The Sydney Morning Herald has taken a cheap shot at Hillsong and the Seventh Day Adventist church by linking them to federal budget legislation that ‘will put a lid on the practice of so-called charities using their tax-free status to generate business income for no charitable purpose whatsoever.’ (SMH, May 11, pg 4)
The story reports on changes to legislation expected in Tuesday’s budget which will require not-for profit organisations to pay tax on profits kept for commercial purposes.
The article then lumped Hillsong and the Seventh Day Adventist Church into that category: ‘The Hillsong church has links with the Gloria Jean’s coffee shop franchise, while the cereal company Sanitarium is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church.’
The SMH has been like a rabid conspiracy theorist in relation to Gloria Jeans and Hillsong for some time and failed again to acknowledge or understand that the fact that the owner of Gloria Jeans attends Hillsong does not equate to the church owning the business. Hence the nebulous ‘has links’ in the article. If every charity or church is to have its tax status changed because it has ‘links’ with a business, then most would be impacted.
One could be excused for thinking it was simply another opportunity for the newspaper to pursue a prejudicial agenda against the church. But wait, that sounds too much like a conspiracy theory…
As for Sanitarium being owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church – something that is a well-known fact – we need to distinguish between businesses that make profits for the purpose of making a profit and businesses that make profits for the purpose of furthering the cause of the organisation or church behind it.
Whether you agree entirely with that cause is not the point. We need to be very careful damanging entrepreneurial activity that is not aimed at profit for profit sake, but for doing good – there are no shareholders, no private owners gaining windfalls, just churches and organisations that turn the money back into facilities, equipment, personnel to get a job done for the benefit of others.
The SMH article says that the new measure ‘ has the support of mainstream charity and welfare groups such as Mission Australia, UnitingCare, Anglicare and World Vision.’ Yet these organisations own buildings, employ staff, receive government funds, sell services and, in some cases, products, to support the work they do. I’m sure they would not lend their names to a holier-than-thou attack on churches that have a strong record of charitable and religious activities, for which they receive tax protection under federal legislation.
If there are charities, churches and community organisations that make profit for the sake of lining their own pockets, then they deserve to be properly regulated. But let’s keeps the prejudice and ‘conspiracy theories’ out of our judgements.