Belief Beat

Belief Beat

Fun Friday: Witches Curse Romania Over New Tax

Perhaps it’s because I just caught the Harry Potter exhibit at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, but here’s the religion news story that struck me as the most entertaining this week:

Romania’s “Witch Tax:” Magic meets bureaucracy (Religion Dispatches)

The thought of Romania’s witches pelting their country with a “volley of curses” — including one that requires “cat excrement and a dead dog” — over a new tax struck me as hilarious at first. But after reading the story again, including the embedded links, I began to appreciate the parallels with some of our own “don’t tax me, bro” Americans. (Perhaps Christine O’Donnell would have reconsidered her “I’m Not A Witch” campaign ad, if this story had come out earlier. In any case, given that Tea Party members are closely aligned with evangelical Christians, it’s probably better that the irony just fly over their heads. On broomsticks, if necessary.)


What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

*Click here to subscribe to Belief Beat and click here to follow Belief Beat on Twitter. 

Comments read comments(7)
post a comment

posted January 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Well, this story is easy laughs, but only because the thought of witches makes most people smile anyway (all due respect to those who identify themselves as such, and to those Christian fundamentalists who believe in black magic and regard the Dark Ages and the attempt to exterminate witches as the epitome of civilization).
But as long as the topic is here: What if mainstream churches were taxed? Those that operate genuine charitable activities could deduct the cost of those programs and pay minimal taxes as non-profit organizations, and television ministries that reap huge profits from their gullible devotees would pay taxes on their profits like any other proprietary business. Why should churches have any unique status that sets them apart from other organization?
Many churches are far from wealthy. But collectively, they represent a staggering amount of wealth and land-holding that is currently exempt from taxation, and that seems inappropriate not only in terms of Establishment Clause issues but also in terms of our current economic woes.
So, yes, let’s smile at the notion of Rumania imposing a tax on witches. And then let’s watch as all those smiles change to masks of fury when American atheists — who consider churchly ritual and witchcraft to be equally meaningless — call for an end to the traditional tax exemption for churches on grounds that it is unconstitutional and economically absurd.

report abuse

Nicole Neroulias

posted January 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Good point, Heretic_for_Christ.
I used to cover a little New England town with a very small tax base — exacerbated by the fact its biggest landowner was a religious organization, which didn’t have to pay property taxes. I’ve heard the argument against taxing churches — separation of church and state, no government interference with religion — but what about a compromise where the house of worship itself isn’t taxed, but other properties owned by the group are subject to the same property tax as anyone else?

report abuse


posted January 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I have heard the argument that taxing churches would violate church-state separation, but it is a specious claim, for what the First Amendment says, exactly, is that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. If churches are NOT taxed, then it is a violation of prohibition against establishing religion; if churches ARE taxed, in what sense does that interfere with free exercise of religion?
Claiming church-state separation as grounds for maintaining the tax exemption for churchess is also an ironic argument, for many of those who make it then turn around and claim that church-state separation is not a constitutional principle at all but a lie concocted by the liberal left.
If church-state separation is a valid constitutional principle (and it is, beyond doubt, to everyone except the most dominionist-minded of Christian fundamentalists who think America was founded to be a Bible-based theocracy), then churches must not enjoy any special favored status. Taxation of churches does NOT represent any attempt to control or destroy churches; it represents the recognition that granting churches a special favored status is a black-letter violation of the Establishment Clause. There is a vast difference between withholding special privileges and imposing destructive restraints.
So as to the suggestion for a compromise policy: Compromise is often the way forward when interests compete, but that assumes that both sides have a valid argument. I honestly do not see the validity of the arguments that have been made in favor of preserving churches’ tax-exempt status.

report abuse


posted January 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Good points H4C. I’ve always been concerned that those who determine how much tax is owed would find their church owes little and unpopular denominations owe a lot. If that can be avoided I’m all for taxing churches. We’re told we are in terrible financial shape and that is a lot of revenue wasted.

report abuse

Robert C

posted January 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

Only if all charitable institutions are also taxed. However there would be questions as to which government programs would tacitly be sanctioned through such appropriations and whether those would be determinitive of the separation clause.

report abuse


posted January 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

All institutions seeking non-profit status have to file applications that include documentation of the nature of their activity. Non-profit includes but is not limited to charitable institutions. My understanding is that religious institutions as a class qualify, based on some past legal ruling that the promotion of religion is a worthwhile activity.
This is where I raise questions: The establishment clause says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” so how can the promotion of religion by government be anything other than a violation of this clause? Note that the clause does NOT forbid “establishment of a religion,” which would preclude establishment of any given religion as having official or favored status but would not preclude the general promotion of religion; it forbids “establishment of religion,” and the Supreme Court has ruled that government may not show favor for one religion over others OR for religion in general over non-religion. Interestingly enough, atheist organizations are also granted tax-exempt status, which is at least consistent with the ban on favoring religion over non-religion. What bothers me is the fact that tax-exempt status seems to be granted AUTOMATICALLY to such groups. Let each institution apply and let each be judged by whatever criteria are used to determine eligibility for tax-exempt status — and it seems to me that those criteria should NOT include promotion of religious faith OR promotion of atheism. Maybe we need much stricter criteria for tax-exempt status.

report abuse


posted January 30, 2011 at 7:23 am

Rather than be peeved about the tax and cast curses, couldn’t the witches use their powers to simply pay the tax? You know conjure up some gold, predict winning lottery numbers, or a spell which makes people think they paid the tax? It would be a double win, they prove their powers exist, and the won’t need to pay the tax!
There’s a woman on YouTube with an English video blog. She claims creationism is taught in Romanian schools, which might be correlated with a believe in witchcraft.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Belief Beat. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy:   Beliefnet News   Good News Happy Reading!   ...

posted 4:57:28pm Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Fun Friday: Atheist Temple Planned for UK's Nonbelievers
Author Alain de Botton has announced plans to build an Atheist temple in the United Kingdom, presumably so nonbelievers have a place to gather and share their philosophies. Um... isn't that what Starbucks is for? Also, I can't wait to see ...

posted 2:53:42pm Jan. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Alaska Airlines: High Payers No Longer Offered Sky Prayers
Alaska Airlines, now the country's seventh-largest airline, has announced it will stop offering prayer cards with its in-flight meals. (It's just raining religion news in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest lately.) I've flown Alaska ...

posted 11:07:56am Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Washington's Gay Marriage Debate: Clergy vs. Clergy
I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill -- and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had ...

posted 11:24:39am Jan. 24, 2012 | read full post »

What Israel's Domestic Policy & Santorum Supporters Have in Common
Hope everyone had an introspective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whether observed as a faith-related holiday, a nice break from the work week or something else entirely. Check out this story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about how ...

posted 1:32:44pm Jan. 18, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.