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Government to American Enterprise: Be Irrational—We'll Help!

In the United States today, if your enterprise is based on the acceptance of ideas in support of which there is no evidence, then you receive every imaginable kind of break and advantage from the government. This from today’s New York Times:

At any moment, state inspectors can step uninvited into one of the three child care centers that Ethel White runs in Auburn, Ala., to make sure they meet state requirements intended to ensure that the children are safe. There must be continuing training for the staff. Her nurseries must have two sinks, one exclusively for food preparation. All cabinets must have safety locks. Medications for the children must be kept under lock and key, and refrigerated.

The Rev. Ray Fuson of the Harvest Temple Church of God in Montgomery, Ala., does not have to worry about unannounced state inspections at the day care center his church runs. Alabama exempts church day care programs from state licensing requirements, which were tightened after almost a dozen children died in licensed and unlicensed day care centers in the state in two years.

The differences do not end there. As an employer, Ms. White must comply with the civil rights laws; if employees feel mistreated, they can take the center to court. Religious organizations, including Pastor Fuson’s, are protected by the courts from almost all lawsuits filed by their ministers or other religious staff members, no matter how unfairly those employees think they have been treated.

And if you are curious about how Ms. White’s nonprofit center uses its public grants and donations, read the financial statements she is required to file each year with the Internal Revenue Service. There are no I.R.S. reports from Harvest Temple. Federal law does not require churches to file them….

An analysis by The New York Times of laws passed since 1989 shows that more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation, covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration to land use. New breaks have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch….

The changes reflect, in part, the growing political influence of religious groups and the growing presence of conservatives in the courts and regulatory agencies. But these tax and regulatory breaks have been endorsed by politicians of both major political parties, by judges around the country, and at all levels of government.

“The religious community has a lot of pull, and senators are very deferential to this kind of legislation,” said Richard R. Hammar, the editor of Church Law & Tax Report and an accountant with law and divinity degrees from Harvard.

As a result of these special breaks, religious organizations of all faiths stand in a position that American businesses—and the thousands of nonprofit groups without that “religious” label—can only envy. And the new breaks come at a time when many religious organizations are expanding into activities—from day care centers to funeral homes, from ice cream parlors to fitness clubs, from bookstores to broadcasters—that compete with these same businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Click here to read the whole thing.

By effectively assisting faith-based organizations while crippling reason-based ones, our government is rewarding, encouraging, and fostering irrationality while punishing, discouraging, and thwarting rationality. The remedy to this insanity is, of course, not for the government to start taxing, regulating, harassing, and generally stifling faith-based enterprises—but, rather, for the government to keep its coercive hands off of all rights-respecting enterprises, whether irrational or rational, and let the chips fall where they may. But, then, that would be rational, so neither liberals nor conservatives will consider it.

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