values of of society ie – homophobia. What scientists need to get their heads around is that in the era of “post normal science”, you can’t just present the science and expect the discussion about society’s values to happen somewhere. The two are inexorably intertwined and actually have always been so. only now, scientists have to communicate differently, they can’t just broadcast their information and expect everyone to accept it. So if occasionally we go into some edgier discussions about values and moral issues, within reason, I’m fine with that. [Peter Griffin – Ed]

  • If Eric et al can post economics stuff here and tax is an issue of economics, this belongs.


  • When I see a sign on “private property” of a local church alongside photos of a person, chimpanzee and the Earth saying “created not evolved”, I have no problem at all for the tax exemption of such an organisation being questioned.