What if we commercialize churches and tax them?

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As the whole continent has eyes glued to their television sets with dismay and disbelief on the on-going court trial concerning an elite Televangelist Pastor of Jesus Dominion International Church, Pastor Timothy Omotoso, who is facing charges of sexual abuse, human trafficking and fraud, the bitter truth is that he is just among one of the million pastors who have changed the face of ‘the church’ and ‘Christianity.’
This is just another sad story of the types of churches that are mushrooming all over the world whose principal agenda is to exploit its unsuspecting followers and make quick profits. Many pastors have been accused of being false prophets because of the unbelievable wealth their churches accumulate every Sunday. The so called men of God have in the past generation joined the leagues of royal families, Hollywood superstars, pimps and mafia bosses or politicians that live opulent and wealthy lifestyles all over the world while those who follow them or bestow them with that power keep drowning in the bottomless pit of poverty and servitude.
It is evident that churches have been turned into places of business, where some families gather to enrich themselves and care little about spiritual enrichment. Some church focus more on becoming powerful empires of influence and stature to becoming heavens of comfort and temples of the sanctity. Women and children are raped and subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of crooked pastors/priests, popes and religious leaders across the globe. The church does not provide for the poor or help the disabled anymore, instead it takes from the less fortunate with promises to enrich such people, only to enrich themselves and their families.
They say if you can’t beat them, join them so I guess this is why this past Monday, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Dorcus Makgato said perhaps it is time to review the status of churches in Botswana.
She said this during the 12th meeting of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi after Kgosi Maruje Masunga of Masunga suggested to the minister that the same approach accorded to investors be extended to the establishment of churches. Masunga said it has become apparent that churches nowadays operate as businesses and should therefore be treated as such as they could be lucrative investments for the government and hence benefiting all Batswana in general, perhaps through taxation.
Makgato said it is perhaps time that her ministry takes a look at churches as an investment opportunity. “Maybe I should agree with Kgosi Masunga that churches have indeed turned into businesses. Currently churches don’t pay taxes because they are treated as societies. And with the mushrooming of churches all over the country, it is time that this is observed. It is time we view churches differently,” she said.
“According to the Societies Act, a registered society has to submit annual returns and financial statements in order to monitor its growth and also to monitor if the money received by the society is being used for the intended purpose, which is sustenance of the society,” she said. Nonetheless churches and their leadership continue to accumulate wealth in this country while Batswana remain impoverished. I am of the opinion that if there is a way the government can share this wealth with fellow citizens then it should definitely be taken into consideration.
Two tough issues Honourable if I may say: 1. You will have to compile a report that can demonstrate how much additional revenue the state can get if religious institutions paid into the government’s coffers like the rest of us.
2. Making churches tax-exempt can also be considered an enforcement of the separation of church and state, with the government not interfering in religious affairs as per the constitution. As much as your position is driven by the urge to curb the escalating moral decay and financial atrocities church leaders shamelessly commit nowadays it is a sensitive national dialogue that cannot be left to be decided by politicians alone.