Friday, May 05, 2006

France, Religion, and Taxes...with a shot at Uzbekistan

It's been a few days since my last rant, so the venom is ready to spew forth once again. Well, maybe not venom...more like incredulousness.

Religious persecution is nothing new. The Pilgrims fled Europe to avoid persecution, and one only has to crack open a history book to see numerous other examples of it. Whether you agree with a religion or not, if a country has a constitution, and within that constitution there is a guarantee of religious freedom (even a limited amount), then by law that country's security forces and political powers are bound to abide by that law. And are just two small instances of remarkable persecution taking place in our very day. One is in a former Soviet bloc country, so it may be less surprising to some. But a remarkable display of chutzpah is taking place in a country considered a part of the West; my second home, France.

Here is the situation. The French government has decided that Jehovah's Witnesses as an organization are to be taxed for all donations received from its members. Mind you, Jehovah's Witnesses, whether you agree with them or not, are an acknowledged and approved religion in the country of France. No other religious group is being taxed in this manner. Yet for some unknown reason, the French courts have agreed with this move and have ordered that this tax be paid. Not only that, but here's another kicker: the tax rate is 60%!

(Click on the link for France)

The courts have acknowledged that the organization "was run in a completely benevolent fashion, and that its activities were not commercial or for profit." So why the tax? That is what all people who believe in religious freedom should be asking. Even the members of other religions are concerned about this matter. If it can happen to Jehovah's Witnesses, who is next?

The case will be brought before the European Court of Human Rights, which has consistently overruled such ridiculous rulings time and again. I am confident that they will uphold the rights listed in the French constitution. And still, we must ask ourselves; if it can happen in France, where next?

I would like to direct everyone's attention to the events in Uzbekistan as well. It isn't just Jehovah's Witnesses being attacked there, although reports consistently come in relating to one abuse or another against them. In this case, the government is directly ignoring their own constitution to persecute members of any religion they see as opposing their own.

Isn't it sad that with all the progress that these countries are claiming, that the fruitage that their progress is bearing is that of oppression and persecution reminiscent of the former Soviet Union.

(For further information on religious persecution around the world, please visit the excellent reporting site of Forum 18 at

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